The Utah County Planning Division serves the areas in Utah County outside all city boundaries.
In 1991, the Utah State Legislature mandated that each city and each county "shall prepare and adopt a comprehensive general plan" to deal with the growth occurring within its boundaries. The role of a "general plan" or "comprehensive plan" is to plan for the physical development of the community. Typically, a general plan is future-oriented because it projects the development of a community to a future point in time or future point in the community's growth. Such a plan is comprehensive geographically and functionally in that it covers all of the jurisdiction's geographic area and all of the physical elements that determine future community development. The purview of the Utah County General Plan is limited to the unincorporated area of Utah County.
The first evidence of a planning policy or forerunner of a general plan was adopted by the Utah County Planning Commission on May 19, 1942. That policy stated that all residential building in the unincorporated areas of the county be discouraged unless evidence was shown that public utilities and sanitary facilities were adequate, and that no commercial zones be created within subdivisions.
A county-wide zoning ordinance was completed and adopted by the Utah County Board of Commissioners in December, 1942. Utah County was one of the few counties in the United States to be completely zoned at that time.
The first formal plan for Utah County came with the adoption of “A Master Plan for Utah County, Utah” in 1968. Utah Code Annotated, 1953, Title 17-27-5, enabled the county to produce the “master plan” document. A resolution was also passed and adopted by both the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners on January 16, 1970, which resolved that lands that lie within city and town boundaries be utilized first for development where the facilities for commercial and residential development are available. This policy is still maintained in the current county planning process.
The next update of the master plan came in 1980 with the adoption of the “Utah County Master Plan, 1980.” The policy section of this plan bolstered the resolution of 1970 by defining the “satellite-greenbelt” form of development:
“The elements of locational preferences for urban uses such as businesses and dwellings is, first, in already established municipalities where water, sewer, and other necessary services are already available or where they can be provided at the least cost; second, in areas lying adjacent to municipalities where the necessary facilities and services can be extended most conveniently and at the least cost; third, in already established unincorporated communities where central water systems have been installed and where the dwellings are close enough together to make it economically feasible for the services; fourth, in already established unincorporated communities where central water systems have not been installed, but where urban development has taken place to such an extent that the prohibition of further non-urban development would be impractical; fifth, in new towns where roads, water and sewer lines, and other community services can be furnished by developers or by residents themselves without cost to other taxpayers. ”
During the 1990's, the Planning Commission spent many months in special meetings, committee meetings and public hearings to present an updated General Plan for Utah County. This document was approved by the Utah County Planning Commission and forwarded to the Utah County Commission for their review and adoption. The Goals, Objectives and Policy chapter and Moderate Income Housing chapter of that plan were adopted.
The State Land Use and Development Act for counties states that each county shall prepare and adopt a comprehensive, long-range general plan for present and future growth and development needs of the unincorporated portions of the county. The plan may include any number of sections concerning the development of the county, but at a minimum is mandated to include a land use element, a transportation and traffic circulation element and an element for the development of moderate income housing.
This general plan is an advisory guide for land use decisions that may be implemented through the Utah County Land Use Ordinance and other adopted county codes and ordinances.
It is the desire of Utah County citizens, the Utah County Legislative Body, and the Utah County Planning Commission to have a pleasant and progressive county in which people can live and work, without sacrificing the traditional rural atmosphere inherent in the unincorporated areas of the county while protecting the quality of life in the incorporated municipalities and respecting the rights of private property owners. The following are objectives and policies to promote this goal:
Utah Code Annotated, 1953, as amended, requires each county of the State of Utah to adopt a plan for moderate income housing. After adoption of the plan, the county legislative body with a population of over 25,000 is required to prepare a biennial review and report of its findings.
The key policy of the county’s general plan is for all types of housing to be directed into the incorporated municipalities that can provide adequate governmental infrastructure, public health, emergency services and private community services. This policy is based on the premise that a valid evaluation of housing quality is not solely a look at the structure itself, but also includes a look at the adequacy of supportive services available to householders. This key policy is still in effect.
Notwithstanding the above policy, the unincorporated area has its certain economic pursuits, such as agriculture, transportation, and mining; each requiring housing to serve those involved. It continues to be a policy of the county to have an appropriate share of its housing to be considered affordable housing.
Farm Labor Housing: The pre-eminence of agriculture as a land use in the unincorporated area of Utah County is acknowledged. It identifies a need for unincorporated county farm labor housing. This need is for both those farm laborers hired to work year round and those who are hired on a seasonal basis during periods of harvest. The Utah County Land Use Ordinance allows for such housing, requiring the farm owner to be the provider.
On Site Housing for Caretakers of Agriculture and Commercial/Industrial Business Sites: Many of the businesses and industrial establishments in the unincorporated area are relatively remote from police, fire and other essential emergency services. The Moderate Income Housing element proposes that housing for caretaker personnel continue to be made available through the land use ordinance.
