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Two Creeks in Herriman, Utah: A Disaster in Density

By DaybreakMan, on 09-08-2008 22:19

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     In an earlier post I mentioned housing density and how it impacts the surrounding community. The main point of the article was to show that density in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, if a dense development is not properly planned and located, it will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on the community.

     When writing that article, I was not aware of the aspirations of a developer to build a high-density rental development in Herriman. Considering the proximity to Daybreak, this development will almost certainly affect those residents of Founders Park Village. Daybreak as a whole will be affected by this new development as the new high school for the area will be located adjacent to the development.

     The new development will be called Two Creeks. Miller Timbergate Associates LLC appeared before the Herriman City government to gain approval for the first two phases of the project: Timbergate and Farmgate. These two phases will be dense. At around 20 units per acre, this will truly be the densest development around. Even Daybreak following the concept of new urbanism cannot claim densities as high as this development. Even if densities get higher in Daybreak in the future, they will be integrated into the community with a transect style of planning. Two Creeks is located near homes that are not even close to the planned density of nearby developments. Imagine your home next to multiple 4 story, 32 unit complexes. The Two Creeks plan suggests that the developer wants to develop his land his way without regard to the surrounding community in a piecemeal fashion that really doesn't fit.

     The estimated population of the two approved projects is 1,696 people. With this many people, traffic is a real concern. However, this development will be located next to the proposed path of the Mountain View Corridor. By doing this, much of the traffic from the development will likely be dissipated. Not a bad idea right? Most local governments are in cooperation through Envision Utah to put higher densities next to the transit corridors. One problem with this plan is that it assumes that the Mountain View Corridor will be built and that when it is built that it will not be a toll road. If it is a toll road, I cannot imagine many of the residents of Two Creeks utilizing the road. TRAX is nearby, but these residents will be made to cross not only 118th South, but also the Mountain View Corridor to access it. Unless significant infrastructure is put in place to make this crossing safe, you will see additional problems. It will just be easier for them to hop in a car and drive. The location of this development, on the fringe of Salt Lake County, should also be a consideration as the price of gas would prevent the necessary long commute for many of these residents. Most of which are calculated to not have substantial financial means.

     The traffic problem will only be exacerbated by the fact that the new area high school will be located literally within feet of the development. I wonder if all of the sports facilities that come along with the high school will be perceived as amenities for Two Creeks. Also, with the concentration of a lower socio-economic population you will have dual working parents and transient families. With many of the parents gone, I can imagine quite a few students hanging out in Two Creeks without supervision after school.

     The single worst part of this development is that it will concentrate thousands of citizens of a lower socio-economic class. As stated in an earlier post about density this can cause a multitude of problems. Crime and social disruption will increase in this area with such a large concentration. This cluster will enable all of the myths that are associated with a higher-density development to have an opportunity to come true.

     I have it from a good source that these units are meant for government Section 8 housing. The Section 8 program allows those who qualify to pay rents that are adjusted to their income. 30% of their income goes to rent. For example, if a low-income family made 1500 dollars per month they would spend about 450 dollars for rent each month. The government covers the rest. This program can truly help those in need, but the idea is to spread those who are on the program over a wide geographic area not concentrate them. We already have Section 8 families in our community, but they are dispersed.

     So why is this happening and why now? With the housing market being in doubt there are many people waiting out the market in hopes to buy when the market starts to go up again. Other people cannot afford a mortgage as the new lending criteria prevents them from qualifying. So what do these people do? They rent. With Utah’s strong economy, there are more people moving to the valley in search of jobs and many will opt to rent for a variety of reasons. All of this combined has pushed monthly rents up 10% in the last year alone. The rental market is starting to look really attractive to a lot of investors. I would not be surprised to see a lot of developments pop up in various communities that are high density and haven’t been integrated properly. That is why people need to be more involved at the local government level about what happens in their community. I believe the Sunstone residents (just to the west of Daybreak) would agree with me as they seem to have attended the relevant meetings and have even appealed the approval of Two Creeks. Hopefully this mess will be stopped before it is too late.

     Attached is a map of the entire area of the new High School (opening fall 2010)  going in on 118th and the MVC and its surroundings...

