Council Meeting - February 21, 2023
There is always so much to do, but we seem to have so little time to complete it. Our last meeting was no different. We couldn’t get to two of the action items on the agenda due to a lack of time. Regardless, we made progress on many other important issues.
Agricultural Preservation Areas
The work meeting began with a presentation on agricultural preservation areas, a designation that any landowner can apply for. Unfortunately, this can make it incredibly difficult to construct a road on or near that type of property in the future. The property owner in this situation lives very close to the planned bypass route, so we didn’t feel favorable to the idea. Before we can allow agricultural preservation areas near the route, we must have a final determination from UDOT regarding where the road will go.
That said, the Council was favorable to the idea of agricultural preservation areas around the bypass road once we know where the route will be. This will help us protect as much open space as possible, an issue that is very important to me. This is the best way to protect the character of the Heber Valley.
Mixed Use Residential & Commercial Zone (MURCZ)
As we continued discussions regarding MURCZ zoning, Councilmember Mike Johnston raised an important question. He asked why we are adding regulations where they aren’t necessary.
This came in response to a change that would force a gas station in the zone to provide space for one car at the pump and two cars waiting, as well as additional space for a car to be able to pass behind. This is enforcing a truck stop-sized gas station as the minimum standard. We as the City Council simply do not have the expertise or knowledge to create this type of hindrance for small businesses. If someone wants to build a gas station, they should have a significant say in how that business operates. Yes, we want it to be safe and reasonable for traffic to get around, but these decisions should not be up to us.
The best part about a free market is that your customers will let you know why they do or don’t want to visit your business. If it’s inconvenient, people simply will not come. I am more concerned about supporting our local small businesses than continuing to add regulations that could hold them back.
General Business Items
We had a chance to recognize Sara Nagel as Heber City‘s new finance director. Our previous finance director accepted a position with the Wasatch County School District, so we’ve had a few months without someone in this position. We are excited to welcome Sara to the team and are eager to work with her.
Moving along to an update on the Central Heber Water and Sewer Line project. There will be additional teams working on the project in the coming months as we prepare for the summer construction season. This is a much-needed project in Heber City as our infrastructure in that part of town is more than 75 years old. It will not reach completion for a few years, but we should be able to see quite a bit of progress this summer.
Heber City July 4th Celebration
Wasatch County Tourism & Economic Development is proposing a Heber Valley Fourth of July event. Historically, we haven’t had much when it comes to Fourth of July celebrations, aside from a pancake breakfast in Midway and fireworks in the evening.
The idea would be to have more events on the Fourth of July, including a Rotary community breakfast, 5K and 10K races in the morning, activities in the park during the day, and a concert in the park in the evening before the traditional fireworks show.
I made the motion to approve the request of funds that they are requesting to plan the event. This motion passed, so we should see more concerning the Heber Valley Fourth of July celebration in the coming months.
Heber City Annual Unity Event Details
There are several groups that make up the community in Heber City. We want to be supportive and appreciative of that, so we discussed and approved the continuation of the annual Unity event. We will once again have banners on Main Street promoting unity as a community throughout the month of June. It’s our sincere hope that this is a time for everyone to come together and do some good in the community.
The concert in the park on June 8th will be sponsored by Heber City, giving us an opportunity to promote our message of unity, as well as the citywide day of service on June 10th. We will also have dumpsters available for spring cleanup of small household items throughout that same week.
Airport Layout Plan FAA Approval
We’ve been anticipating approval of the airport layout plan for quite some time — and have discussed it extensively within the community. The next step is providing direction to the city manager to submit the airport layout plan to the FAA for further direction.
The airport layout plan is just one part of the master plan that we have been working on for the past several years. The one we are submitting will move the runway slightly to the south and west from its current location. This is to improve the safety zones for airplanes that are currently landing at the airport.
This plan is not to promote or encourage larger aircraft or more traffic, but to provide for the current demand. We anticipate that the FAA’s review of the airport master plan will be completed by March 30th. Subsequently, our meeting on April 18th will likely be the date that we approve the master plan, and May 1st is our target for submitting the entire master plan to the FAA.
All of these important dates and details can be found on the master plan website at https://www.hebervalleyflightpath.com.
Overnight Food Truck Parking
Roughly a year ago, the corn dog food truck that is parked in the Heber Valley Appliance parking lot was told that they could not park there overnight. This question led to our next agenda item pertaining to food trucks and overnight parking options.
Once again, this prompted an important discussion about our role in regulating. If a food truck is parked in a parking lot, we assume that the business responsible for that parking lot has granted permission for it to be there. It’s not for the city to determine whether that food truck can park there. We just want to make sure that food trucks are not parking on city streets or on city property overnight.
We updated this ordinance to give businesses more control over what happens on their property.
Valley Hills Tank Bid
The Valley Hills roof replacement will be happening soon. This water tank has been drained and taken offline to evaluate concerning cracks in the tank lid, as well as leaking at the base of the walls on the south and southwest sides. The cracking and honeycombing present in the walls and significant stress cracking in the roof slab are concerns that need to be addressed.