The two zones best suited to accommodate moderate income housing, the RR-5 and TR-5 zones, contain enough land for 7,356 dwelling units at a rate of two units per acre (although a greater density per acre can be allowed for planned unit developments). The 2010 Census states that the unincorporated portion of Utah County has 3.57 persons per household, down from 3.59 in 2000. That number is projected to remain nearly constant over the next five years. That would mean that these areas could sustain a population of 26,216 people at 3.57 persons per 10 household. The population for unincorporated Utah County was 10,009 for the year 2010 and is projected to be 28,404 by the year 2020.
The amount of land zoned for housing is not found to be the critical factor which limits moderate income housing. The lack of public facilities and other services needed for development, and the cost of installing or providing such facilities and services, are the more critical factors.
Preservation: Typical housing economies are such that those with higher incomes are the ones who construct new homes; those with modest incomes “move up” to the units vacated by those who have built the new homes; and those with still lower incomes move up to the homes vacated by the second-tier income individuals. New units are seldom available to lower-income households without the availability of government subsidies.
Toward Lower Cost Development: Utah County continues with the following programs which tend to encourage the development of new moderate income housing units:
Projects: The Utah County Housing Authority has a number of on-going projects and programs to meet the housing needs of low and moderate income people. The areas served include both the incorporated and unincorporated portions of Utah County and involve a Utah County share of federal funding, as well as a municipal share. The projects and programs include:
Progress made within the County to provide Moderate Income Housing, as measured by permits issued for new units of Moderate Income Housing
The need for moderate income housing in the unincorporated area of Utah County in the initial Plan for Moderate Income Housing (as adopted February 16, 1999) was calculated from the 2000 Census and the Mountainland Association of Governments Population Projections. The 2010 Census and Mountainland Association of Governments Population Projections were used for the 2010 forward. The calculations are as follows:
The area median income for Utah Valley is $64,200 for 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD1). Moderate income households consist of those households who earn 80% or less than the area mean income. This means that any household earning $51,360 or less in 2014 would classify in the moderate income category. Thirty percent of the housing cost should not exceed a households annual income for moderate income housing. A household earning the moderate income figure listed above would qualify for housing in the amount of approximately $205,000. This number was provided by a local mortgage company calculated at current market rates.
Since 1990, the majority of building permits issued for single-family dwellings in the unincorporated area of Utah County have been on lots or parcels having an area of five(5) acres or more. Although these larger lot sizes are more consistent with the goal of the preservation of agricultural lands, they become a prohibitive factor relative to the provision of moderate income housing, due to increasing market value of the land. However, there do exist a number of platted lots of less than five(5) acres in subdivisions with central water systems that more readily provide opportunities for moderate income housing. Unincorporated Utah County has maintained a percentage of moderate income housing for new single-family structures, due mainly to zoning provisions that allows manufactured homes as an alternative to a site-built structure in any location where a zoning compliance permit for a single family dwelling can be approved.
Utah County’s policy continues to be the majority of moderate income housing should be provided in urban and incorporated areas where essential public and private facilities and services, including public transportation, are in reasonable proximity.
Efforts made by the County to coordinate the Moderate Income Housing Element with neighboring counties
Utah County’s only ongoing project with neighboring counties relative to moderate income housing is the 13 units of farm-labor housing in Spring Lake, Utah, listed above.
Unincorporated Utah County has maintained a high percentage of moderate income housing for new single-family structures, due mainly to the zoning that allows manufactured homes as an alternative to a site-built structure in any location where a zoning compliance permit for a single family dwelling can be approved.
Utah County’s only ongoing project with neighboring counties relative to moderate income housing is the 13 units of farm-labor housing in Spring Lake, Utah, listed above.
Local county roads, state roads and federal highways adequately serve the rural unincorporated area of Utah County, but the transition through the urban municipalities and along the narrow North-South Wasatch Front corridor impedes the efficient traffic flow into the unincorporated areas and to destinations outside of Utah County. With the Wasatch Mountains to the East and Utah Lake on the West, planning for efficient North-South and East-West routes is made difficult.
Funding and construction of adequate transportation facilities has traditionally struggled to keep pace with the population growth in Utah County. The State Department of Transportation, Mountainland Association of Governments and the Utah County Engineer can only accomplish annual maintenance and new road construction as funding allows. Utah State Code does not currently allow transportation corridors, as identified in a jurisdiction’s general plan, to be held as open land for future transportation development without purchase of the proposed corridor.
Major streets - The Transportation Element map of the Utah County General Plan shows streets and proposed transportation corridors designated as Arterials, Collectors, U.S. Highways, State Routes, and Interstate Highway. All other local county roads are identified on the Official County Road Map for Utah County. Many existing county roads designated as an arterial road or as a collector road do not have as wide a right-of-way or paved surface as is needed to function under these designations. Additional right-of-way should be obtained for the land needed to widen and upgrade the paved surface, shoulders and clear areas of these major roads.
Unincorporated Utah County Major Street Standards and Identification
Local County/Development Roads
Proposed Mobility Routes
Subdivision street design standards - Off site improvements, including curbs, gutters, and sidewalks should be required in subdivisions when the lot area is less than five acres and the width of the lot is less than 150 feet, unless the County Engineer finds that a modified standard will provide a more efficient means of managing drainage and pedestrian traffic.