     I want to say thank you to Daybreak Man for working with me on this story, I helped with research, he wrote the story (he's a better writer) and pleae remember to visit Daybreak Man's blog for other great stories at : http://daybreaktoday.blogspot.com/

Scoop-

Last update: 10-09-2008 22:31

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Housing Density and NIMBYs

By Scoop, on 06-07-2008 09:35

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Housing density has been and will remain the most common disagreement with regards to new development in existing towns. The politics surrounding this issue can be fierce with strong emotions on all sides. The battle over density usually starts when a developer purchases land with plans to build medium to high-density residential. One resident will hear about the pending project and will rally the troops. This person is usually referred to as a NIMBY which stands for Not In My Back Yard. This neighborhood watchdog will then broadcast the message that an evil developer is trying to profit with a new development and does not care about its impact on the surrounding community.

This was the case with Daybreak and many other new urban communities across the nation. The question that I would like to ask most NIMBYs is this:
how did you inform yourself about the topic of density and its effects? Some of them call on first-hand experience. The neighbors near many developments complain about the traffic that the development is causing. Of course while the infrastructure that will accompany the development is only starting these neighbors pass judgment by what they see immediately. This short-term, subjectivity should not be taken as fact, but many NIMBY’s present it as fact. Many NIMBYs that I have talked to use the words “its just common sense” all too often when trying to explain their information source. While I feel that common sense is a valid tool that cannot be underestimated, I also feel that it is sometimes confused with myth.
 

 

 

These myths are traditional in my opinion. Passed down through the generations and are added to with each new generation. The history of where these myths started reaches back as far as the 1800s. The US started as an agricultural nation and transitioned into an industrial nation with factories and mass production. This transition was accompanied by waves of immigration from Europe. Each new wave contained different ethnic groups that were overtly discriminated against. This discrimination clustered these immigrants into densely populated areas with the least desirable jobs. This segregation along socio-economic status lines resulted in the materialization of many of the myths that are associated with density.

Fast forward to the age of suburbia that started after World War II. Being enabled to travel long distances via automobile, people could more economically live in the suburbs and further segregate themselves. Zoning use ordinances specified separation of land use and from then on commercial could no longer coexist with residential. In many cases this meant separation of density as well. Fast forward again to the 70s and 80s where the government decided to build “project housing” which not only segregated people of lower socio-economic status, but actually concentrated them. Many of these were an immediate failure with rampant crime and social problems. The images created by these projects reverberated with further intensity in the media particularly in movies and television. The “inner city” was a dangerous crime ridden area only suitable for those “other” people. All of these events perpetuated the myths of density with a simple philosophy: guilty by association.

So what is the real story behind density? The best way to answer this question is to address the myths often cited by NIMBYs one at a time.

Myth: Density will lower the value of my home. Many things can lower the value of a home, but density is not by itself one of them. In fact researchers have conducted many studies on single-family housing that is located in proximity to dense residential developments. The conclusion of these studies is that there is not a significant difference in the appreciation rate of those single family homes located in close proximity to high residential developments and those single-family homes located further away. In fact the percentage of appreciation is 2.9 versus 2.7 percent. This is not a significant difference. However, if you have an apartment building located next to your home that is 5 stories tall, over 30 years old, the grass is browning, windows are broken, loud music is blaring from the windows, and the paint is literally peeling like a sunburn, then this will obviously lower the value of your home. Of course, if a single family residence was in the same state, then it would lower the value of your home as well.


Another myth is that dense housing will create more traffic. Obviously if you add more cars to an area you will have more traffic. However, research has proven that higher density housing decreases traffic per person. Single family detached homes average 10 car trips a day. Compare that to the 6.3 car trips per day made by people living in townhomes and condominiums. Density is also needed for public transportation to be feasible. The Mid-Jordan TRAX line would not extend to South Jordan at all if not for the density that will make up the Daybreak Town Center. This mode of transportation will bring an additional choice for transportation that is likely to be used considering gas prices. Daybreak further mitigates traffic by having most necessities within walking distance which encourages the two-legged commute.The most prominent myth about density is that it creates crime. This claim is absolutely false. Numerous studies have been conducted and the conclusion is that per population, crime is the same in higher density housing as it is in single family housing. The perception of crime is perpetuated when the observer holds an entire apartment complex to the same standard as one single family home. So when three juveniles from the same complex commit a crime and the police show up at the apartment complex three times in one year, it is considered “crime ridden.” On the other hand if the police show up for a juvenile in a single family residence this is considered an “anomaly.” Crime research indicates that crimes increase in accordance with certain socioeconomic indicators such as education attainment, unemployment (particularly of males), and the poverty rate.

