Building Zion: The Latter-day Saint Legacy of Urban Planning

by Robert John Stevens, February 28, 2017

Utah has won just one National Planning Landmark Award: Joseph Smith’s The Plat of the City of Zion (1833). At the time, Joseph Smith was 27 years old.

Craig Galli’s article, Building Zion: The Latter-day Saint Legacy of Urban Planning” is fascinating and well worth your time to read.

Utah Mormons have deviated far from the original Zion plan and implementation, and from enjoying its benefits, and seem to have forgotten that outlying farmland is preserved not for the expansion of cities, but to sustain cities. When the population increases, the City of Zion plan was to be replicated.

In other words, Benjamin, Utah wasn’t supposed to be preserved for the expansion of Spanish Fork but to be its own city, designed after the City of Zion plan, with outlying farmland to sustain its own people.

Also, farmers were supposed to live in the cities where their families can be enlightened. I called Craig Galli the author and asked, “Where were farmers supposed to keep their equipment?” He said it was a great question and he didn’t know the answer.

David Hall’s slides on the City of Zion says the “Language of the plot is Tyndale’s 16th century English.” Was David influenced by Royal Skousen’s research or did David decide on his own that like the Book of Mormon, it was Tyndale-era English?

City of Zion Documents

How to Build Roads in Phases to Appease County Governments

by Robert John Stevens, February 23, 2017

Asphalt roads dedicated to and maintained by county governments at the expense of taxpaying citizens are a relatively new concept. Mankind has survived and prospered without them for thousands of years.

Utah County, Utah requires driveways in new subdivisions, which may consist of only one buildable 5-acre parcel, to connect directly to paved, dedicated state or county roads. No dead-ends or cul-de-sacs are currently permitted.1 Regulation changes or deletions are needed to remove such barriers.

To appease county government and propose a compromise, here is my solution to build roads in phases:

Road Phases

  1. Build road stubs. This should be enough to fulfill the requirement for driveway access because there is absolutely no difference between shared road stubs and shared driveway stubs for emergency vehicle access.2 A legally binding contract can be drawn up to protect all parties.
  2. Pave one or more road segments. Using fill material (not asphalt), install temporary hammerheads3 for emergency vehicle access in compliance with Appendix D of the International Fire Code. If possible, excavate the remainder of the road, remove all grub and install fill material4 so trucks can drive all the way thru.
  3. Pave the remaining road and remove the temporary hammerheads.

Notes and Issues to Discuss

  1. Because developers will not always complete future phases, county governments want to be left with something they can live with.
  2. Governments were formed to protect property rights, not keep people from building on their own property.
  3. All government-run tasks that can be done by the free market should be taken away from government and given to private businesses for better, faster and higher-quality service.
  4. Asphalt will probably not be the primary material to construct roads in the 22nd century.5
  5. Taxpayers do not want to pay for the maintenance of rural paved roads. If usage is considered, when should a road be paved, and then maintained by government? If savings accounts were created and gold and silver deposited for future maintenance, would government rob them?
  6. Governments regulations experience feature creep. Governments make the same mistake as software development firms by listening to and innovating for the minorities who complain the loudest.
  7. At what point should paved or unpaved roads be dedicated to the county government?

    • Developers should be leery of dedicating roads too early because of unforeseen changes in government regulations or tyranny that will disable their ability to complete future phases.
    • Currently, Utah County won’t approve subdivisions until entire roads are built, paved and dedicated.
    • Dedicating a completed paved road is less risky.
  8. Building entire roads with fill material only will allow trucks to enter and exit.
  9. Until a road is ready to pave, road base should not be installed because of erosion due to weather, vehicles, geological movement resulting in high maintenance. Road base is designed to be a cochin for road pavement and to enable raised center crowns for drainage.
  10. So-called protection by providing legal wording on recorded plats is not always upheld, especially if it contradicts current government regulations or wishes.
  11. Increasing populations affect land prices, making it nearly impossible for new farms to emerge. An orchard farmer recently told an inquiring BYU student that 220 acres would be required to create a profitable fruit orchard business.
  12. Whether intended or not, many regulations to halt or slow development also hinder agricultural competition.
  13. The average age of farmers is increasing and most of their posterity do not want to farm.
  14. Although government officials brag about their county agricultural production, most know if trucks stop shipping food due to an extreme cataclysmic event, local farms cannot provide enough food to sustain the local population and most citizens would die in months.
  15. Most people do want to become farmers. Many who were raised on farms just want one to 5.25-acre parcels. These are the next generation farmers to surround incorporated cities and towns.

1 Although some bureaucrats not like dead-end roads because they become party areas and places where people park cars, trucks and recreation vehicles, is that a good reason to ban them?

2 I lost this battle in September. See Utah County Commissioners Vote Against Inalienable Property Rights and Private Party Contracts but now that Nathan Ivie replaced the opposing Utah County Commissioner, it should be reconsidered.

3 Temporary asphalt hammerheads are too costly to build and remove when the next phase begins.

4 From Excavator Brian Sorensen: Engineered fill or a good bank run fill material consists of rock and dirt mixture. When installed and compacted properly it serves as the structural or stabilization layer to start building a good road. It can be used in some cases as a permanent road, but makes snow removal difficult.

5 Like asphalt, cement has a short lifespan so roads, driveways and buildings built today will need to be torn down and rebuilt, probably at far greater prices.

The Romans’ concrete has lasted 2,000 years. It was used in the Pantheon building in Rome which still stands today. Their cement formula included volcanic rock which is abundant in Utah.

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation tried to recreate Roman cement. If their formula works, it could literally save taxpayers trillions of dollars in the future. See Understanding and using the properties that allow Roman concrete to last over 2,000 years.