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1833 'plat of Zion' wins national honor

In the spring of 1833, Joseph Smith envisioned a plan for the "city of Zion" a city plat of square, wide streets that eventually influenced hundreds of cities in the West.

Now, more than century and half later, the genius of the prophet has been officially recognized by the 30,000-member American Planning Association. The association awarded the Church and Joseph Smith the 1996 Planning Landmark Award, presented by the Planning Landmarks and Pioneers Jury.Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy and counselor in the North American Southeast Area presidency represented the First Presidency at an awards dinner recently at the association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla. He received a plaque honoring the Church and its founder. At the banquet, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were praised for their vision and practical application that resulted in major and smaller cities and towns being established throughout the Mountain West. The city of Zion plan "assured, in general, a highly organized community life. . . . It also made possible a more advantageous utilization of the lands."

The association also will donate an 18- X 24-inch bronze plaque to be displayed in the Brigham Young Historic Park in Salt Lake City.

The plat was nominated by Eugene E. Carr, adjunct professor of urban planning at the University of Utah and a member of the Planning Landmarks and Pioneers Jury.

"The planning and founding of more than 500 communities in the American West is regarded by many planning historians as one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of American city development," said Bruce Parker, president of the Utah chapter of the American Planning Association.

"The plat placed high value on the quality of the urban environment and the importance of a coherent community. The cities of Zion were to be a `gathering place,' and during Brigham Young's lifetime they accommodated some 80,000 converts to the Church.

"The Mormon communities were agriculturally sustainable. They were laid out in a grid of 10-acre blocks, with a community center containing cultural, school, religious and commercial activities. Farming was conducted in surrounding greenbelts outside the city. The plat provided for neighborhood structure (wards), modern zoning (separation of incompatible uses), and land use regulations (residences set back from the street with a fine, well-maintained gardens, or groves in the front yard)."

He said that he hopes the award will "rekindle an awareness among all Utahns of their heritage - an appreciation for attractive and socially cohesive communities, and careful stewardship of the land and the environment."