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  • Writer's pictureScott Phillips

Council Meeting - October 4, 2022

Our meeting this week started with a discussion regarding the potential development agreement for the former Rocky Mountain Care Center located at 160 W. 500 N. The business moved their care center to a new location at 1200 S. a few years ago, a building that is perfect for this redevelopment project. The proposal put forth would provide 28 units that feature three bedrooms and four units that contain one bedroom. Some of the concerns we had were in regard to green space on the property, sufficient parking, and support for the redevelopment from neighboring property owners. The overall feeling in the room was positive as we are continually seeking out opportunities to provide affordable properties throughout our community.

Next, we discussed the Parkview Place subdivision located on Southfield Road. This is an affordable housing project put together by the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust. The property was partially completed quite some time ago, but they are currently $50,000 over budget per unit. They are trying to seek grants and other forms of financial support to make up the difference. One option is to sell some of the homes at market rate and use the profit to complete the other low-income homes. These homes would not be deed-restricted. Plus, the buyers could participate with potential growth of their equity in the future. Other homes in the project would be deed-restricted to a certain percentage of increase per year. We need more quality projects like this one if we are going to continue to staff the city, school district, and county positions that help us facilitate growth.

The third item on our agenda was a potential development agreement for the former football field house located on the corner of 280 E. and 600 S. This was a piece of land left over after the demolition and reconstruction of the high school. The existing building used to house the locker room for the football team, but the Hicken family would like to remodel it and turn it into two residences. While we are interested in the idea, there’s a lot of work that must be done to get us to a final approval. We are highly invested in redeveloping properties that seem to be awkward or out of place. I appreciate that Mr. Hicken came forward with an idea that will help us improve our community.

The next topic of discussion was to amend the I-1 Industrial Zone and Telecommunications Facilities. These code updates can be somewhat complex, so the city uses experts and advisers to help us discern what we should do in various circumstances. We are usually striving to make the code more user-friendly and less confusing to administer. The planning commission suggested deletion of a section of code that stated, “The telecommunications facility shall be an ancillary use on the lot on which it is placed. The lot should contain a separate principal use.” We were able to pass this change unanimously, but there was also discussion about allowing dwellings in the industrial zone where business owners or employees can live on property. The council is favorable to this idea.

The consent agenda included approval of the September 27 meeting minutes, which was a special meeting called after the last airport open house. I asked that this be removed from the consent agenda to be voted on separately since I was not at the meeting and would be abstaining from the vote.

There were three other items on the consent agenda:

  • A requested waiver of development fees for the Agape development agreement

  • Approval of evidence purge list from the police department

  • Approval of the police department contract with Unified Fleet Services for 11 vehicles

These three items passed before we returned to the approval of the September 27 minutes. This prompted some discussion because Mayor Franco previously submitted changes to the minutes through email. As Councilmember Stack pointed out, Utah state code says we do not have to post detailed minutes as long as there is a recording to reference. Because the full meeting is recorded, this can act as the minutes. Later in the meeting, he asked Mark Smedley to research the code and bring information back to the council regarding how detailed we need our minutes to be. It appears Mayor Franco was trying to add clarification with a political purpose that did not need to be added. A motion was made to approve the minutes, but it did not pass. Another motion was made by Councilmember Stack to approve the minutes without the changes the mayor proposed, and this motion passed.

The first item of general business was a public hearing for the Fitzgerald Annexation to be incorporated into the Sorenson Master Development Agreement (MDA). This was favorable to the council as the area falls within the pre-established growth zone of the city. It’s also close to other annexations being petitioned with the Highlands annexation, North Village annexation, and The Crossings annexation. There are a few properties on the east side of Highway 40 near the Highlands that do not have annexation plans at this time. One question brought forward was whether there is a way to connect the future trail along this corridor by going around those properties. I thought this was a great idea.

Additionally, the mayor had two general business items to cover. The first was a proclamation to designate September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. Our hope is to celebrate with a special event next year. The second item was the presentation of the Mayor’s Award to City Recorder Trina Cook and Deputy City Recorder Robin Raines-Bond. They recently earned the Certified Municipal Clerk designation from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. They are wonderful to work with and are truly a benefit to the residents of Heber City.

Next, we moved into a review of the city branding, a topic that is very important for any city. It’s important for our branding to represent the character, goals, aspirations, historical presence, and future desires of Heber City. Ryan Bunnell did a wonderful job on this presentation. We voted to approve a rebranding campaign for the city, giving him a unique opportunity. I look forward to seeing the ideas he will come back with.

Moving on, it seems that applications for development have slowed down at the city level. According to the Planning Department’s monthly report, the first project is for Robarge Collision, which will be located on the corner of Airport Road and Highway 40. The concept is large, but will be very attractive in addition to providing necessary jobs here in Heber City. The next project is a business park on the corner of Airport Road and Daniel Road. This is an office building with eight condos for businesses. Half of the building is going to be completed, while the other half may be sold or completed at another time. I appreciate the work of our planning department and all they do to streamline these processes. They truly enable us to be a better partner to those looking to develop within city limits. I know these processes aren’t always smooth, but I also know that city staff members are doing their best to make it a good experience for everyone involved.

