In 1999, the Utah Legislature created a Quality Growth Act commission.
During the Carbon Commission meeting on May 19, local officials learned about the state's foray into creating quality communities when John Bennett, who works with the state panel, visited in response to an application the county filed to be part of the program.
"I understand that you have some concerns about the program and I am here to answer your questions," stated Bennett.
The commission filed an application for the program primarily because the officials wanted to make a cut off date for submission.
But Carbon lawmakers were not sure at the time that county should be part of the program without knowing more about what it is.
"One of the problems we are concerned with has to do with planning in our communities," pointed out Commissioner Mike Milovich. "How much help does the state offer in that area? If we become part of this program, does it mean we have to hire a full-time planner?"
The state can offer specific expertise and grants are available through the program to help with professional help for certain parts of planning, explained Bennett.
However, a full-time planner would be needed to deal with all the parameters of the program. The need to hire a full-time planner was a concern the commissioners had when considering applying for the program more than one month ago.
Due to flat tax revenues and subsequent budget constraints, the county may have a difficult time finding the funds to hire a full-time planner.
At last week's commission meeting, Bennett proceeded with a PowerPoint presentation describing the program.
According to the presentation, the state commission defines quality growth as creating a responsible balance between protection of natural resources land, air and water while focusing on the requisite development of residential, commercial and industrial property to accommodate an expanding economy and population.
The Utah Legislature based the state act and program on several assumptive principles outlined by proponents:
Utahns value quality of life.
Growth creates challenges as well as opportunities.
The state should not impose requirements on local governments without providing adequate resources or appropriate incentives.
Private property and individual rights should be respected.
A solution for one community may not apply to all communities.
Free market forces are important in addressing challenges.
The state act also established principles by which the program should be administered.
Under the program, the principles which should apply to all levels of government as communities develop include:
Local governments are responsible for planning and land use decisions in their own jurisdictions in coordination and cooperation with other government entities.
The state's role is to provide planning assistance, technical assistance, information and incentives for local governments to coordinate and cooperate in the management of growth.
Utah government shall promote a healthy statewide economy and quality of life that supports a broad spectrum of opportunity.
Efficient infrastructure development.
State and local governments along with the private sector should cooperate to encourage development that promotes efficient use of infrastructure, water and energy resources.
Housing choices and af-fordability are quality of life priorities.
State and local governments should cooperate with the private sector to encourage housing choices and af-fordability.
The public sector, the private sector and the individual should cooperate to protect and conserve water, air, critical lands, important agricultural lands and historical resources.
Communities are encouraged to apply because a number of financial incentives and grants are available to those who work with the program.
Bennett finished his presentation by telling the commissioners that the program is different for different communities.
"You need to tell us what quality growth is in your community and how you will address that," pointed out Bennett. "We don't want to step on your toes in putting together this program for you."
"However, any state money involved needs to be spent effectively through good planning," added the state commission representative.
The comment brought the issue back up regarding the costs to the county for dealing with a program where the financial benefits were not obvious.
"I worry that we are going to spend our limited resources and get back a piece of paper that says we belong and a thanks for being part of it," stated Milovich. "We want more than that out of this."
Bennett explained that Carbon County would be eligible for certain state monies. But the program cannot provide everything counties may want. He also told the commission that the cost of working within the program varies from area to area.
The commission took no action on the program, but will consider the county's options during the next few weeks.