Accommodate More Growth on Less Land

Who can implement this: County and city officials, and developers

One of the best ways to preserve agriculture is to develop compactly, which reduces the consumption of undeveloped lands (often agricultural or open spaces) and irrigation water for residential, commercial, and office construction. Market trends indicate that there is a growing demand for compact development across the Wasatch Front; more dense development is currently in demand because it is more affordable and increases travel convenience.[1] It also reduces the cost of infrastructure and services in residential areas while preserving space for farm and ranchlands. Low-density residential land does not pay for itself, requiring $1.11 in services for every dollar paid in taxes.

Studies and surveys show that house lot sizes in Utah County have decreased from their peak sizes in the 1960s[2] Cities can continue this trend by zoning smaller lots for new residential developments. As a result, farms will be able to continue operating on large areas of land while still allowing the county to accommodate population and community growth.

To foster more compact growth patterns, development within current and existing urban areas needs to be encouraged. By doing so, the county is able to channel most development away from key agricultural open lands.


  • Cities should avoid annexing land without carefully considering the potential loss of agricultural production.
  • City planners should evaluate zoning practices and establish incentives that support denser forms of development and redevelopment in urban areas.
  • City councils and the Utah County Commission should develop ordinances that incentivize more compact development. Incentivizing compact development will better motivate developers to create more dense communities and will make communities more affordable for residents.
  • Developers should follow market trends by developing compact, walkable communities in urban areas, preserving open space and farmland. More dense development results in less land being consumed by development.


Envision Utah’s Quality Growth Strategy helped reduce the amount of land being developed by educating community members, developers, and lawmakers about the benefits of compact development. In the 1990s, development trends along the Wasatch Front were on track to consume 695 square miles of land by 2020.[3] Instead, compact growth was encouraged and now development will likely consume around 494 square miles by 2020, saving 200 square miles of undeveloped land, including agricultural lands and open spaces.

Daybreak, Utah, is the state’s largest master-planned community.[4] The development site for the city is on about 4,000 acres, and the community focuses on building compact, walkable development next to parks and open spaces. Daybreak was a result of carefully considered planning and coordination between developers and lawmakers and is an example of a community that consumes less land and that offers the benefits of being more walkable and livable than traditional development. The community’s popularity has established South Jordan as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.[5]