Subdivision access roads are those roads leading to a subdivision from the general county road system to give lot owners access to that system. It is the policy of Utah County to not accept dedication of platted subdivision streets if access roads leading to the subdivision are unpaved or are determined by the County Engineer to be inadequate in either paved surface width or geometric design. Access roads should be paved from the nearest paved county road up to and along the entire frontage of the subdivision. This policy exists because once the land is developed the usage of the road has changed from rural to urban. Undeveloped land or agricultural enterprises can operate satisfactorily with seasonal unpaved roads, but year-round subdivision occupancy needs paved all-weather roads for their own access and for access by public safety and fire vehicles.
When arterial or collector roads are used for access to subdivision lots, it is recommended that: (1) lot designs be kept as wide as possible along the frontage of the major street; (2) driveways be designed to allow cars to enter and exit a major street without backing into traffic; (3) all driveways be constructed to intersect the arterial or collector at the same grade or elevation as the street surface for at least the length of one vehicle; (4) driveways should access side streets if possible; (5) adjacent driveways share access when possible.
The Utah County Engineer maintains a book of standards for the development of all designations of county roads and other subdivision improvements. These standards are modified and updated periodically.
Airports - The largest airports within Utah County are the Provo airport and the Springville-Spanish Fork Airport. Both of these facilities are continually expanding their air traffic and facilities. There are other military and private airfields, and while they do not produce the commercial travel of those mentioned, the increased commercial use of shared airspace does increase the potential for conflicts. With the increase of population coupled with the increase in business, education and industry, air travel will continue to increase in Utah County. Provo City has made improvements to their airport facility to accommodate expanding commercial air service. The county is aware of the need to provide land use regulations and zone map designations surrounding major commercial and military facilities that will ensure their continued safe and efficient operation.
Railroads / Public Transit - A commuter rail system from Box Elder County to Utah County utilizing an existing rail line has been recently implemented. This system links with the existing TRAX lightrail lines in Salt Lake County/City, allowing commuter rail service along the Wasatch Front and within the urbanized municipalities of Salt Lake County.
Utah County should continue to work with the railroads to eliminate dangerous county road surface crossings and to install crossing lights and barriers.
UTA has bus service in Utah County with limited service to the rural unincorporated area. Airport shuttle service and taxi service is also available.
Hiking, Biking and Equestrian Trails - With the abundance of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property in Utah County, hiking, biking, equestrian, and multi-use trails have been developed by local government and the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Authority. Utah County should continue to work with other local governments and groups to continue to help in the acquisition of land for the opening of new trail heads and trails, and to maintain their current trails. Trails are available for all county residents and tourists to provide daily travel and recreational access to the canyons, mountains, rivers and lakes of Utah County.
Care should be taken to site and design trails in ways that will limit trespassing and intended encroachments onto private property. In particular, trails in proximity to military facilities such as Camp Williams should be clearly and sufficiently marked with warning signage to avoid serious accidents.
The “Trails” map of the Utah County General Plan designates existing and planned trails county trails in Utah County. County land use policies should compliment existing and planned trail corridors.
Utah County is a high desert on the eastern edge of the basin and range formation which abuts the north-south aligned Wasatch Mountain range. Sheltered from the more severe storms by the surrounding mountains, Utah County experiences a high desert climate with cold winters which bring the needed annual precipitation to sustain its communities and farming. Protection of this localized environment is critical to provide for the current and future population of Utah County.
Land within the boundary of Utah County is comprised approximately of 60% federal, state, county and city ownership, including the area of Utah Lake, and 40% in private ownership. Much of the federal and state land is located in the higher elevations of the mountains which provides the needed watershed for the expanding city populations and for irrigation of farm land. Preservation of water and water features, maintaining healthy air quality, awareness of natural hazards, wildlife protection and forest conservation, are all important for the residents and visitors of Utah County.
Two major concerns of water in Utah County are sufficiency and quality. The county was settled and developed because it is located at one of the few sites in the arid west where supplies of water are sufficient for agriculture and development. The county has a number of streams that originate in the local mountains, and these are supplemented by water from the Provo River, Current Creek, and Thistle Creek, which originate outside of the county boundary. The local water supply is also augmented by inter-basin transfers from the Weber River and tributaries of the Colorado River.
Utah County obtains irrigation water from Mona Reservoir in Juab County and Strawberry Reservoir in Wasatch County, and both irrigation and culinary water from Deer Creek Reservoir in Wasatch County. The Jordanelle Reservoir in Wasatch County also provides municipal and industrial water to northern Utah County. Utah Lake lies within the county boundary and some local land owners obtain irrigation water from the lake, however, much of the water is used by downstream owners. There are a few smaller sized impoundments and natural bodies of water that exist within Utah County which are important for local recreational use and water storage.