The final main myth is that dense residential housing is unattractive and is only desired by lower-income households. Considering the changing demographics and preferences of consumers, this assumption is not based in reality. This market appeals to empty-nester and first-time home buyers tremendously.
As with anything in real estate it is all about location, location, location. You can buy a single-family home in some locations for half of the price of a town home in south Jordan. Considering that the average income earner in Utah currently cannot purchase high-density housing in many areas, I would have to say that it is not just the poor that are moving into condos and townhomes. If the housing has a good design and is well maintained it will attract quality residents who care about and participate in their community.

So who is winning this battle, the NIMBYs or the New Urbanists? The New Urbanists have the clear lead, but this depends greatly on where you live. In North Dakota and Oklahoma , the NIMBYs are holding their ground. If you live in Utah , Colorado , Texas , Florida , or California on the other hand, the New Urbanists are definitely ahead of the game. Since its inception in the early 80s, New Urbanism has grown at a phenomenal rate in most states. Locally, more and more new urban developments are popping up. They are called by different names such as smart growth or transit oriented developments, but they are the same with respect to density.

In fact, South Jordan will shortly be surrounded by these developments. With the Herriman Towne Center , Daybreak, Jordan River , and other future communities coming to light, New Urbanism will also be the future of development locally. A number of strong forces demand this density. Energy costs demand homes that are more efficient, smaller, easier to take care of, and closer to the necessities of life. Businesses now want to locate their operations in communities that are vibrant, walkable, and have transit nearby. Density is the vehicle that has to be used to accomplish these attributes. The government wants density as it allows for less expenditure on infrastructure per tax payer. Finally, people are demanding more density and they are voting with their feet. The success of dense New Urban communities speaks volumes about this demand.

Density will have its place in the future of South Jordan, but if not planned correctly it can cause problems. Density cannot be thrown in a community in a half hazard manner in order for the developer to make a buck. Instead it should be planned and integrated correctly according to transect planning and community needs. These new developments must feature good designs that are sensitive to the context of the surrounding community. These designs and features must be maintained by a community organization such as a HOA. I can see why many NIMBYs are opposed to housing density, but assumptions should not be made based on false associations of the past. To those NIMBYs who will fight till their last breath any development that has more density that 2 units per acre consider if your beliefs about density are actually true. Also consider if your energy might be better spent ensuring that these developments are integrated properly instead of trying to ban them all together. Density is here to stay. Instead of a battle of how many units per acre, we need to ensure that these units are built, maintained, and located in a fashion that will enhance the community for all of us.


This article submitted by SCOOP on behalf of Daybreak Man, If you would like to see more his articles just go to http://daybreaktoday.blogspot.com  

Last update: 11-09-2008 07:02

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Traffic In Daybreak

By Scoop, on 06-07-2008 09:21

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With the increase in the planned density at Daybreak concerns have surfaced about the increase in traffic. The current plans for Daybreak call for over 20,000 homes to be located within the community. All of these residents will have cars. Most of them will have more than one along with more than one member of the family to drive them. If you do the math on these numbers you can easily see the thousands of car trips that will be necessary for each family daily. However, these calculations are based off of the traditional suburban model of traffic. Daybreak follows the principles of New Urbanism and studies have shown that there is a significant difference in the amount of traffic generated by these diametrically opposed planning schemes.

New Urbanism improves transportation choice and reduces traffic speeds. These New Urban design features tend to reduce per capita automobile ownership and use. While most individual features have modest impacts on total travel, their effects are synergistic resulting in significant total reductions in vehicle use. Research has proved that residents that live in well-designed New Urbanist neighborhoods with good walkability, mixed land use, connected streets, and local services tend to drive 20-35% less than residents in automobile dependent areas. Another study has concluded that these residents take 305.5% more walking trips than residents of conventionally designed suburbs. While these benefits have not materialized immediately in Daybreak, most of the research suggests that these benefits will not be realized until developments are "made whole" with the majority of basic needs within a short distance of homes.

 

 In addition to the traffic reducing affects of mixed-use communities, Daybreak offers a variety of traffic calming structural features in its design. The most noticable of these are the two roundabouts that deflect traffic from two fairly high-speed parkways that lead to Daybreak from Bangerter Highway. These arterial roundabouts distribute traffic in a more efficient manner than 4-way intersections and slow traffic down upon their entrance to Daybreak. Recent studies have also proven that roundabouts significantly reduce vehicle crashes compared to intersections.

