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Visiting the Planned Community of Daybreak, Utah

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Homes of Daybreak, UtahI recently attended a professional conference in Salt Lake City and was especially curious to see this OTHER of the.“10 Towns that Changed America.”  Salt Lake City was originally a planned community of small farms but when I saw the city I soon realized that the farms had turned into regular city blocks, at least on the ground. (Views from the air might still reveal its original lay-out.)

So, no story there. Happily I learned that a much newer planned community was on the conference agenda as an option to visit, which I did. It’s the town of Daybreak, 23 miles southwest of SLC.

According to the Daybreak story, construction began in 2004 on the site of the former Kennecott Copper Mine. When completed, it could contain more than 20,000 residential units, and 25% of the land will be preserved as open space. The commercial buildings are all LEED-certified and the homes are all Energy Star-certified.

So how does it compare to our historic planned community?


Though no one would call the population of Daybreak diverse, its homes are – at least in price, density and style – with condos and townhouses selling for about $250K and single family homes in the $580K to $1 million range. (See the Daybreak homes for sale.)

Townhouse condos in Daybreak, Utah

In contrast to the relative uniformity of Greenbelt’s original homes, “Architectural variety is the cornerstone of Daybreak’s design philosophy. It makes the simple act of walking down the street a joy. And it lets each home fulfill its most important role: to reflect the personality of the family who lives there.

“Exterior styles include Colonial Revival, Craftsman and Victorian. The homes along each street also have brighter colors than are found in most suburban neighborhoods. Recently, homes with a more modern style have been added.” Hear, hear!

Homes in Daybreak, Utah

Almost every Daybreak home has “a big front porch that stimulates conversation, inspires neighborliness and looks way better than a garage.”

Alleyways in Daybreak, Utah


Something else Daybreak does right is funding its events and amenities adequately through a 1 percent surcharge on all home sales. The funds go to Live Daybreak for all sorts of amenities and activities for residents.

So in addition to a community center, with a full gym and exercise area and pools, Daybreak has 22 miles of trails and “over a dozen community parks,” and a man-made lake for non-motorized boating, fishing, and more.

Perhaps the most important feature of the whole plan is Daybreak’s walkability, following the “5-minute rule.”

Studies have shown that most people are willing to leave the car in the garage if the place they want to go to is within a 5-minute walk. We based the plan for Daybreak on this simple rule, placing parks, restaurants, shopping, schools, offices and light rail within easy walking or biking distance from your home. And tying the entire community together with trails, sidewalks and bicycle highways.

So all homes are within a five-minute walk or bike ride of a major amenity such as a park, the lake, or a shopping area, reducing dependence on automobile travel.

To which I say – people will really only walk for FIVE MINUTES? Is that a Western thing? Greenbelt was designed to accommodate a bit more of a walk to the the center of town, where just about everything we need is located, as illustrated in my blog post “Destinations on my 7-Minute Walk.

Gardens, and Reactions of Garden Writers

Homes and gardens of Daybreak, Utah

On our visit to Daybreak we garden communicators saw some terrific gardens, of course – ones with lots of outdoor living spaces, where desert-dwelling residents can apparently sit and not be eaten by insects. Imagine!

But as our bus left Daybreak I asked everyone around me what they thought of it and they all expressed criticism for the restrictions imposed on residents. To which I responded something like “Welcome to my world!” Planned communities and homeowner association rules aren’t for everyone.

I found outdoor restrictions listed on the Daybreak Community Association website and yeah, they’re pretty daunting.

The following shall be prohibited at Daybreak:
(a) Plants, animals, devices or other things of any sort whose activities or existence in any way is noxious, dangerous, unsightly, unpleasant or of a nature as may diminish or destroy the enjoyment of Daybreak;

Pursuit of hobbies or other activities that tend to cause an unclean, unhealthy or untidy condition to exist outside of enclosed structures on the Unit;

So vague! I imagine they could be used to deny almost anything.

Garden in Daybreak, Utah

As for gardens, lawns are restricted in size to no more than 50 percent of the yard, which is a good idea there in the desert. Required also are 3-5-foot foundation plants, and there must be plants (not lawn) for 2 feet on either side of fences. That’s done nicely in the garden above.

Fencing choices are the most restrictive I’ve ever seen – one style, one material, all stained the same gray color.

Sure enough, the one resident I was able to chat with complained about the mandatory grey, suggesting that a subtle green would be more appropriate around her particular home. I agreed that a choice of a few colors wouldn’t kill them – all very tasteful, of course.

So if I lived there I’d be trying to change rules that serve no real purpose, just like I do in Greenbelt. But in so many important ways, I think the designers of Daybreak got it right, and the result of all that planning and rule-writing is certainly attractive. Greenbelt Homes Inc. is still working on determining the right rules and enforcement mechanisms to ensure at least a minimal standard of upkeep. evergreen pruning mistake spruce

Finally, on a note of a gardening style not to be emulated, we garden writers all noticed these marvels of pruning creativity. Rules about best pruning practices – which Utah State I’m sure promulgates – would have prevented these oddities.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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