Friends and Neighbors,
It was a joy to see so many of you at the Heber City Tree Lighting & Old-Fashioned Christmas earlier this month. I know I speak for all of us when I say it was a wonderful event for our beautiful town! Thank you to Matt Brower and his team for the hours of work they put in to ensure these special moments go off without a hitch.
We also had an important election just a few weeks ago. Now that it’s over and the results have been tallied, it’s becoming very real that Ryan and Rachel won’t be with the Council much longer. We may not always agree on every issue, but we work well together to do the business of Heber City and it’s truly been a pleasure. I want to thank them both for their hard work and dedication to helping Heber City be the best that it can be.
Having said that, we had a great meeting last week. For more details on everything we covered, continue reading for the full details.
Wasatch County Referendum
The referendum applicants did not submit a statement in favor of the referendum . The countys' argument against the referendum reads:
Watch County asks you to NOT sign this referendum. The Heber Valley Temple's approval received overwhelming public support. The Wasatch County Council unanimously voted to approve the project. Multiple public hearings and meetings were held considering every aspect of the project, which has been thoroughly vetted by many experts in a variety of fields. A referendum on this approval could result in unnecessary delays to a project that has already gone through a rigorous public approval process. The project was discussed in four public meetings starting in June 2023, and culminated in an approval months later in October, 2023. The council read and heard hundreds of public comments before making its decision.
As a place of worship, this project qualifies for federal and state protections for religious exercise. Wasatch County's strong desire to balance property rights of the neighbors, property rights of the applicant, and religious freedom resulted in an approval process that allowed the County to raise issues and address them in a manner that has been mutually agreeable to the county and the applicant. Some public comments against the project urged the County to infringe on religious freedom of expression and would have negatively impacted the functionality of the Heber Valley Temple.
All of the following issues (and many more) have been considered and addressed to the satisfaction of every official institution and expert involved in the approval of the project:
Aggressive lighting protections resulting in innovative solutions and one of the most dark-sky compliant temples in the world that is also consistent with County standards.
Water resources will be utilized in a prudent and lawful manner with little to no impact on wells or flooding.
Traffic analysis for Center Street approved by Heber City and traffic consultants.
Building heights mitigated by setbacks much greater than required for other projects in Wasatch County.
The Council found that the project would enhance the quality of life in Wasatch County. The approval requires abundant landscaping, architectural features, trails, and is more rigorous on design materials than other projects approved by the County. A temple is allowed in the zone, but unique aspects of the project, such as unusual parking needs, and not requiring a road between the temple and its parking lot to promote safety, led the council to approve the project legislatively.
Wasatch County stands by the approval process for the Heber Valley Temple project, and maintains that the project, as approved, will promote the general welfare.
You can learn more at the Wasatch County Clerk-Auditor's page:
HOA Consent Letters for Short-Term Rentals
An agenda item initially slated for the consent agenda, but moved for further deliberation, was a proposal to eliminate the requirement for HOA consent letters for short-term rentals.
As it stands, a property within an existing HOA must receive a letter from the HOA that they are following the rules by having a short-term rental. Rachel and Ryan both had concerns about removing this from our current code. Realistically, it is the only guidance in areas around town letting us know whether they want short-term rentals to be a part of their neighborhood.
Personally, I am in favor of short-term rental zones throughout the city where short-term rentals would be allowed. But to me, there is a large difference between owner-occupied and non-owner occupied. If the owner of the property is present, a lot of the issues that trigger complaints would not happen.
Additionally, implementing short-term rental zones provides a practical avenue for individuals who want to live in Heber City but need a little extra help paying their mortgage. Moreover, the tax revenue generated will only contribute to the betterment of Heber City residents.
Our extensive discussion covered various facets of the short-term rental ordinance, recognizing the need for future revisitation.
Police Department Funding and Staffing
One important discussion item was police department funding and staffing. Simply put, we have been working on a shoestring budget for years and I would really like to change that.
We need to have the staff necessary to provide basic services for our growing community, including policing. In the future, we may even have a separate police station that needs to be constructed north of town to provide the necessary coverage for that area.
It seems most of the Council agrees on this topic; however, we must still determine how we’re going to pay for it. Heber City has historically relied on sales tax to cover some of our basic needs. I would like to see our general tax fund increased so that our basic needs are always met. We recently had a drop in sales tax revenue for the first time in more than 10 years, and I never want to be in a situation where we must let people go because our sales tax revenue isn't enough to cover their pay.