Springs and wells from underground water supplies are heavily used for both culinary and irrigation in Utah County. The higher quality of the water and the lack of pumping expenses make springs the preferred source of drinking water systems whenever they are available. Most of the larger springs located in the canyon bottoms and foothill areas of the Wasatch Mountains are currently utilized for culinary water supply. Wells are also used by cities to supply water for culinary use and fire suppression with some cities utilizing wells to supply the water needed beyond the amount that can be supplied by springs. Population growth in Utah County will be dependant on additional wells from underground aquifers since little additional water can be obtained from existing captured spring flows.
Unincorporated county property owners should be encouraged to switch from surface flood irrigation to pressurized pipeline irrigation systems, when possible, to conserve irrigation water. Water conservation efforts should also be encouraged for residential landscaping by using timed systems or grasses, shrubs and plants that require minimum amounts of water.
Underground water and spring flow are recharged primarily from the winter snow accumulation in the high mountain watershed areas. It is vital to Utah County that these areas are preserved. Rainfall also adds to the recharge of groundwater, but the annual volume of water contributed by rainfall precipitation in this arid climate is not enough by itself. Mountain watershed areas also provide the runoff that feed the streams and rivers that flow into Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake. This stream and river water is used for wildlife, irrigation and recreation. It has been the ability to capture and utilize water that has led to the development of Utah County from its early pioneer farming heritage to its current urban and intensive farming development. Preservation of both quantity and quality are necessary. Utah County relies heavily on the Utah State Engineer to control the water rights assigned to properties, and the Utah County Health Department to monitor water systems and septic facilities, in making their recommendations concerning land use development in the unincorporated area of Utah County.
The same mountain and lake combination that moderates the climate also contributes to the presence of frequent wintertime temperature inversions. Temperature inversions, periods when the coldest air is trapped close to the ground, lock in stagnant air and pollutants which progressively intensify. Inversion periods that produce cold, fog, icy roads, and air pollution can last up to several weeks in Utah County. The layer of hazy pollution associated with the inversions comes from the increasing number of automobiles and their emissions and pollutants from the commercial and industrial uses associated with the growing county population. This layer of haze makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate to the surface of the ground and resolve the inversion problem by heating the lower layer of air. In such an inversion situation, relief is only available when a weather front moves into the county with enough energy to break the inversion and bring in fresh air and sunlight.
Testing for carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, ozone, and particulate matter has been in progress for a number of years in Utah County. Historically, the county has exceeded air quality standards for carbon monoxide, and more recently, particulate matter, largely due to heavy automobile use and industrial discharges; and particulate matter, from industry, wood burning stoves, construction disturbance, road dust, diesel engine discharges, agriculture operations, and illegal refuse burning.
Development on five acre lots in the unincorporated area has not had an impact on the ability to attain county air quality compliance, even though commuting is increased from these outlying areas. The carbon monoxide and particulate matter that is added to the air in these outlying areas are well below the maximum allowable levels.
Factors that have led to reduced air pollution levels during favorable weather conditions in Utah County include the lowering of automobile emissions by a vigorous inspection program; the termination of local steel manufacturing; the option to utilize mass transit during commuting periods; and the restrictions instituted by the State Division of Air Quality on wood burning stoves and fireplaces. The county must continue to monitor, regulate, inspect and find new methods to maintain a healthy quality of air as population, industry, services and vehicles continue to increase.
Earthquakes and surface fault rupture - The Wasatch Fault is an active fault and geological evidence shows earthquakes have occurred within the last 300 years which have created vertical displacements of 15 to 20 feet in some segments of the fault. Less severe earthquakes have occurred, on average, decennially in Utah County. Surface fault ruptures can damage or destroy buildings and may sever transportation routes and utility and water supply lines, causing additional dangers for fighting fires and restricted mobility of medical and safety personnel.
Ground shaking is the most common hazard associated with earthquakes and exists countywide. In areas with a high water table or near a water feature, ground shaking can cause soils to become temporarily unstable. This temporary condition of soil instability is known as liquefaction. Structures affected by liquefaction may not be shaken apart, but may tilt, sink or actually list over on their side. The State of Utah has adopted certain building codes, which include standards and requirements relative to seismic concerns.
Landslides, rock fall and debris flow - Steep sloping ground and an unusual amount of water can result in landslides, mud flows, or debris flows. Certain types of rocks in Utah County, such as the Manning Canyon Shale, have a structural makeup that has a propensity for landslide activity, especially during a period when these soils are saturated from heavy rainfall or snow melt. Debris flows, defined as a mass of mud, rock fragments, soil, and water, moving much like a stream, occur mainly in the cloudburst flood channels of the mountain front. When fire destroys vegetation on the mountain-front, the risk for, and scale of, debris flows may be increased.
Rock fall can occur during an earthquake when exposed rocks on steep slopes are dislodged by ground shaking, or as an individual event when broken free from the mountainside by the freeze-thaw regime of winter climate. In either case, large rocks rolling and bouncing down the slope of the mountainside can be damaging and dangerous to those living near the base of the mountains.
