Thursday, March 24, 2011

West Davis Corridor - Part 2 - A Look From the 30,000 Foot Level

Forty years down the road, there won't be much discussion about the highway. There won't be anything able to be done about it. By then, the location will have already been decided, construction will have stopped, and open space around it and the city will have filled in. Homes will be revalued. People will have moved away and others will have moved in. Farmers will sell. The impact will be great to anybody around it. And then, after this has all been done, it will be decided that it is to be widened or possibly that another entrance/exit should be added. And the discussion will continue.

But today, we are not considering that. We are not considering that far down the path. And why should we? Most of any of us that live in the area, we will be 70 or 80 by then. Another couple of generations and technology later will come in and decide the fate going forward.

Today we are only considering the impacts of the people here today. The residents. The farmers. The businesses. And others.

My suggestion is to say no to the road. Don't let it come through our city. Most of us came here knowing that if we commuted to Salt Lake or elsewhere, that there was going to be a drive and with that time. I work in Draper. About as far as anybody. Let me take the consequence of my actions. Let me worry about getting to I-15, let me worry about the time it takes out of my day.

I don't want growth. I want the farmland. I like going out and sitting in my front yard and hearing the cows moo. I like going out at night and looking up to the stars. I can see them. They are bright. Almost too bright as I consider how close I am to the big cities. But because of where Syracuse is located, I get to see that.
But then I remember, I came here because of cheap land and a good rural feel. I also liked having my shopping close and schools nearby. Land was cheap because it was available. We, along with West Layton and a very little bit of Kaysville, have about all the remaining space to build out in Davis county, closest to Salt Lake. West Point, north of us has some space. And they will fill in about the same rate we will.

Do we have to build out? No. Absolutely not. But I think the snowball effect has already begun. A long time ago at that. Syracuse was a farming community. Even 10 years ago it could still be considered thus. Only the western half remains, and even therein are spotty developments here and there. Once the first farmer sold to developers, the inevitable happened. Homes came in and the next farmer decided to sell. Maybe it was because of the money he saw his neighbor received. Maybe it was because he didn't like to deal with residential neighbors. Maybe it was that he was too old and didn't have any family or buyer that wanted to continue to farm it. In any case he sold. And then more people like the rural feel that Syracuse was, and demand created higher land prices as well as added population. As each new residence is built, there becomes a greater reason for the next farmer to sell. Then comes the need for additional services brought on by additional population. Police presence is in greater need because there are more people. Because more people means more crime. More shopping is requested by the residents. So commercial space is zoned and then developed. Who sells? The farmer, because Walmart or Smiths is willing to pay the price, and for their own reasons, selling seams more important than farming the acreage. And since the big box store comes in, more people consider Syracuse as a place to live. And then they demand parks. And trails. And open space. All of which takes land (and money). Land that, generally speaking, is owned by the farmers. And, generally, it is the farmers selling to allow this all to happen. We are now in a position that a highway needs to come through. Maybe not ten years ago. But because of the changes happening to the city, a highway is now considered a need.

But who wants it? The residents do. The farmers don’t, what do they need it for? They were doing just fine before. So do we have enough clout as a city and as a people to stop it? No. Unfortunately, I think the road is inevitable.

That road will come. And people will come with it. The snowball effect will continue. It is not finished. Farmers will continue to sell their lands. You can look at the city and its history and you can tell that the farmers on the edges of residential developments are the ones most likely to sell. In the next ten years, highway or no highway, most of my open space across the street will fill in with more homes. It has only halted for a little while as the economic downturn continues to correct the economy. But people continue to have babies. Those babies grow up and need a job and a space to live. More homes will be needed and my open space that I don't own or have rights to will move on to a different use.

There may be a few hard-nosed farmers/land owners who don't want to sell. It is their heritage. It is their livelihood. And kudos to them. I hope they stay. But truth is sometimes hard. Syracuse is Syracuse because farmers continue to sell.

Forty years down the road I really don't know where we will be. But based on the history that is proven all across the country - our city will be swallowed up by residents.

But before we simply say that is sad, or that this shouldn’t happen, consider that we as a society continue to push for more high tech – high paying jobs. Those jobs are generally in the city. And for workers to work in the city, they need to live close enough to it to get to their job. Syracuse is far away from Salt Lake City. But from the geographical nature that the Wasatch Front is, it can generally only grow North and South. So people who want to work in the Wasatch Front, or work in the bigger cities, need to find affordable homes to do so. So the lands that are open closest to the cities get taken first. As they are used up, land farther, and farther away start to become prime real estate for housing. Syracuse is now, and has been, one of these cities. Farm land is being sold and developed. I understand another development has requested to meet with the planning commission to receive site plan approval. This progress, as it has been described by some, continues today in our town.

And there is no reason to believe that an economic hiccup (blow up, whatever) will stop this progress from happening.

It will. And I don’t feel I am prophesying. This same issue has been documented all around the state, nation, and world.

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