Action items on the agenda included adoption of ordinance 2022–26, providing amendments to the commercial zones and building height in the commercial design criteria. This has been up for debate for quite some time. I believe we are all in agreement that the downtown zones or the C3 commercial zone should be limited to three stories if we want to maintain the feeling of a small town. However, we approved four stories in C2 or C4 zones if the following three standards are met:

1. The application includes at least 10% affordable housing, available to persons at 60% of the current county average median income or below that threshold.

2. It is a mixed use building.

3. If the building design includes a step back of at least 10 feet between the third and fourth stories.

We decided not to address hotel heights at this time, but it’s likely that we will cover the issue at a future meeting. We were also reminded by City Manager Matt Brower that codes can continually change in the future. I am sure we will revisit building heights again.

Moving on to the next action item, Envision Central Heber is a project we are incredibly excited about. We’re trying to get input from residents about what they would like to see in their neighborhoods. There will be both Steering Committee and stakeholder focus groups scheduled to tackle the issue before the end of the year. We discussed the fact that politicians should be involved in these meetings to simply listen to the public and use feedback to guide future decisions. There is no better time for us to hear from residents about how they envision these downtown blocks over the next 30 years. I am very excited for this process to begin.

In a previous meeting, City Engineer Russell Funk presented the Heber City Stormwater Design Manual. We approved the manual after receiving some clarification on language pertaining to 100-foot buffer zones on ditches and running water areas. Councilmember Johnston brought up a good question pertaining to ditches in the middle of town that have been put underground. He asked if these buffer zones would apply to redevelopment of properties near these ditches. For example, there is flowing water that runs directly under the old Ace Hardware building. If rules are too stringent, it may be difficult to find somebody to redevelop that property into a useful purpose building. Again, there are developers and projects waiting for information in order to proceed. We are willing to pass on the information at staff’s request, but Councilmember Johnston pointed out the fact that there may be changes we need to make in the future. I appreciate all of the work Russell Funk has done to make this a reality.

We ended the evening on two items that were rather controversial. The first was to consider action on a motion continued from the special meeting held on September 27. Although I was not present at that meeting, I have read the minutes. I know that Councilmember Stack expressed that all future TAC and CAC meetings should be run by staff, the consultants, and attorneys, not by any elected official. Councilmember Kahler made the second. The mayor stated that this motion was out of order and that it was unable to proceed, but Councilmember Stack rightfully called that into question.

City Attorney Mark Smedley came back to our meeting with information pertaining to whether the motion could proceed and the answer was a resounding yes. The mayor was unclear on whether her duties include a responsibility to chair every meeting pertaining to the city. Mark Smedley came back with a legal opinion stating that the mayor is only the chair of council meetings, not every meeting pertaining to the city.

I also brought up discussion pertaining to the role of the chair with information based on Robert’s Rules of Order (which we try to follow in our meetings). I quoted the following:

“The meeting may be that of a city council, a nonprofit, a professional society, a homeowners’ association, a fraternal order or any group that is organized as a “voluntary association” (that is not a hierarchical organization such as the workplace with its “boss”.)

The chair may be called chair, president, presiding officer, or something else.

Note that these duties are all about procedure and running the meeting well. The duties do not include lecturing or criticizing group members to make them vote the way you want, trying to convince people that you are right and they are wrong, or exercising your leadership position to determine the outcome of the vote. During the meeting, you are not responsible for the decision the group makes. You are the facilitator and the servant of the group.”

Unfortunately, Mayor Franco has a tendency to work in a way that is independent of the wishes of the council. This is why I felt it was important to read this statement during our meeting.

In an effort to illustrate, the staff, experts, and lawyers that the city has hired were prepared to present and run the meeting on September 22. However, Mayor Franco had a different idea of how things should go. She proceeded to take over the meeting from staff who had prepared to do their presentations and even announced a comment period, as well as a public hearing on October 18, 2022. This was the first time any of us heard of such a meeting.

I want to make it clear that none of us want to dissuade or squelch public comment. I can’t emphasize that enough. The issue here is that the mayor is unable to make those decisions unilaterally without the support of the council. The problem was not that she announced a public hearing, the problem was that none of us knew about it.

In addition, the experts and staff were thrown off as they had practiced and planned their presentations for months in an effort to inform the public of design alternatives for the master plan of the airport. Unfortunately, the meeting did not turn out that way. The council has asked the experts and representatives to come back one more time for another meeting on October 17, 2022. There will be no presentation or involvement from any elected official. The experts will be able to present and the public will have an opportunity to ask questions. Simply put, this is a big topic in Heber City. We want to make sure that everyone has true and correct information to form an opinion moving forward.

In the end, the motion passed. First, to overturn the ruling from the mayor that the motion was out of order, and second, to not have council members or the mayor chair these meetings pertaining to the Airport Master Planning process. They will be run by staff without political bias. I truly appreciate what Councilmember Stack expressed regarding this issue. He said that he lives directly in the path of the airplanes and hates seeing the jets fly over his house. They rattle his windows at times and often pass so low that he feels like he could reach out and touch the landing gear. That said, he also understands our responsibility as a city. Our legal responsibility is to provide a safe airport. It is not an easy discussion, but it’s a very important one for our community.

The last motion of the evening was to confirm that the council must make the decision to hold a public hearing and that none of the council members can call a public hearing unilaterally without the support of the council.

I urge everyone to come and participate in the meeting on October 17 at the police station. This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear from the experts regarding our responsibilities as the airport sponsor.

Kind regards,

D. Scott Phillips

Heber City Council

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