Urban Development

Parks and Open Space

May 29, 2015 Written by

Published in Urban Development

Our downtown is set against one of the most stunning natural settings of any city in America. Salt Lake City's parks, trails and open spaces define our values as a community that is dedicated to outdoor recreation, healthy living and sustainability.

As you may know, the Salt Lake City Council is considering a new parks and open space bond, paid for by an increase in property taxes, that could be on the November ballot. We hope the following four guiding principles will be included as part of their decision making process:

1) We love parks. As an organization the Downtown Alliance values parks, open space and recreational opportunities. We do a lot of programming in Pioneer Park, and have seen that space transformed for events like the Twilight Concerts and Farmers Market. We know that capital investments in urban parks like Bryant Park in New York City and Millennium Park in Chicago have been transformative, improving green space in urban environments and increasing property values, lease rates and sales tax collections. Done right, investments in parks can reap huge financial, social and emotional benefits for the entire community. We support thoughtful investment in parks.

Pioneer Park 7.6.12 010

2) Investment should go to existing parks first. Any money generated by a parks and open space bond should address the needs of existing parks and trails before being spent to develop anything new. As a result of the economic downturn, Salt Lake City prudently put off many significant capital improvement projects when times were tight. Now is the time to invest in existing parks to ensure that they are safe, welcoming and contributing to the quality of life of residents and visitors. All parks should be safe and welcoming places for the people of Salt Lake City.

3) Population centers should be our priority. Funding for park infrastructure should be proximate to population centers and it is critical to include daytime populations as part of this mix. Our urban center hosts an additional 65,000-70,000 people who work in offices and retail outlets. Commuters and visitors provide a significant funding source for Salt Lake City through sales taxes and commercial property taxes on offices, retail spaces and hotels. As we think about new money for parks, it is important to underscore the needs of commuters and commercial property owners who may not live in the city, but who make major contributions to local tax coffers. Salt Lake City's economic development and corporate recruitment efforts will only be enhanced by taking greater advantage of our enviable climate and physical setting through public investment in urban parks and open space.

4) Impact fees should be included in the mix. Salt Lake City has already amassed a significant fund for parks and open space as a result of a hike in residential impact fees and a subsequent building boom—particularly of multi-family housing in our urban center. We encourage Salt Lake City to spend any money generated by impact fees in the neighborhoods where the fees have been generated. If a significant amount of housing is going into one neighborhood, logic and state law suggest that the impact fees should be utilized to mitigate the impact of new residents in the neighborhoods where those residents actually live. This is especially true when we are encouraging sustainable development with multi-family housing that supports car-free living. Impact fee revenue, coupled with any additional bond revenues, should be used first to support parks and open space proximate to new population growth.

This bond initiative is a good opportunity to improve the livability and quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors. Done right, we all stand to benefit.

For more information visit: ouroutdoorsslc.com