When we have good years of sales tax revenue, I want to be able to put money to work with meaningful projects that benefit residents. However, if there are years where sales tax revenue is light, I would like to make sure our basic needs are met through the general tax fund. So, I am in favor of hiring the people that we need, especially in the police department, but I want to make sure that we can pay for them.
We accepted the MTech annexation petition of 10.41 acres located at approximately 900 W. 100 S. This is adjacent to the new high school as MTECH and Wasatch School District are having much success in their partnership with students seeking vocational training. The vote was unanimous.
Heber Valley Airport Landing Fees
On the topic of the Heber Valley Airport, the FBO has historically overseen collecting and paying landing fees to Heber City. They are only collecting those fees during operating hours, and I believe they’re doing it manually. One of our action items was to procure a company known as Vector Systems to collect landing fees and track operations at the Heber Valley airport.
This is a wonderful idea, and I made the motion to vote in the affirmative as this should bring even more revenue to the airport. Landing fees will be collected at all hours of the day, not just during the FBO operating hours, and we will have a record of every plane that has taken off from the airport. Rather than receiving the landing fee as a portion of their bill from the FBO, they will receive an online notice of a balance due that they will need to pay. This is not an uncommon practice in the world of aviation as these fees allow local airports to support themselves.
Twin Creeks Special Service District, also known as TCSSD, was on the schedule to discuss fees. They share Heber City sewage lines by moving sewage from their facilities to the sewage fields west of town. Because they are using Heber City facilities, we are charging them what is called a “wheeling fee,” which is used to help pay for future replacement of those facilities.
They are currently paying 1.4% annually and are asking us to lower the rate to be more in line with what would be anticipated in a project replacement. I am in favor of charging Twin Creeks the same amount that we charge Heber City residents for a replacement fee to ensure they are not paying more than their fair share.
Performing Arts Center
We approved a ground lease and parking agreement for the performing arts center, which will be located next to the UVU campus. I am beyond excited for this project to start taking shape over the next several years, and I believe it’s something that the community should really rally behind. We will need several million dollars’ worth of donations to complete the building, but there’s no doubt that this will be a project that will bless our community for generations.
Wilcox Property Acquisition
Among the many action items we’ve been trying to wrap up before the end of the year, we agreed to purchase a piece of the Wilcox property. This is adjacent to a new roundabout that will be built at Mill Road and 900 N., a key junction in the Heritage Farms Parkway that is currently being constructed.
We celebrated quite a few awards from Mayor Franco in this meeting. Here’s a look at the individuals who received recognition:
Mayor's Award for Candace Bufton receiving the 2023 Outstanding Administration Award from the Intermountain Chapter of AWWA (the American Water Works Association)
Mayor's Award for Officer Chandra Crosby for outstanding work and going above and beyond her job duties
Mayor's Award for Public Works Crew: Jacob Anderson, Blake Walton, Cristian Payan, Kayden Davis, and Thomas Coleman for outstanding work and expeditious effort
A big thank you to all the staff that service Heber City every day—especially those who do more than expected. We appreciate you!
I’d like to recognize The Hub and congratulate them on their grand opening after their reconstruction. Thank you for being a part of our community and for creating a treasure that will be here for many years to come.
I also wanted to recognize the mural outside of the laundromat on Main Street with the brown trout. This is truly a piece of art, and we are lucky to have this artist display his work here in Heber city. I believe there are more murals to come—so keep your eyes peeled!
Snow season is upon us, so I just want to remind everyone to be polite and kind to our plow drivers. Please remember not to park vehicles or trailers on the road overnight, which impedes the snowplow operations, making it difficult for everybody. These folks wake up early each day to clear our roads, helping us get to where we need to be on those snowiest of days. Yes, sometimes a small wall of snow left in front of your driveway. However, those plow drivers don’t get to do anything at their own home until they’re done cleaning the roads for the rest of us. They must deal with the same mound of snow in front of their own driveway that you have. Let’s all try to be a little kinder and a little more understanding.
Downtown Deer Mitigation
We were given a report from Deputy Police Chief Jeremy Nelson concerning a potential deer mitigation plan. Although this is not a priority for anyone currently on the Council, it was good to get the information necessary to form an opinion. Now we know what it would take to implement a strategy if we do need one in the future.
As the year winds down, I want to wish all of you a wonderful, happy, and safe holiday season. I hope you enjoy the blessings of living in this beautiful area and have time to be with family and friends. Merry Christmas to all—and God bless us everyone!
D. Scott Phillips
Heber City Council