Council Meeting - March 21, 2023
Updated: Apr 27
This week’s meeting was proof that the excitement never stops here in Heber City. Although I was unable to attend in person because of a medical procedure, I did listen to the recording. To keep you updated on the latest happenings, I’m going to relay my feelings about the various agenda items that were addressed.
Workforce Housing Project
The first item on the agenda was a proposed workforce housing project at 200 E. 1200 S. near the library and the high school.
I really like how Russ Watts developed this idea with an “outside the box” approach. He’s hoping to do it commercially and rent the units for the long term. However, he is open to deed-restricted and owned units if we can guarantee the deed restriction stays in place.
Workforce housing continues to be an important conversation as we have more developments coming to town. The difficult aspect of low-income housing is that someone must pay for it. State law requires that the city provide incentives to offset the low-income housing requirement in a development.
The consultants who are helping us update the code will bring back a list of incentives to review at our next meeting. Overall, I really like the idea proposed and I think it will be a great community for workforce housing.
College Downs Annexation
Representatives from the College Downs annexation (near the UVU Wasatch campus) paid a visit to the work meeting to gauge our interest in their plan. It seems the Council is favorable to the annexation as it helps the North Village be more continuous in Heber City. Everyone simply wants to ensure there is less density than there would have been with the plan that is currently with the County. There is a hotel in this part of the plan, as well as multi-unit facilities.
Public Hearing: Red Ledges Northwest Annexation
The first public hearing was an annexation request for Red Ledges concerning a small piece of property on the northwest side of their development. There are no new homes being requested. It is just for open space to compensate a current landowner who has an easement through their property that they will then give to Red Ledges.
Public Hearing: Budget Amendment for Fiscal Year 2022-2023
The second public hearing was to talk about the budget amendment, which includes three requests:
$36,000 pertaining to snow removal on the sidewalks downtown
$6,450 for the educational assistance program
$102,060 for city participation in a state grant to improve Main Street Park
The final item was $30,000 for a nationwide search to replace Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth, which came as a surprise to all of us.
Last I heard, there was no set timeline for his retirement. In fact, during an all-hands meeting, I heard Chief Booth mention that he was planning to retire “sometime this year.” It’s now evident that he and the mayor have taken part in discussions that none of us have been privy to. This is just another example of the total lack of communication between the mayor and the Council—and it is frustrating to say the least. I took an opportunity during public comment to state that it would be nice if these budget amendments were brought forward in a work session before they are sprung upon us at a public hearing.
The next day, an audit of the 2021-2022 fiscal year came back indicating that we are doing very well. There were no major concerns presented in the audit, which is something to be very proud of.
CAPS Dark Sky Initiative
Some young people from the CAPS program came to present a dark sky initiative they’ve been developing.
There will be a website tied to the Heber City dark sky website, as well as collaboration and events with Wasatch State Park. They want to build infrastructure for a long-term initiative, eventually expanding the initiative to all of Heber Valley through a successful marketing campaign. This marketing will include flyers and stickers to give homeowners information about making their personal residences dark sky compliant.
Remember, this is an important effort that will only work if we all do our part.
Presentation: Historical Preservation Committee
The Historical Preservation Committee presented a project that has required extensive effort. First, monument signs are going to be placed at historic locations on Main Street. They have the money to complete this project now and are even planning to do it this summer.
The second project is the bell tower of the Heber City building. It is old and has rotting wood that needs to be replaced soon. Michael Moulton said the committee is pursuing state-level grants to help fund the replacement.
Wasatch Back Economic Summit
The first action item was to approve $5,000 to have Heber City be a presenting sponsor for the Wasatch Back Economic Summit. This includes Summit and Wasatch Counties coming together to discuss topics of economic importance. This request was approved, and we are happy to be partnering in this effort.
There’s been quite a bit of discussion about the columbarium at the cemetery, as well as a new administration building. The designs are truly stunning, and I’m confident that they would be a huge asset to our cemetery.