Utah County should maintain maps which identify those areas in unincorporated Utah County with a susceptibility for surface fault rupture, landslide, rockfall and debris flow. No development which includes human-occupied structures and critical facilities such as storage facilities for toxic, caustic, flammable or explosive materials, should occur in those areas identified as having a susceptibility to these hazards unless a geological study(s) is conducted by a qualified professional to identify the degree to which the hazard(s) affects the proposed development and which recommends measures to mitigate the hazard(s). These recommended mitigation measures should be incorporated into the design of the development to adequately protect persons and property.
The deep snow of the upper elevations in the mountains of Utah County often produces avalanches. Many of these avalanches occur in uninhabited areas and only damage vegetation. Back country winter recreationists can also fall victim to these remote avalanches and are often the trigger for the avalanche since it takes very little disturbance to set them in motion. Avalanches usually follow the same paths each year, but exceptional weather conditions in some years produce avalanches so large they exceed their normal chutes. In this situation, the avalanche may strike the lowland areas and cover roads and damage houses. Destructive avalanches have occurred in Hobble Creek Canyon, the Sundance area of the North Fork of Provo Canyon, Vivian Park, Slide Canyon, and Bridal Veil Falls in the main part of Provo Canyon. There is limited avalanche information and data for Utah County. This hazard deserves careful attention. Additional information about avalanches should be sought after to help facilitate more informed decision making regarding development in the mountainous areas of Utah County.
Utah County can experience three types of floods: flash floods, riverine floods, and lakeside floods. Flash floods occur when torrential rain delivers water in an upland area at a volume greater than the soil can absorb, when unusually warm spring weather melts the snow pack too quickly, or when a dam, landslide or other obstruction impounding water gives way.
Riverine floods occur on the natural flood plain as part of the normal process where water from high stream flows are stored outside the river banks until the flow diminishes.
Lake side floods on land surrounding Utah Lake are dependent upon how much water is stored in the winter snow pack, the manipulation of the storage reservoirs upstream and the irrigation releases at the outlet of Utah Lake. Dredging of the Jordan River, the outlet from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake, has been used to help reduce flooding along the shoreline of Utah Lake.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has identified the Utah Lake flood plain and several riverine flood plains in Utah County and requires Utah County government to administer special protective regulations in these areas. The FEMA maps show the areas subject to 1% annual chance floods (100 year floods) and areas subject to 0.2% annual chance floods (500 year floods) and have placed those maps in the office of Utah County Community Development. Development in areas subject to 1% annual chance floods should meet floodproofing standards to mitigate flooding concerns. Requirements should be established to regulate the location of human occupied structures near flood channels not subject to FEMA regulations.
A large percentage of land area within the boundary of Utah County is rural and mountainous with a variety of fuels vulnerable to wild land fire. Vegetation types range from grasses and brush to heavy scrub and timber. Even with the efforts to eliminate accumulated fuels through clearing and controlled burns, most of these areas have large amounts of fuel which can burn violently when ignited. Homes have also been constructed within these wild land fire areas that complicate fire management and control. Protection of natural resources, life and property, and firefighters and their equipment, has continued to add to the cost of fire suppression. Besides the immediate danger to life and property and the loss of vegetation, wild land fire can create secondary concerns of erosion, flooding, landslides, debris flows, water quality degradation, displacement of wildlife and livestock, as well as aesthetic impacts. Wild land fires occur each year in Utah County. The number of fires can be reduced by fire safety education and using common sense during periods of high fire danger. The intensity of these fires can vary due to weather conditions and the abundance of fuel.
The Utah County Fire Marshal coordinates fire prevention, suppression, and fire investigation throughout the unincorporated area, while the Wild Land Fire Division of the County Sheriff’s Department specifically provides for the prevention and suppression of wild land fires in the unincorporated private lands and cooperates with the state and federal agencies when wild land fires are initiated on public lands or cross over onto such lands. The adoption by Utah County of the International Fire Code and the Urban/Wildland Interface Area section of the Utah County Code has increased the effectiveness of fire prevention and has reduced the risks, costs, and adverse impacts of wild land fire.
Wildlife and Forest Conservation
The tree community in any particular spot of Utah County is a product of climate, soils, land forms, and elevation. Trees constitute the major vegetative type in the county. This is true even though Utah County is a productive agricultural county. The majority are deciduous trees; aspen, maple, and oak, although the tree communities of many cool, north-facing slopes in the county are composed of evergreen fir and spruce. Smaller tree communities found west of the Wasatch Mountains are composed of mostly junipers and pinion pines.
Utah County has few stands that are useful for milling into lumber. Sporadic cuts of deciduous trees, such as cottonwoods, occur to make warehousing pallets, shipping crates, and supports for mine safety. Junipers are often harvested and trimmed to make fence posts. Various woods are utilized for home fireplace heating, and a few softwoods have been cut to supply local sawmills with dimensional lumber. However, the most important use of the areas covered by the tree communities in Utah County is as watershed. Inexpensive supplies of culinary and irrigation water are produced in the mountain forests adjacent to Utah County’s population and agriculture centers and require very little expense for treatment and transportation.
