Zoning for better mental health

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Zoning laws not only impact economies and environments but also boost mental health.

Mixed-use zoning combines commercial and residential districts, meaning residents could be next-door to a restaurant or store.

This type of development in Provo and other neighborhoods encourages walking and builds community. BYU student Sam Bennion has lived in a mixed-use area for three years.

“There’s a lot of things around here, a lot of resources, like there’s some restaurants down the street,” Bennion said. “If I forgot some groceries, I could just go over to the corner market.”

Bennion explained his neighborhood’s walkability gets him outside, which helps during times when he is feeling down.

At a Western Governors’ Association conference, Utah Governor Spencer Cox said these physically tight-knit communities could be key to tackling the mental health crisis.

Provo City is already a step ahead. “Provo is working really hard to develop its downtown in a cohesive way … to be walkable,” BYU urban planning professor Dave Simpson said.

Walkability improves unity and gives people more interpersonal connection, Simpson said.

“People don’t want to sit on I-15, you know, they want to be able to shop and have entertainment and get to parks and stuff like that without having to get in their car,” he said.

According to a representative from Provo City Development, zoning changes have helped downtown “thrive.”

“You don’t tend to isolate yourself as much,” Provo resident Brenda Ulloa said. “The social aspect is better.”

Ulloa lives near restaurants and stores, and she said her proximity to commercial areas is a perk.

Walkable communities have popped up around the state, and more are in the works.

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