Develop Compact Infrastructure to Encourage Land Development Where Services Already Exist Rather than in Outlying Areas

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; advocacy organizations; and developers

Creating and maintaining new infrastructure (roads, water lines, pipes, power lines, etc.) can be costly to cities and developers when constructing new housing developments, especially when those developments are located away from existing road, sewage, and power systems.[1] The corridors that have to be built to connect existing infrastructure to new developments inevitably results in additional development occurring along the entirety of the corridor, often consuming open space and agricultural lands. Maintaining and expanding existing infrastructure in urban areas is often less expensive than funding costly expansions in outside areas. As a result, building developments becomes less expensive for developers and could make Utah’s housing stock significantly more affordable.[2]

Expanding infrastructure into undeveloped areas encourages additional development, especially given the pressures of population growth. This additional development often fragments contiguous areas of farmland and increases the cost and complexity of agricultural infrastructure by enclosing canals, making maintaining easements more difficult, among other negative impacts. If communities want agricultural lands to remain in agriculture, lawmakers and planners must carefully manage the expansion of urban infrastructure—including roads, water pipes, sewer lines, and power lines—into these areas, while still allowing sufficient expansion to meet market demand. One strategy for providing adequate agricultural water without encouraging residential or commercial development is to build infrastructure for secondary water. Secondary water meets agricultural irrigation needs but it is not potable, meaning developers would need to build more costly infrastructure to convert the land into a residential area.


  • Developers and cities should create and adopt infrastructure plans with policies and standards that accommodate both rural and urban needs. These plans may include measures, for example, that limit the amount of new infrastructure or keep development away from canals used for agricultural irrigation.
  • Developers and cities should protect existing agricultural infrastructure assets and take agricultural impacts into account when planning infrastructure. Infrastructure for water and machinery access is crucial to farming operations and should be available without being unduly encumbered by residential and commercial development.
  • Individual city councils and the Utah County Commission should establish regulations and ordinances that encourage development to occur near existing infrastructure rather than in places that disrupt farming operations. When urban development is needed, areas in and near cities should be developed first. In order to minimize leapfrog development where farms and urban development mix, infrastructure plans should be clear and balance the need to expand services like water, sewer, and roads with protecting landowners’ rights. Infrastructure investment should also be properly staged to help landowners understand when services might be extended to their lands and that it may take time for urban amenities to be built in some areas if at all.
  • Lawmakers and planners should connect land use decisions to both local and regional long range plans to better coordinate all infrastructural improvements. Better coordinating the visions and goals of stakeholders and lawmakers at all levels will help ensure infrastructure is developed efficiently and reduce unnecessary costs and construction.


Placer County, California, used Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) to model different plans for infrastructure construction showing multiple different scenarios in the city’s future. Their models showed that the cost of sewer services was much lower with compact infrastructure in comparison to other development, helping them decide to develop more compactly.[3] Utah County could adopt a similar model in which areas developed farther away from existing infrastructure would pay a higher price for sewer services than adjacent lands.