“Keep the city, city; keep the country, country.”
That was the general consensus of residents in Cache County in 2008 when asked to share their vision on how the county should manage and invest in growth.
Now, many still agree with the tagline, but other concerns have arisen, running the gamut from economical to environmental: agricultural and wetland preservation, the horrendous traffic of Main Street, more bike paths.
But ultimately, the main theme is managing inevitable growth without losing the heritage.
So the county has partnered with planning firm Logan Simpson to survey residents and stakeholders across the county to update the general plan, the future land use policy and analyze the costs to reach the vision.
“It seems simple, right?” said Olivia Cvetko, one of the Logan Simpson planners for the project. “But then you have to define ‘What is the city? What does country mean? What are the thresholds between the agricultural, rural, residential and suburban?’”
The general plan for Cache County was last updated in 1998, but the overall vision of residents has remained the same: how to preserve agriculture and the rural community feel.
The issue is complicated by the fact many farmers are turning away from the industry.
But according to Jim Carter — senior planner for the project — these are issues faced in dozens of rural communities in the West.
“They’re kind of turning into lifestyle areas,” Carter said of other counties he’s planned for, like Gallatin County, Montana. “Places where people say, ‘Well, I can live in Cache, so I’m just gonna move there,’ and they’re not tied there economically.”
Similar to Cache County, the community in Gallatin was tied to agriculture in the past but has started to transition to the tech sector and manufacturing due to the decline in profitability of farming.
“Many farmers in the West feel sort of like they’ve got sort of a binary choice: I can either keep farming, and maybe make a little money, more likely to lose money, or just sell to a developer,” he said. “So one of the things we’re focusing on in our projects all over is are there things that agricultural operators could use to diversify income? Are there regulatory barriers they’re struggling with, what impediments? What will keep them in business, or what will drive them out of business?”
These are the questions both county and Logan Simpson planners are posing to local farmers, along with transportation, private ownership rights with water and property and addressing the housing crisis.
In addition, Imagine Cache is meant to establish a protocol for communication across municipality, county, state and federal agencies — something that’s happening already but could use improvement.
“The planners all talk to one another,” Carter said. “The elected officials get together periodically, and they have a fully set agenda for issues they want to talk through, so I think the county just needs a little assistance on how to formalize these processes.”
The next public hearing for the Imagine Cache project will be from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at Mendon Station (95 N. Main Street, Mendon, 84325).
Tayler Jensen, the countywide planner for Cache, said input will continually be taken from citizens for at least the next six months until citizens and officials have voiced their preference on plans to achieve the main goals that come out of the envisioning period.
To learn more or to comment, visit imaginecache.com.