Monday, May 11, 2009

C'Urban Guttered Mule

Curb and Gutter... like a plague, meticulous landscaping stifles childhood development and breaks the circle of life that teaches valuable common sense. Doubt me? Count up all the wilderness retreat programs and youth rehab ranches in this country and ask yourself why they don't do "inner city experiences" for troubled youth.

Nearly 8 years ago, we built our now-too-small house on an acre-plus in an AG zoned subdivision beyond the edge of town. Nestled in a "Little Valley" contained between the Fort Pearce drainage, a vaulted ridge line, and a solitary mesa, we could brag that nothing stood between us and the Grand Canyon, some 90 miles to our South. We chose to build here for the solitude, the opportunity for an AG lifestyle, and for the Master-planned promise that future development would be additional AG friendly neighborhoods.

It all made sense back then. St George, once a rural community, was struggling a little to find somewhere for it's residents to go who wanted AG living, but who were finding themselves increasingly relegated to small, scattered pockets of traditional rural life, surrounded by hostile densities. Self contained Little Valley was the perfect fit--backing right up to the vaulted ridge line that bordered St George's planned replacement airport, it was a natural area for AG type density. And so it was promised. City Fathers privately assured many of us of this promise and codified it in the city's general plan.

We loved it. Living amidst rolling fields of alfalfa, and open desert, we were tucked nicely within protective geography; existing together with salt-of-the-earth neighbors who came for the same freedom to raise 4-H hogs, horses, and kids. There was room to spread our wings, and chores without the possibility of parole. A quiet place without urban sounds, our world was filled with the silence of morning's Rooster.

It was short lived. Boom times were here and the developmental tsunami started at the top of Little Valley. My neighbors with AG zoning on the North end soon found themselves surrounded, and rancher Blake's feedlot which he had relocated 3 times to avoid hostile density found himself facing petitions from the new subdivisions across the street. Schools, parks, and dense neighborhoods flooded nearly half of Little Valley with almost no warning. All of a sudden we get notice from the city that they want to meet to get our input on the future development of the rest of Little Valley. We went. To our chagrin, the city spent 2 hours explaining what the new master plan looked like, and then got offended when we unanimously (except for the developers) rejected the notion. They were planning the highest single-family density in St George history to fill in and surround all the existing AG neighborhoods. At our behest, they codified this new master plan anyway, and publicly claimed that we were absent from the planning process when it was over.

Seasons change. A new majority got elected to city council just about the time the economy turned south. Unfortunately, one new subdivision had already been approved under the new plan, and 100 new homes on 30 acres next to me is underway. It has 100 foot buffers, but it lies squarely between our AG zoning and the Southernmost neighborhood that also has AG zoning. To this point, we felt completely powerless as we had lost every single battle we had with the city. Then we get notice of a 90 home subdivision plan on the beautiful 14 acre pasture across the street from me. At nearly 7 homes per acre, 10 of the homes were platted to be within 10 feet of my neighbor's corrals across the street.

My neighbors and I went to war again, feeling a bit hopeless. After arguing for years, to no avail, that we feared a backlash from such high densities, I stood in that particular meeting and said, "You know, its not just their intolerance of us we worry about. We don't tolerate high density housing around us either. Having AG use next to manicured subdivisions is like farting in an elevator--even if the new neighbors don't complain, we are going to be mighty uncomfortable with our smells and noises in their presence." (Someone whispers, "Does Dr. Gooch know he's on TV?") We finally won our first battle. The new city fathers said, " we really want to pave over every last little bit of fertile soil in our city? Is it really fair to crowd out the existing property owners with hostile development? Maybe we should have somewhere for this to exist. Perhaps we should re-visit that new masterplan." They voted no--even though the developer had met every single requirement of the new master plan. The mayor about had a heart attack and muttered out loud (but off the record) that he hoped the city didn't get sued.

So six months later, (just this week) I get an invitation from the city to sit on a committee to re-evaluate the balance of Little Valley's development. I said yes. I'll let you know how it goes.



Well my blood is boiling! Good luck and best wishes to you. I'll keep you in my prayers. Can't wait to hear how it goes....

Here at home said...

I'm glad there is someone out there who will stick up for themselves. That will teach those suburanites not to mess the smell of AG.

dj said...

I love and completely agree with your post! We've got to keep the city people OUT of our territory or they'll run us out of our own lifestyle! We also need to keep their noses out of our public land issues and keep our public lands open! Deana

Iditadad said...

way to go son! wish there were more people out there with your kind of intestinal fortitude and would stand up for what is right and maybe we would not now be a socialist nation with all of our rights being taken away. WoW

Bonnie said...

My blood was also boiling as I read this. I did not really understand until I moved into a curb and gutter neighborhood this thing you have described.

Don't back down and please do keep us updated.

P.S. We are moving back to Mona. Yeah! No curb and gutter for us...yet.

Cowboy mom said...

Hmm Don't those big developers and the proud new owners of a home in a way to crowded subdivision recognise the smell of money? Every time we drive by a huge feed lot on our way up to a curb and gutter... Ahem....uh... vacation/visit. We get a comment on the smell from one of the kids, and their dad quickly remind them that that smell is the smell of money. Now instead of eewww's we git awwws!!! I sure hope we never have to fight a battle like your's. Good luck.

Oh, and I loved your comment about the lack of "inner city experiences" just our short vacation/visits to an inner city make us drive a little to fast on our ride home. Once again, GOODLUCK