Another traffic calming feature is the neckdowns that are placed at most intersections in Daybreak. Neckdowns are curb extensions at intersections that reduce the roadway width and tighten the curb radii at the corner. Again this feature slows traffic, but it also decreases the distance that a pedestrian must travel to cross the street and makes the pedestrian more visible. There are other traffic calming measures, but these two are the most effective.

 

 

 Even with all of these measures, there are still drivers that choose to speed down the street, racing to their destination. This practice has irked quite a few residents in the community including the Daybreak Daily website author Scoop. He decided to do somethign about it and worked with the City of South Jordan to monitor the traffic on a particularly problematic street in Daybreak where drivers tend to speed. The street in question is Kestrel Rise. One of the main problems with this street is that when driving South you drive down hill. This obviously increases speed and many do not slow down until they are only feet away from a stop sign. While these studies gave an average speed of 25 mph, this is simply an average. The traffic monitoring devices registered speeds of up to 50 mph on this street. Of course speeds like this did not happen every day, but speeds of 35 to 40 mph are fairly common depending on the day of the week.

What additional options are there to preven cars from accelerating to 50 mph in an area where kids play? A few design features come to mind. Traffic slowing features such as humps or speed bumps as some people call them. These features actually come in a large variety and are one of the most effective design features in slowing traffic speed. There is a downside to this though. Cost. You would think that making a bump in the road would not be very expensive, but in this case a properly designed bump can cost thousands of dollars. The question that keeps popping up in my mind is this: Isn't a few thousand dollars worth it when a simple design feature can (and probably will someday) save the life of a child? Especially considering this street is adjacent to an elementary school.

I would deem most streets in Daybreak to be safe. This safety is due to the design features that were likely planned from the very beginning. However, no plan is perfect and some adjustments need to be made here and there. While speed humps may not be the answer, planners and the community need to do something about people driving 35 to 50 miles per hour past homes full of children and an elementary school.

 

This article submitted by SCOOP on behalf of Daybreak Man, If you would like to see more his articles just go to http://daybreaktoday.blogspot.com 

Last update: 11-09-2008 07:03

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Daybreak Village 3: North Shore

By Scoop, on 18-06-2008 10:39

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    The Daybreak community is about to grow yet again. North Shore is the newest edition to the Daybreak master plan making three villages total. With two new builders, Ivory Homes and Garbett Homes, a large push is being made to finish the 22 homes that will serve as models for the "grand opening" slated for June 28th. I usually do not need to drive on the South Jordan Parkway so when I did take that route a few weeks ago I was surprised with the sheer amount of building going on. Buildings seemed to have popped out of nowhere in only a couple of weeks. Of course, with the slowdown in the housing market I'm sure that contractors were not hard to find.     

     The new homes of North Shore seem to be an eclectic mix of traditional and urban contemporary designs. I was fairly shocked when I saw pictures of the new row homes that Garbett Homes intends to build. These modern boxy buildings seem to belong more in the marmalade district of Salt Lake City than in Daybreak. While I respect the modern style, I do not have a strong taste for it to say the least. However, these town homes will be integrated into the denser sections of North Shore. It seems Kennecott Land has decided that as density increases traditional style will decrease. I do see some advantages in the cost of building such homes. Perhaps this advantage is the reason why some homes will be offered at a price that will be difficult for other communities to match. Many of these condos or town homes will be offered from the "low 100s" to "mid 100s."    

     With these prices the old adage of "you get what you pay for" keeps ringing in my mind. This ringing stops abruptly however when I see the actual square footage of these units. With sizes ranging from 650 square feet to 1180 square feet I think Kennecott Land has decided to make housing more affordable by making it smaller. This is the right way to go in my opinion. Skimp on the space, but do not skimp on the quality. The prices in North Shore are fairly reasonable compared to Eastlake and even Founders Village. The effects of this new village are many and will need to be discussed in a later post. 

     In the grand scheme that is Daybreak, North Shore will bring a large amount of units at a density that has not yet been seen in this new urbanist community. In fact, Kennecott recently changed their projections for the total number of homes to be located within Daybreak. The number initially started at 13,600. This number has since increased to 20,000, almost a 50 percent increase. The recent planning maps for Daybreak show an increase in density in those properties East of Oquirrh Lake. Why did this change come about? I can only speculate, but I will be researching this issue in the future. One thing is for certain, North Shore has signaled a change in direction for future development at Daybreak.

 

 

This article submitted by SCOOP on behalf of Daybreak Man, If you would like to see more his articles just go to http://daybreaktoday.blogspot.com 

Last update: 11-09-2008 08:24

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