Friends and neighbors,
I want to thank everyone who participated in Heber City’s first Red, White, and Blue Festival on the Fourth of July. From the pancake breakfast to the cornhole tournament and concert, it was a wonderful event that brought the community together. I can’t wait to watch it grow and develop in the years to come. A big thank you to the Rotary Club, Chamber, Wasatch County Fire, Wasatch Community Foundation, and Heber City staff for making this such a successful celebration.
Our council meeting on July 18th was the only one this month due to the holiday. As always, the agenda was full, and while it took more than five hours to get through the items, we accomplished a lot. The work meeting was centered around new software training that will make our meetings more efficient, while also providing better public access to information about current and past meetings. Technology can be a help or a hindrance, so this training was critical in helping us use it efficiently.
Considering our last few meetings have gone exceptionally long, we’ve decided to have a hard stop at 10 p.m. Any agenda items not addressed in that meeting will be addressed in the next meeting. Fortunately, there is still a lot that we are getting done. I’m happy with our progress and the decisions that are being made collectively.
Duke Land Lease Agreement
The Duke property near 500 N. and 500 E. was a topic of discussion again. The public comment period included a few separate comments, including members of the Duke family stating their desire that the property remain open space to be used as a park or cemetery.
I believe we’ve heard their message loud and clear. We all understand that this ground will be a park sometime in the future, so our first item of business was to give staff the opportunity to negotiate renewal of the farming lease on that property for the next five years.
One question I had was whether we want to extend the lease for five years or consider a year-to-year lease if we decide to develop that property into a park earlier. The consensus was to renew the five-year lease. My other question was regarding whether 17 acres is too large for a park. The County has the Parks and Recreation Department in our area. Although we have one in Heber City, a park of this size will need additional human capital to maintain and keep all our parks beautiful. The department is always short on staff, so we allocated for another full-time individual in our budget this year to help with staffing for parks and cemeteries.
I also want to prioritize Heber City developing restricted affordable housing. Land acquisition costs are exorbitant, which hinders our options. Even if we can do a five-acre project as part of this, it would benefit the City, the County, and the school district immensely when it comes to our housing crunch. I just want to keep the conversation open and explore how we could possibly balance the Duke family’s original intent and Heber City’s need for deed-restricted housing for employees.
Proposed Amendment to the North Village Views and Highlands Master Plans
The next item of business was to review a proposed amendment to the North Village Views and Highlands master plans. This was instigated by a change in the routing of roads in the area to improve traffic flow. The question at hand was whether this change should be considered a staff amendment or require the full process to restart with these property owners as a full amendment to the NDA. The full amendment process would require a return to the planning commission, as well as the Council, for approval.
In my opinion, this is an administrative amendment since the character and context of the developments would not be significantly impacted by the road routing change. I don’t support increasing density in that area, and I expect staff to consider the Council’s stance on this matter during their approval process. Overall, this was a good discussion. It was impressive to watch everyone work together to come to a solution. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to enhance the area with less piecemeal and more connectivity.
Remembrance of 9/11
The September 11 Day of Service is really taking shape. There are several projects that will be happening around our valley, including airport and railroad beautification. All projects will be listed through a survey website, and community members are encouraged to sign up and participate in remembrance of 9/11.
Heber Light and Power: Time of Use Rates
Heber Light and Power gave a presentation concerning fluctuations in power rates. The purpose of the time of use rate is to charge more when it’s expensive to generate power. For example, we recently hit an all-time high, surpassing the previous high by 2 MW of electricity.
I do not claim to be an expert, but it does make sense that it would cost more when power is in high demand. The peak times are between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. The rate for peak times is double the rate of the off-peak times. I can see use for this in a residential capacity as owners of electric vehicles, for example, may not want to plug in between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. to avoid paying higher rates. This would be for other chargeable devices as well.
Animal Control Board Presentation
Heber Valley Animal Control presented a report on the increasing demand for their services due to a rise in pet ownership. Pet ownership increased from 56% in 1988 to 66% in 2023. At the same time, our population has more than tripled. It’s clear that people consider their pets as part of their family, in fact, 51% of pet owners say pets are as much a part of their family as a human member.
Considering the growing importance of animal control services, we must think through all our options for management. The first is to continue managing animal control services though Heber City with improved memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with other jurisdictions. The second option is to transfer service to the County with a new MOU for participating agencies. The third option is to have a new special service district take over management of sheltering services, while field service is provided independently by each agency.
Given the scope and impact of the issue, I believe this should be addressed on a countywide level.
Findings from Colorado Cities Tour
As we continue to work toward our plan for Envision Heber 2050, research is important. Yvonne Barney, City Manager Matt Brower, and a group of folks from the planning commission recently took a trip to visit communities that are like Heber City to see what they have done with their downtown area.
I have lived in a few of these communities, including Glenwood Springs and Fort Collins, Colorado. I believe they also visited Avon and Eagle Vail to see what has been done about affordable housing in those areas.
The trip proved to be productive and inspiring. One crucial takeaway was the importance of having ample parking downtown before we expand and redevelop. The second commonality between all these communities was some sort of redevelopment district, much like our CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency), where we are trying to work in collaboration with the school district and the County to add necessary infrastructure in the downtown blocks of Heber City.
It seems like the trip successfully demonstrated the possibilities for our area once traffic is rerouted on the bypass road—a prospect we hope to see realized soon.
There is a new trail coming to Heber Valley that is sure to be an amazing amenity. This trail will connect Heber City to the Jordan River trail system in Utah County, all the way through Provo Canyon. The City Council unanimously approved the funding necessary for the phase 3 section of that trail, which terminates in Heber City.
This is a big deal as there’s a lot of money being spent on this trail down through the canyon along the railroad tracks. In the future, you’ll be able to ride the train one way and ride your bike the other way. Since moving to the valley 18 years ago, I have watched the number of trails increase substantially from when I first arrived, and I’m very excited for the prospect of this new trail through Provo Canyon.
Thank you to Nancy O’Toole and her grant writing expertise, as well as Don Taylor for his continued support of the trails in our valley. Well done to all involved!
On the northwest side of town, UDOT has requested what’s called a de minimis impact concurrence request pertaining to their potential route for a bypass. We have a large park on that side of town, Muirfield Park, and the bypass road is going to go around the west and north side of that park. Due to the presence of a covered culvert required for Spring Creek to pass under the road, they are requesting use of .02 acres from Heber City. One hang-up is the fact that the property is within a conservation easement as well.
We will continue to work on this topic and iron out the wrinkles with all parties involved.
Mill Road Roundabout
A bidding process was underway for the new roundabout at the Heritage Farms Road and Mill Road intersection. Unfortunately, the bid came in about $300,000 higher than what the engineer had anticipated. We are also trying to acquire some property that will be necessary for the construction of the roundabout, and those costs are higher than anticipated as well.
The decision was made to deny the current bid and wait as we continue to work with property owners to acquire the property needed for the roundabout. We will then re-bid next spring in what will hopefully be a more competitive environment. In my opinion, this is the prudent thing to do. Sections two and three will continue to move forward, and this will be an intersection with stop signs instead of a roundabout until we are able to move forward next year.
Wasatch Vista Park
A new park is coming to the intersection of 500 E. and 780 S. Wasatch Vista Park will have a playground with a farm theme, as well as some musical features for children. This item passed after a recommendation from the parks committee.
D. Scott Phillips
Heber City Council