Along with centrally-planning how Provo develops over time, Vision 2030 also proposes that city officers dictate construction of individual buildings. This includes buildings intended for commercial use (see V2050 6.7), as well as residential structures (see V2030 1; V2050 1), although the latter intentions are less obvious. Vision 2030 proposes that city officers decide what sort of housing is constructed where (see V2050 6.6), and that they spend some of our hard-earned money to subsidize construction (see V2050 6.6.1) of at least some new homes. New homes will be required to be “sustainable” (see V2030 1.5.2; V2050 1.5.4), and perhaps to include smart home technology (see V2050 4.6.1) at some point, and will be encouraged to include certain features like front porches (see V2050 2.7.3). And such regulations would even extend to exterior aesthetics.
Vision 2030’s goals about regulating exterior aesthetics aren’t as immediately obvious as some of its other goals. Its original documentation in 2011 makes some vague references to neighborhoods encouraging a sense of both “place” (see V2030 1.3.3; V2050 1.3.3) and “belonging” (see V2030 1.4.3; V2050 1.4.3), but it doesn’t provide much detail about what those phrases would mean in practice. Vision 2050 elaborates that, as part of this vision, the city will involve itself in encouraging newly-built homes to have “desirable design themes” (see V2050 2.8.1) and also to “create a sense of identity and belonging in their designs, fencing, entrances, landscaping, etc.” (see V2050 1.3.5). This goal may explain the council’s recent interest in “form-based code,” which some people have described as an innovative new means to implement “Smart Growth” and/or the New Urbanism. In any case, Provo’s councilors confirmed such statist intentions during a sparsely-attended “open house” during the summer of 2016, when they stated plainly that they would like to require all Provo homeowners to both fence and landscape their respective properties in a manner regulated by city code. Let’s hope that our future councilors don’t develop a strange fancy for plastic pink flamingos! During this meeting, one participant suggested in seemingly-complete seriousness that, if Provoans didn’t like their mayor’s preferences in home design, then they could simply elect a different mayor.
Our mayor should serve as our chief rights-defender, not as our landscaper-in-chief. Mandatory city-supervised landscaping would all be a great economic boon to local landscapers but a terrible political blow to our property rights. Under its auspices, if we either build a fence too high or put a rock out-of-place (or perhaps fail to display our mandatory pink flamingo), then our neighbors may be able to call the police to arrest us, and our police officers might become too busy ensuring that we’re all watering our lawns to trouble themselves with more important matters like stopping actual rights-violations like murder or theft, as has happened in other cities like Detroit.
Such proposals also raise questions about who would truly own our property in the future—us or the city? And this incident also leaves us to wonder how these same city councilors might intend to translate some of Vision 2030’s other vague statements into concrete ordinances, plus what they might want to control next—regulating the color of the cars that we drive, or of the clothing that we wear outdoors, in order to help us to feel like part of a team? Or like part of a political commune? Or as if we each “belong” to city as its human chattel?
- Provo: Provo City Vision 2030
- Provo: Provo City Vision 2050
- Provo City Council: “Updating Provo’s Vision for the Future – Updated 7/28/16” (2016 Jul 11)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Provo Municipal Council mulling new ways of zoning” (2017 Feb 02)
- Wikipedia: “Form-based code”
- National Association of Realtors: “Making SMART GROWTH possible with Form-Based Codes” (2007 summer)