The forested land also produces a crop of browse used for grazing livestock, forage for game animals, and scenic landscape that is important to the recreationist. The tourists that are drawn to these mountains for their beauty and recreation aspects bring important out-of-county dollars into the county’s economy annually.
The extensive oak brush covered slopes of the Traverse Mountains and the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains is a highly fire prone vegetative type. Termed “chaparral” in some studies, the chaparral is also the critical winter habitat for the mule deer population and constitutes the majority of their food source when deep mountain snow force the deer to congregate in these lower elevations. Unlike the forested areas, the high shrub community has no significance for lumber or wood products. Its basic value is for watershed, browse, and scenic qualities.
A variety of animals and fowl live in the habitats of Utah County. Like vegetation, animal and fowl habitat is a result of the surrounding environmental conditions of soil and climate. Mule deer and elk are the most numerous big game animals in the county, and both are avidly pursued by local and out-of-state sportsmen. For both of these species, the size of the population is limited by the quantity and quality of food that can be found in the areas where they winter. Residential development has encroached into these critical deer and elk winter areas resulting in a loss of population as they are driven from their normal winter habitat.
Mountain goat, moose, cougar, bear, and many species of smaller mammals are also found in Utah County. Valley varieties of birds, game birds, raptors, and mountain birds and fowl can be found in Utah County. Golden and Bald Eagle winter nesting sites are plentiful in areas near the shores of Utah Lake. A variety of fish are found in Utah Lake and most all streams, lakes and ponds have native and planted trout. Stretches of the Provo River, through Utah County, are designated as a blue ribbon trout fishery.
Water, air, natural hazards, forest and wildlife, are all environmental elements that must be factored into the planning process. Elimination of any one from land use planning efforts could cause undesired effects to vital resources needed to provide for the many who have chosen to live in Utah County because of these qualities as they presently exist.
The State of Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources, has authority to manage all fish and wildlife in the state, including Utah County. Any species which are considered to be sensitive by the Division of Wildlife Resources shall be given consideration for protection of habitat in planning decisions. Land use and other permits shall be reviewed with this goal in mind, incorporating recommended mitigation and protective measures of adopted state and regional plans. Such strategies shall work towards the goal of ensuring that sensitive species do not become listed as threatened or endangered.
In recognition of the Greater Sage-grouse being identified as needing protection, all state and federally managed lands lying within the Carbon Greater Sage Grouse Management Area shall be managed in accordance with the 2013 State of Utah Conservation Plan for Greater Sage-grouse in Utah. On private, local government, and School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) lands, compliance with this plan is recommended.
The word “planning,” when used by a city or county government, means the process of logically arranging physical development, both public and private, to coordinate residential, commercial, industrial, agriculture, and open space land uses, with the essential supportive public facilities and services. To initiate planning within its jurisdiction, a local government customarily prepares and adopts a general plan having various elements mandated by state government and additional elements selected by the jurisdiction, to provide for the management of long-range growth and development.
In preparing the Utah County Land Use Plan, notice was taken of the existing and permitted land uses in the twenty-six incorporated municipalities within the county. A county is distinct from a city in that it does not actually have the function, as a city does, to accommodate the complete spectrum of activities available to those who reside within it. Municipalities are created to provide urban governmental services essential for urban development and for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare. Counties are recognized as legal subdivisions of the State and thereby function in a supportive role to the incorporated urban places rather than competing with them for control of industrial sites, commercial activities, and residential growth. Counties exist to fill the governmental void that would otherwise exist in the territory lying between cities and towns.
In their role as subdivisions of state government, counties collect the property tax for the state, the school districts, and the cities, as well as act as custodians over court, land, marriage, and other important public records. On the other hand, it is inappropriate for a county to imitate municipal governments by zoning for a full range of urban land uses, with the resulting responsibility of providing a matched set of urban services.
Land uses excluded from the county land use ordinance and the land use element of the general plan, in unincorporated Utah County, were not intended to be exclusions from county residents, but were found to be properly provided for in the incorporated municipalities for those living in both county and city. Those uses of land recommended for inclusion in the land use ordinance of the unincorporated area are the uses deemed valid for a non-urban, unincorporated setting. Inclusion of more intensive uses deemed necessary in unincorporated areas should be considered primarily as permitted conditional uses.
Preparing the land use element plan
In the process of determining what uses of land to include in the land use plan of the unincorporated area of Utah County, it is necessary to take into account the historical and current use of the land, the changing economic conditions, geographic and geologic features, transportation routes, slope and vegetation, and population. In reviewing these categories, along with the annexation policies of each jurisdiction, land ownership and other specific land area studies, a planning matrix can be achieved to indicate those areas best suited for future changes to the land use pattern or areas to be maintained with little or limited change.