There’s another building being proposed that looks like a giant greenhouse. This would be used for gatherings of up to 100 people, ideally for those who are not religious or are non-denominational and want to hold a service for their loved one. This building could be used for other activities or meetings as well, making it a great addition to the cemetery. The sales of the vaults in the columbarium (used for cremated remains) would pay for the project, which makes it self-sustaining.
I love the concept and design. The forward-thinking of Parks and Cemetery Director Mark Rounds is inspiring.
UDOT Alternatives for the Western Bypass Road
The next item presented was a resolution supporting UDOT’s continued detailed evaluation of the five alternatives for the Western Bypass Road.
I realize that this is a very controversial topic. I feel confident stating that no one in Heber Valley wants to see the North Fields developed. I even wrote a piece a few weeks ago discussing my in-depth opinion on the topic. I would love to see the North Fields remain open space—and my personal preferred route is as close to the current Highway 40 as possible. I am no expert, but I trust that UDOT will bring forward the best solution for long-term transportation throughout our valley.
In our last meeting, Mayor Franco stated that if we are going to be in traffic, at least we will have something pretty to look at. As she explained, not putting a road through the North Fields is more important than a future traffic problem. If UDOT recommends option number four or five, there must be a way we can preserve the open space around the road.
Budget Amendment Approval
Based on the comments given earlier, Mayor Franco understood that $30,000 would be hard for the Council to approve regarding the search for a new police chief.
To be honest, I’m a little perplexed by her spearheading a search without any input from the Council. I have put forward agenda items to clarify the chain of command (specifically pertaining to the police chief) on three different occasions.
Although her intentions are good, Mayor Franco does not have the experience or expertise necessary to run a national search for a new police chief. This should be left squarely in the hands of staff, specifically the human resources department trained in such matters. Most leaders I have dealt with in my life want to have the support and advice of those they would consider to be on their “team.”
Nonetheless, the motion passed. The Council approved $5,000 to start the search for a new police chief.
We discussed a few additional items pertaining to contracts and approvals, including:
Contract amendment of $1,156,647 for the Water and Sewer Replacement Project
Contract award of $5,541,560 to Hydro Vac Excavation for Phase 2 of the Heber City Pressurized Irrigation Meter Retrofit Project
Professional Services Agreement with AWA Engineering to provide design and consulting services for the 550 E roundabout
Valley Hills Drive Neighborhood Request
The Valley Hills Drive neighborhood, which will back up against section B of the Eastern Bypass, requested to come before the Council again. An item was decided on in our last meeting to allow for a 100-foot buffer between their properties and the road. They were also asking to reconsider the roundabout being proposed on Mill Road. Since this decision was made in a previous meeting, there needed to be a motion to reconsider. Because there wasn’t a motion that was supported, construction of the road is moving forward.
This is one of those difficult decisions that has a profound effect on a handful of homeowners. That said, it also has a profound effect on thousands of individuals who will use the road in the future. Heber Valley is a desirable location and will continue to be a place where people want to gather.
Unfortunately, there will be more difficult decisions we need to make as we continue to grow responsibly.
A Note on Leadership
I am a longstanding member of the Rotary Club, where we recite the Four-Way Test of the things we think, say, and do. For those who are unfamiliar, these are the four questions we should ask ourselves:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Is it BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
If we who sit in a position of authority can think through The Four-Way Test as we make decisions and interact with each other, we can achieve great things.
On the contrary, I often notice passive aggressive behaviors being demonstrated during our Heber City Council meetings. There are blatant and disheartening attempts to paint fellow councilmembers in a poor light. I have come to expect this sort of divisiveness and bitterness in national politics, not at the local level.
We have rules of order in place to help our meetings run smoothly and Mayor Franco should be following them. This means upholding the rules with consistency, even when their uniform application might work against her personal or political interests.
I welcome any situation where I can collaborate with friends and neighbors, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. The secret to success is reasoning and respect. This is how you come to a constructive solution in the toughest disagreements. I’d be remiss if I didn’t call on Mayor Franco to lead by example and bring us together to effectively serve Heber City.
Kind regards, D. Scott Phillips Heber City Council