Utah's planning heritage includes both physical and social elements. In 1833 Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, designed the Plat for the City of Zion. Associated with his plan were the principles of communitarianism and a demo-theocratic form of government. As the Mormons journeyed across the Midwest to the Great Basin, they applied these planning beliefs in various ways. Throughout Utah today, large city blocks, wide roads, and grid iron layouts remain as testaments to the state's early physical planning tenets. Other factors, though, have led Mormons to abandon the social aspects of the plan and to embrace the western milieu of private property, individual rights, and profit motive.

Despite a planning heritage that includes concern for the community balanced with concern for the individual and an acceptance of extra-local control in planning, Utah today leaves planning to the local municipalities. In a state with a vigorous economy, a rapidly multiplying population, and a sensitive environment, the pains of growth are mounting. To continue with the current municipal level planning approach could lead to a future much like present day California with overwhelming congestion, air pollution, sprawl, and an overall decrease in quality of life. However, a return to the state's heritage of concern for the community and acceptance of extra-local controls in planning could assist the state in controlling its growth problems through effective growth management policy. Unfortunately, Utah appears unlikely to take this route. Thus, even with a planning heritage unlike any other state, Utah now faces a future of uncontrolled growth and its attendant ills.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Geography



Date Submitted


Document Type





Utah, Economic policy, City planning