By Jeffrey Chandler
Large cities are rapidly growing and sprawling out of suburbia. This is forcing politicians and community planners to give notice regarding housing, transportation, water and other city issues.
West Valley City, Utah, is one of the cities dubbed “boomburbs,” said Stacey Davis, President and CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation, according to the news release.
A boomburb, as described by the Fannie Mae Foundation, is an area that currently has more than 100,000 residents and has maintained double-digit population growth in the last two decades, but is not the largest city in its metropolitan area.
The Fannie Mae Foundations is a national group, which builds partnerships and initiatives for better housing in the United States.
“The boomburbs are elusive and not yet fully part of the public policy debate,” Davis said.
“They are complicated places with potentially big problems, but they also present opportunities for cities and suburbs to find regional solutions to their common challenges,” according to the news release.
Envision Utah, a non-profit group for responsible growth along the Wasatch Front, is working with local communities to enable responsible planning for future expansion, said Kristin Thompson, manager of development and community relations for the group.
“We”re trying to provide the tools and resources to educate communities that there are options to preparing for the growth that they are anticipating in their communities,” Thompson said.
One of the major challenges faced by “boomburbs,” according to the study, is to provide affordable housing; something West Valley City officials say they are well aware of.
“We have the most affordable housing in the valley,” said Layne Morris, housing director for West Valley City.
The city is working on developing more affordable housing, including mixing upper and lower income residencies within the same areas, Morris said.
“If you have mixed housing, you avoid ”pockets of poverty,” and other problems associated with this,” Thompson said.
Plans are also being discussed to add a light rail spur in order to make public transportation more readily available and to ease congestion in the future, Morris said.
“No specific, targeted path, or purchased right-of-way has been made,” Morris said.
The project remains in the pre-planning stages and no studies have been done as to its feasibility, he said.
Envision Utah”s goal is to create well-planned communities with large lots, apartments, offices and public transportation that work together to provide a better life for Utahns, Thompson said.
In order to achieve this goal, Thompson said Envision Utah workers are providing the framework for Utah communities to work together in regional planning.
She said the group hopes to create a growth plan for Wasatch Front communities that would involve more teamwork.
Thompson said she hopes neighboring communities will network together to create a safer and more accessible Wasatch Front.
“You don”t see the tremendous benefits if you only do things in one community, but you”ll see tremendous benefits in reduction of infrastructure costs, in air quality, in transportation investments in the region,” Thompson said.
Citizen involvement is an important component of this strategy, and over 8,000 citizens have had direct involvement in the planning process, she said.
In addition, over 175 public meetings have been held along the Wasatch Front, and 500,000 surveys have been sent in the mail to receive citizens” input in the planning, she said.
“Boomburbs present opportunities for cities and suburbs to find regional solutions to their common challenges,” Davis said.