Although this meeting was relatively short, I’m pleased to say we accomplished quite a bit in our six hours together. Here is a review of what was discussed and actions that were taken.
We opened our work meeting with a closed session discussion concerning personnel. The remainder was dedicated to Luekehga and Goldstream proposed developments, including affordable housing dedication in the North Village annexation area. This proposed annexation is one of the only remaining pieces of ground on the east side of Highway 40 north of the main Heber City center.
For as long as I can remember, the discussion has been to have density on the eastern bench and to keep the North Fields an open space area. Why do we want to annex these properties? The reason is to have a continuous city, not random islands that haven’t been annexed. First and foremost, it helps in the planning of transportation and other needs of citizens that will be living in those areas. Can you imagine the confusion of having a city road that turns into a county road and back into a city road — maybe even more than once in just a short stretch? Water and sewer in this area is all served by the Jordanelle Special Service District and would be uniform either way. Someone asked if we are trying to increase density. My experience has been that this council does not want to increase density above that which would have been approved under the current county codes in the area.
Density is a hot topic for all of us and we don’t want to just continue to build to be overrun. We truly want developments that are smart and well-thought-out in order to provide a nice place for future families to live. Many of these developments have been on hold for several years, carefully working through the process of being annexed into the city. Fortunately, we were able to come together and make an agreement with these four different projects that we will be proceeding with annexation in the near future. One of the stipulations is that they must complete roads pertinent to the master transportation plan in the first phase of their development. Another is dealing with the affordable housing aspect, including that each development dedicates 5% of units allowed to persons making less than 60% of the average median income in Heber City. These units would be dedicated first to employees on the property of the development, and then to city, county, and school district employees. We are trying to find more ways to help those who are essential to our community.
Moving on to the regular meeting, we had several meeting items approved in the consent agenda, including:
November 1 meeting minutes
Plat amendment for Red Ledges Cabins (Phase 1B Lots 37-39)
Adoption of an ordinance to approve a development agreement for Agape, Inc. located at 90 East 900 South.
The 2023-2024 fiscal budget calendar
The 2023 annual City Council meeting schedule
With all of these items on the consent agenda, we were able to vote one time to pass them and move forward with the rest of the meeting.
Moving along, our general business items included a public hearing regarding the LA Bonner annexation located at 928 N. Mill Rd. This is at the intersection of Mill Road and where the eastern bypass is planned. It is a one-acre lot that currently sits within the county. The Bonners have requested annexation in order to build a home in the future. There was some discussion about capping the well, but we didn’t feel like this was necessary for the existing home. However, the new home would need to connect to Heber City water. There was also a lot of discussion about the septic tank. It was agreed that if the septic system failed or there was another opportunity to connect the existing home to the sewer system that this needs to happen.
The second item was an update to the Central Heber water and sewer line project. I’m happy to report that 100 E. was able to be paved before the weather got too cold. Discussion on this item lasted nearly an hour, especially as it pertains to the trails that are being proposed on 200 S., which would eventually connect with Center Street. Councilmember Michael Johnston was emphatically opposed to this trail due to the cost incurred on residents. His idea was to put a bike lane on Center Street or possibly a 5-foot sidewalk on 200 S. instead of a 10-foot paved trail. I sympathize with his opinion. I currently live on Center Street and there are several people (especially during the summer months) who use the sidewalk as a trail for walking, running, and riding bikes. I would love to see a dedicated trail on Center Street on the south side of the road which is currently occupied by the power poles. If there is a way that we could bury these lines or move the poles, we could place a trail in that right-of-way. In the coming months, I’d like to walk Center Street with Russell Funk, the city engineer, to see where the right-of-way falls and if a trail might be feasible.
The last item was a follow up to the Section B Bypass open house held last week. As Heber City continues to grow, we have a need for expansion of transportation services. There will be places in the city that have been wide open for years that will soon become roads, trails, and future developments. It definitely isn’t easy when you have lived in a location for most of your life and have grown accustomed to looking out over open fields to suddenly have those fields turned into homes. This is a difficult situation in more than one area of our city. First and foremost, I want to make sure that we are treating everyone fairly in this and that no one is getting special treatment. The city should take every measure possible to make buffers that are beautiful. I don’t want to be reactionary going forward, I do want to create a city we can all be proud of. With that said, there are 10 homeowners on section 3 of this bypass road who live on the border of the cemetery property. They have come to the city asking for a potential compromise on the road. Our engineers came back with a design that moves the road away from their homes another 25 feet, but is this special treatment? To be honest, it will be difficult for me to vote for a special exception for these 10 homeowners when I know there are other places where we will not be able to offer an exception like this. I believe a sound wall and trees would be the best buffer using the least amount of ground. This allows our recent Cemetery Master Plan, which was completed not too long ago, to also move forward as the road has been planned to the far north of the cemetery for quite some time. It is decisions like these that are extremely difficult because there is simply no way to make everyone happy. I truly appreciate how the homeowners approached us. It was not contentious or a fight they were looking for, but a hope to work with the city to do something better. I will have to give this subject quite a bit more thought before making a final determination.
As we started on the action items, the first was to approve the North Village Annexation and accompanying MDAs (Master Development Agreements) for the Finch Creek, North Village Views, Goldstream, and Luekenga developments. We have been over these documents several times in previous meetings. This was very brief as we did approve this annexation to move forward. In reality, there is very little ground left that could be annexed now on the north side of town east of Highway 40. I hope all of the developers are committed to beautifying our community and creating something wonderful.
We discussed and approved an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Wasatch County permitting to the creation of an island or a peninsula for the Wasatch school site and the Fitzgerald annexation north of town. I’m excited for what the school district has put together on their new property west of town. The design of the new high school works well with the land, allowing current streams and wetland areas to be exposed and further beautify the property. Our kids are crowded and overflowing at the current school. I’m especially excited for the MTech campus that will be close to the new high school as I believe trade schools need to become part of streamlined education.
Meanwhile, Heber City has been seeking city attorney services. Jeremy Cook has been interviewed by the City Council and Mayor Franco, and we approved bringing him on as an outside attorney to offer city attorney services. I am excited for this change. As a city, we want to ensure we are doing everything in our authority to work for our citizens and seek their best interests. Mr. Cook is coming to Heber City very highly recommended by his peers and those with which he has worked in the past. Welcome aboard, Jeremy Cook!
In closing, I should mention that this was the first meeting that has finished before 10:00 p.m. in quite some time. It was great to go home and find my family still awake before everybody heads to bed. We are all part of this community together. We work here, we live here, we worship here, and we serve here. Most importantly, we genuinely want to be here. Our situations are all different and unique, but I assure you there is always someone that has it twice as bad as you do. Although it may sound cynical, it really is true. As we go into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, let us all be a little more kind and a little more understanding. If we open up our hearts and serve one another, our community will be better for it.
I am so thankful to be able to live here in this beautiful Heber Valley. Every day truly feels like a gift. There is no other place on earth where I would have chosen to raise my children. We can all create the small town feel that we desire by getting to know our neighbors and looking out for each other. Thank you for all that you are doing to make our community a wonderful place to be.
D. Scott Phillips
Heber City Council