Heber City is moving forward with a project to include removal and replacement of the tank lid and sealing or lining of the tank. Of the several bids received, we are moving forward with Patriot Construction for a total cost of $552,889 to replace the lid and use an acrylate resin for crack and joint sealing instead of tank replacement.
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has garnered attention lately due to a bill in the State Legislature that would discontinue the opportunity for cities to use RCV. I personally participated in the hearing on Capitol Hill and it was interesting to hear from both sides. I would never want to see RCV be a part of a partisan election. I feel strongly that it has no place in national races. However, I feel differently about it for local, non-partisan elections.
The 2021 election for Heber City was through Ranked Choice Voting — and there are so many benefits. It provides for a shorter campaign timeframe and there is no need for a primary election. Every election we hold costs taxpayer money. RCV allows for all candidates to be a part of the election process. Candidates can say, “Even if I am not your first choice for this position, I would love to be your second choice.” This makes for better campaigning through and through.
Even at the local level, I often see a deep divide that simply shouldn’t exist. This is much like what we see at the national level when it comes to partisan politics. At the community level, we all need to be able to come together. We should discuss every point of view, compromise, and come to a reasonable solution.
All this said, the Council approved using RCV for our 2023 election. There are three Heber City Council seats available in this election cycle and I encourage all who are interested to participate in the process.
Heber City Personnel Leave Time
The next discussion item was concerning personnel leave time. Employees who have at least 10 years of service with Heber City and 240 hours in their Sick Leave accrual may now convert the hours above 240 to Vacation Hours as a 2:1 ratio. For example, two hours of sick leave in exchange for one hour of vacation leave.
I know this is going to be a great benefit to those individuals who have many years of service as employees to Heber City. There are currently 24 employees who have been with us for more than 10 years. We took a moment during the meeting to applaud them and recognize the time and effort they put into making our city a better place.
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who work for and with Heber City. We appreciate you very much! I’m glad this motion passed with unanimous support.
Segment B Eastern Bypass Preferred Alignment
If you look at the agenda, you’ll notice that we had to skip a few items in order to address the segment B eastern bypass preferred alignment, especially because there were individuals in the chambers who wanted to speak on the subject.
This is an extremely difficult discussion. There are 10 homeowners who will be directly affected by the construction of section B of the new eastern bypass road, which goes from Highway 40 north of Smith’s around the east side of town and reconnects with Center Street near 1300 E. Original plans for this road showed it close to the property line, which is why these homeowners expressed concern. I understand their worries and really appreciate them inviting us to their homes to see the effect this road will have on their properties.
My understanding from earlier discussions was that we were going to get a little buffer between their property line and the road, but it was brought to my attention later that this “little buffer” became 214 feet. We brought the item back during this meeting to clarify how much distance we were really anticipating as a buffer for the road. Engineering brought back a model showing that they would have 74 feet from the property line as the minimum distance, so they would be able to put retaining ponds in the open land between the road and the homeowners’ properties. The homeowners were caught off guard because they anticipated this 200-foot buffer, prompting their visit to the Council meeting.
As the discussion went on for quite some time, I felt it was necessary to speak up. Growth in our community is often a very challenging topic. I told the homeowners that our parks and cemetery director placed a value on that property of approximately $2.5 million. Knowing we serve all citizens within this community, it is difficult to give away $2.5 million of value to a handful of homeowners. If they wanted to pay for the property, I would have no problem creating the extra buffer, but in the same breath, we can’t create a precedent for future projects. I also wanted to point out that these homeowners are experiencing the same thing others in our community have experienced over the past several years. As we continue to grow, there is often something being built in someone’s backyard that they don’t particularly like or approve. I want to make it clear that I feel sympathy for everyone dealing with these situations. We are all experiencing these growing pains. Fields that have been open space for years are now being developed — and it’s changing the view from our patios and the feel of our community.
Yvonne Barney put forward a motion to construct the road with a buffer of 100 feet. Although this wasn’t exactly what the homeowners wanted, it seemed to be a good compromise. I once heard that a good compromise is when neither party gets exactly what they want and each has to give a little bit in return. I too was willing to compromise and go from the 75 feet to 100 feet.
Part of this discussion also pertained to the new roundabout on Mill Road where this bypass road will intersect. The neighboring homeowners wrote a pretty extensive letter discussing their view on the roundabout and proposed a four-way stop instead. I currently live on Center Street, very close to the four-way stop. I can tell you from experience that a four-way stop is pretty loud as cars accelerate. I would much prefer a roundabout near my home than a four-way stop. Again, I feel for any homeowners who will be impacted, but as a representative of the entire community, I continue to look to the possible benefits.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from an emotional response in decision-making, but it’s always better to make choices once emotions subside. Many of the items we discuss have an emotional aspect to them. It’s hard to avoid getting caught up, but I will continue to look at every problem objectively. I aim to separate myself from the emotional response and seek compromise as we continue to grow as a community and look out for each other’s best interests.
Kind regards, D. Scott Phillips Heber City Council