Agriculture as a land use
Because good, level agricultural soil is equally suitable for industrial, residential, and commercial development, the future of agriculture on the valley floor of Utah County is tentative. The decrease in minimum lot size from forty acres to five acres for a dwelling in the agricultural zone has also contributed to larger ranches and farm tracts being broken into smaller parcels which become less productive as an agricultural unit. Agricultural land has provided a local market of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat, and continues to provide an attractive landscape for recreation, hunting and visual ruralness. The preservation of viable agricultural land can also have collateral benefits, including the minimizing of potential land use conflicts which may otherwise occur if particular farmlands were to be developed.
Unfortunately, the high value placed upon Utah County agriculture for aesthetic reasons is the very thing which threatens the continuation of farming in this area. From the detached vantage point of the urban county resident, the farmland is a magnet that lures residents to resettle amidst the cattle and cornfields. After moving into the agricultural areas, the nonfarmer’s annoyance at odors, pesticides, dust, pre-dawn tractor and sprayer noise, and run-away irrigation water, creates conflict. The agriculture protection area afforded by state code may provide the protection needed by the farmer for urban encroachment into the production farm areas.
Housing as a Land Use
Residential districts shown on the land use element map are those most suitable for residential use, including the commercial and governmental activities that support such use. Each zone district permits single-family dwellings that meets the minimum area, frontage and width required within each zone. Areas designated as residential on the land use element map are those areas that could be developed for residential use with water systems, sewer systems, and road access, with the support of adjacent municipal services or abutting existing outlying water and/or sewage systems.
Utah County’s preference for the location of residential development is, first in the established municipalities, second in unincorporated communities and areas with existing water systems, and third, on zoning lots in the unincorporated areas of the county. It is the historical policy of Utah County, by resolution, that new unincorporated communities, and existing dense settlements in the unincorporated county, proceed toward incorporation as a town as soon as the minimum population to do so is achieved.
When an application to amend the general plan to a residential designation is submitted, an applicant should show all annexation or incorporation possibilities have been exhausted. In addition, a soil report and soil feasibility study on the use of septic systems for the development or amendment should be submitted by the owner/developer based on existing soil studies that have been provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service or studies completed by a recognized soil engineer.
Commerce as land use
The central business district is the beginning point from which city utilities and services extend outward into the community; the best roads, largest water lines, and major police and fire-fighting equipment are usually located in this area. The large proportion of the community’s taxes collected from the central business district is paralleled by the high level of government services provided in the downtown area.
The majority of residents in unincorporated Utah County lives within three miles of one of the many municipal commercial business districts in the county. It is proposed that no new commercial zones be established in the unincorporated area, except: (1) commercial areas in remote, well-spaced locations along state highways for the convenience of the traveling public; (2) in populated unincorporated neighborhood areas to provide convenient commercial uses for the residents of these areas; and (3) within platted recreational resort developments.
Industry as a land use
Industry is a term which is applied to a wide variety of economic activities and land uses, and is essential to most communities as a source of jobs and tax revenue. Most industries need good highway access, water and sewer availability, level ground with moderate to heavy load bearing capacity and adequate heating and electrical utilities that exist or are readily available. State adopted and county mandated building codes and fire safety codes limit the type of structures and uses available in the unincorporated county industrial zones when no water supply system is available for the required fire flow. Existing and new industrial zones have not developed in the county due to this lack of infrastructure to meet minimum code requirements.
Many industrial uses are sufficiently offensive that they cannot be located in municipal industrial areas. Other industrial activities, such as mineral reduction or processing plants, need to be located near the site of their associated natural resource extraction operation. In such cases, industrial zones in the unincorporated area may be created. It is recommended that industrial uses not be allowed in the commercial, residential or agricultural zones; or that nonindustrial uses be allowed in the zone designated for specific industrial activities.
Lands used for watersheds
The most fundamental land use in the arid west is watershed use which provides the essential water for agriculture, residential and all other land uses. Any damage to watershed areas should be rehabilitated, and the critical mountain areas should be managed for flood and fire protection, water conservation and erosion prevention. Valley infiltration areas that recharge the ground water supplies should also be protected from development, pollution, excavation, and surface covering that would reduce infiltration. Development patterns and policies should be consistent with adopted regulations protecting watershed, water sources, and water source protection zone areas.
Since the valley floor areas contribute to the water table, the disposal of human and industrial waste into the soil should be minimized by the utilization of sewage treatment facilities whenever possible. Storm water runoff from development should be required to be disposed of on-site to increase the water table recharge, unless a storm drain or surface drain that is controlled by an agency or jurisdiction is available that would allow for the increase of water runoff to an acceptable body of water or sump.
Public streets, parks, or any public way, ground, place or space, publicly owned buildings or structures, and publicly or privately owned utilities are necessary for the continued growth and development within Utah County and within the state. All land use designations and zone map designations should provide for the location of these public uses. In addition, areas should be designated for the location of certain essential, but less-desired public facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants and waste and waste transfer facilities. These areas should be located close enough to urban areas to meet the needs of the residents of Utah County and to limit transport costs, but still provide enough separation from non-compatible land uses.
