County between cliffs and a hard spot
The problems of growth are never ending for communities that are experiencing it. Most of us want growth in our community for the economic well being of all, but few of us want to see our way of life change either. However, growth and development mean change, or at least change for somebody.
Recently Kennecott announced that it is going to develop the 20 mile stretch of land they own from Magna to Copperton on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Similarly to what they have been doing near Herriman in recent years. The development will include housing and commercial development as well as parks and open space. In addition there is also a plan to build a ski resort in the Oquirrh Mountains west of the valley, which would be a first for that range.
Salt Lake County is asking for input from the public on this huge undertaking. When I say huge I mean huge. The housing in the projects is planned with a half a million people. The infrastructure needs will be tremendous.
Lost in the shadow of this kind of growth is that rural communities, too, struggle with these same problems on a smaller scale.
The situation in Carbonville, concerning roads, growth, access and residents feelings about all of those things are a typical situation in which involved parties are having a hard time seeing eye to eye.
The problems with Carbonvilles roads began years ago, when the area was settled. Roads developed from basically cow paths where early settlers just passed to get to their property. Soon regular roads had to be formed, but few of these passages have official ownership by the county. In actuality most of the roads in that area are owned by the property owners, with deeds to property that extending out into the middle or even the other side of a street in some cases. So what has happened is that these roads have become "prescriptive right-of-ways" based on the fact they have been used as passage into the community for many years.
This of course complicates things when growth takes place. When the issue of a new subdivision comes up, the county examines the roads to see if they can handle the new traffic that will be generated. These studies often count vehicles and what is projected to be the new count when the development has taken place.
When one speaks of streets and what they can handle as far as traffic goes, one must expect that conflicts will arise, because the rights of people who are involved often conflict with one another.
First is the right of the residents to have streets that are user friendly and safe.
Next comes the right of the developer or owner of the property to do what he or she wants with their land.
Next comes the right of the people who live around a development, particularly those that live along the access streets themselves. With more development could come the spectre of having roads widened which then can cut into peoples property and in some cases could even take out peoples homes. Government officials try very hard to avoid those scenarios, because they can be political dynamite.
Since I live in Carbonville, I am close to this controversy. North Carbonville is trapped up against the cliffs, behind railroad tracks, with only two real exits out of the neighborhood, both of which mean close passage to the Union Pacific tracks. In the event of a major disaster, such as a hazardous waste spill, some residents of the area could be trapped.
Some have suggested that gas field roads toward the southeast could be used for emergency evacuation, but the last time I looked the substantial bridges across the old canal have been removed and locked gates also could hold up a getaway.
What concerns me more is that when trains block the tracks emergency vehicles have to go back to the southern grade crossing over the tracks to get to north Carbonville. Those extra minutes could mean someone's life.
While the circumstances are unusual with the tracks and narrow band of land along the cliffs, the problems of development roads, water and everything else that comes with it can pertain, and may well apply, to many other areas of the county when growth begins to boom.
Ask almost anyone with information about growth and they will tell you that a boom here is inevitable, whether it comes from a spike in the energy industry or some other industry. Our area is primed for it.
So what is the answer to these problems? An answer that will satisfy people can only come if the public gets involved in the planning and zoning process and in giving input to the commission. Many people will ignore a potential growth problem, not providing their ideas until a project is so far down the road that it becomes expensive and time consuming to make changes to a plan. Basically people need to pay attention to what is going on in their area and talk to their government leadership about it. Often in the process only a few people give input and often it is the same ones time and again.
As for the north Carbonville situation, there has been talk of building a road around the base of the cliffs that will another exit from the area somewhere into south Carbonville or by the Questar operations. A new road is an expensive proposition, but to allow growth in the area like what appears will be taking place and to give residents there another way out of their neighborhoods other than over the tracks that have been there for 120 years, it just seems to make sense.