Watershed Area - Lands in the unincorporated area of Utah County that are classified within the CE-1, Critical Environment Zone, typify the canyon and mountain areas of Utah County. The majority of the water necessary for culinary use, irrigation, recreation, natural vegetation and wildlife, is initiated from these CE-1 zoned areas. This is accomplished from winter snow accumulation and absorption of rainfall. Any request to diminish this watershed area by changing this zone designation, should be accompanied by an engineered soil study and report which would indicate the mitigation of the watershed land area being converted to an alternative land use and the ability of the watershed soils to accept in-ground septic systems without incurring pollution to this critical water storage area.
Agriculture Area - This designation includes those areas within the M&G-1, Mining and Grazing Zone, A-40, Exclusive Agriculture Zone and RA-5, Residential Agricultural Zone. These areas are zoned for land uses relating to the grazing and pasturing of livestock, mining, production agriculture operations and low density residential development. Historically, the previous RA-1 Zone, and the A-1 Zone, and the current RA-5 Zone, have been those areas related to irrigated agriculture. Any additional conversion of land to the RA-5 Zone should include evidence of an existing, historical irrigation system with established irrigated crops, orchard or pasture in production; and not a proposal to do so in the future if the zone map change is approved. Conversion of the RA-5 Zone to the A-40 Zone is encouraged in this agriculture area.
Residential Area - Land that is within the classification of the CE-2, Critical Environment Zone, RR-5, Rural Residential Zone and TR-5, Transitional Residential Zone, are considered residential. These three zones have been developed residentially in recreational canyon areas, adjacent to municipal boundaries for future annexation and in unincorporated areas where some utilities exist or have been constructed by the developer. New areas of residential designation should not be approved except for the expansion of existing residential zones when roads, central sewer systems, topography, environmental and geologic factors, central water systems and fire protection indicate that such expansion is feasible.
Commercial Area - These are areas in unincorporated Utah County that are classified within the NC-1, Neighborhood Commercial Zone or the HS-1, Highway Service Zone. As municipalities expand their boundaries into the rural portion of the county, the need for neighborhood commercial activity decreases. Most residents in the unincorporated area of the county are only minutes from city commercial shops and services. Existing neighborhood commercial areas should be maintained only until they no longer serve the population in the surrounding area. New neighborhood commercial areas should not be established unless the need is required by increased unincorporated population or as part of an approved recreational resort development.
Highway Service commercial areas aid the traveling public. To a lesser extent, these commercial areas also provide outdoor recreation business opportunities, particularly in canyon areas. Any expansion of the existing HS-1 zoned areas or proposals for creating new areas along state roads and highways should be in conjunction with economic data indicating the need for the expansion or the new location and the cost to Utah County to provide the mandated fire and life safety services. The improvements to vehicular travel by automobile and commercial trucking has reduced the necessity for frequent stops between urbanized areas, which decreases the demand for new highway commercial services in the rural parts of the county.
Manufacture Area - Land that is classified within the I-1, Industrial Zone and the PF, Public Facilities Zone. Existing industrial areas that do not have access to a municipal or private sewage system or water delivery system for fire suppression should be reviewed and, where appropriate, eliminated. Any new manufacturing area should be approved only if sufficient utilities are available to support the industrial or public facility use and annexation into a municipality is not currently possible. As with commercial areas, the municipalities are relied upon to provide the majority of the manufacturing since they also are able to provide the required infrastructure.
Camp Williams Military Compatibility Overlay Area (MCOA)
In order to assist in the implementation of the land use and other recommendations of the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) completed in 2012 for Camp Williams, Utah County should support land use policies that are consistent with the JLUS in areas designated as part of the Study’s Military Compatibility Overlay Area (MCOA). Utah County finds that the MCOA’s objectives, standards, and requirements are generally consistent with the county’s plans and objectives for this unique area, and will compliment and support county efforts to limit development in areas lacking necessary infrastructure, to promote the preservation of viable farmlands and grazing lands, to protect sensitive areas, and to otherwise promote the orderly and efficient development of Utah County.
The “Land Use Element” map of the Utah County General Plan illustrates the five areas of the Utah County General Plan, Land Use Element Plan. This land use plan and land use map, along with the goals, objectives and policies element; the moderate income housing element; the transportation and traffic circulation element; and the environmental element, and all associated maps; make up the advisory guidelines for the comprehensive development and long-range land use planning for the unincorporated lands of Utah County, Utah.
Also available as a downloadable pdf.
Prepared by the Utah County Community Development Department and recommended by the Utah County Planning Commission
Adopted by The County Legislative Body of Utah County, Utah on December 2, 2014
by Ordinance No. 2014-12
The Land Use Ordinance and Utah County Code are available below in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format.Land Use Ordinance
Utah County is participating in a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS). The study is a cooperative land use planning effort conducted as a joint venture between an active military installation, surrounding cities and counties, state and federal agencies, and other affected stakeholders. The Camp W.G. Williams JLUS is an 18 month study funded through a grant from the Department of Defense (DoD), Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) and contributions by Eagle Mountain City. Visit the Camp Williams JLUS web site to learn how you can participate in this important study.