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  • Writer's pictureScott Phillips

March 2024 - Update

Friends and Neighbors,

 

Heber City is a special place, but there’s always room to make things even better. With this goal in mind, Heber has joined the Utah Wellbeing Project to conduct a survey that will gather invaluable resident feedback.

 

Your responses will be shared with City leaders to help us prioritize your wants and needs as we seek out the best solutions for Heber Valley for today and into the future. To complete the survey, please click here.

 


As for the City Council, March was a busy month with a lot of decisions to be made and action to take. For an overview of everything we covered this month, click below to read my newsletter.

 

Western Bypass Update

We had an opportunity to discuss the western bypass with representatives from UDOT for more than an hour, allowing plenty of time for questions regarding potential routes.

 

Just one week prior, the Wasatch Open Lands Board announced plans to pursue conservation easements, which are within the five proposed bypass routes. My main question to UDOT was whether these conservation easements could potentially block a future bypass. The response was that UDOT has never condemned property held in a conservation easement, so they’re unsure of what kind of hurdles that would create during construction.

 

They also mentioned that the preferred alignment has been delayed because they have new traffic information based on the projected growth north of town—and they will only make a recommendation once an analysis is complete.

 

My main concern is that the County, City, and school district all need to be on the same page when UDOT finally makes their preferred route recommendation. This road will be vital to long-term traffic solutions in our region; Main Street won’t be able to handle all the traffic that’s coming due to the new Deer Valley East Village, not to mention all the development northeast of Highway 40. All projections point to a large population increase in the Heber Valley, and we must be ready to accommodate that.

 

After many hours of public comment and deliberation, the County Council approved funding for the Wasatch Open Lands Board to proceed with the conservation easements, and I believe they acted accordingly based on the information they had.

 

All of us have the overarching goal of conserving the north fields, as well as the ground around any potential bypass road—and this is a great start to accomplishing that goal.

 

UDOT representatives did mention that they’ve worked together with conservation easements in previous projects. However, establishing conservation easements before their environmental impact study has been submitted could make acquiring a route more difficult.

 

In my opinion, anything is possible, and I believe we can work through the issues to ensure we have the best route for our future bypass while conserving the property around that route.

 

Mill Road/Heritage Farms Parkway Roundabout

I’m happy to report that after many months of negotiations, the City was able to acquire the final piece of land necessary to build a roundabout at the intersection of Mill Road and Heritage Farms Parkway. Fortunately, there was no use of eminent domain as we were able to reach an agreement with the landowner.

 

Construction will be completed by the end of this summer, and that will finish the connection from Highway 40 all the way to Center Street (north of the new Smith’s).

 

A big thank you to Red Ledges for completing their section of the road last summer, which should divert traffic from Center Street and Main Street when people are taking Highway 40 to the north.

 

Wellberg Annexation

The Wellberg property is a 300-acre piece of ground east of Red Ledges.

 

There’s no access to the property except through Red Ledges, and there would be no new public infrastructure necessary for the annexation as it currently involves only two proposed new homes. The landowner had to receive permission from Red Ledges for access, and part of that permission includes the two-maximum homes site provision.

 

I see this annexation as a no-brainer for the City since it doesn’t require new public infrastructure and only two homes will be built (with anticipated high taxable value).

 

Financial Assistance for Senior Citizens

Most senior citizens are on a fixed income and some are surviving on Social Security alone. Knowing this, Utah provides ways for older residents to save on their property taxes if they complete the proper paperwork with their county and prove a need.

 

We would like to do something similar in Heber City when it comes to utility bills. While we haven’t finalized what the process will look like, we are getting the ball rolling to provide a solution for relief. The Council asked City staff to continue working on the issue, and I look forward to seeing a plan for this important initiative.

 

Mayor’s Award

Officer Ty Cummings of the Heber City Police Department recently received the Mayor’s Award for an incredible act of service during a recent call.

 

According to Chief Sever, Officer Cummings was responding to a child custody complaint when he realized the mother and child needed food and other necessities. He took it upon himself to go to the store and purchase these supplies for the young mother and delivered them to ensure they were taken care of.

 

Congratulations to Officer Cummings and thank you for serving with such compassion. We are grateful for your service to the Heber community every day!

 

C-3 Commercial Zone

We’ve been working for many months on an ordinance to update the C-3 Commercial Zone, which is in the heart of downtown Heber from about 200 N. to 200 S. and 100 W. to 100 E.

 

We finally passed an ordinance to update the zone and get rid of parking requirements for redevelopment or new development. This is important as we continue to plan for either a parking structure or some other parking solution to allow for a walkable downtown area.

 

This is all very exciting because we also approved contracts for the construction of the new bandshell and are working on the infrastructure to provide for redevelopment of our core downtown.

 

Community Reinvestment Agency

The Community Reinvestment Agency, or CRA, has been an important topic of recent discussion. To simplify, the CRA would establish a designated zone where the current taxable value of the properties is locked in place for a set period—for example, 20 years. As properties are redeveloped within the zone and their tax value increases, the City would share in that difference with the County and the school district to fund infrastructure improvements vital for encouraging redevelopment.

 

This month, Mike Johnston and Aaron Cheatwood went to the County with a detailed outline of how these funds will be allocated and the anticipated increase in taxable value within the redevelopment area. Next month, they will deliver the same presentation to the school district and school board to demonstrate why there’s a need for participation from all three parties to make this program a success.

 

It’s important to clarify that this initiative does not take any money away from current revenue sources; it promises a share of future revenue as property values appreciate.

This approach is critical to the viability of a downtown redevelopment in Heber City, a project that will allow us to enjoy our City in ways we’ve never considered before.

 

I’m enthusiastic about the plans we have concerning downtown redevelopment—and I’m eager to see it all come to fruition!

 

Code of Conduct and Ethics

In the last meeting, Mayor Franco brought forward a resolution to update the Council’s Code of Conduct and Ethics. First, it’s important to note that I’ve been on the City Council for more than two years and didn’t see this set of guidelines until January. I am one who expects leaders to act ethically and in a manner that allows for productive conversations—even amid a disagreement.

 

Having said that, one of the main issues I have with this new Code of Conduct and Ethics is that it allows for the mayor or city manager to investigate complaints against council members or board members.

 

Elected officials should not have the power to investigate other elected officials. To put this into perspective, Mayor Franco brought forward the "dignity index” last year and immediately began making judgments about council members based on a scale ranked from one to eight. It isn’t prudent or productive to have a governing document based on personal opinions that can be used against others.

 

If I had my way, I would always refer to the Rotary’s four-way test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? In my opinion, this is the best way to gauge whether you’re acting appropriately. It’s increasingly difficult to achieve this in today’s political climate. Nearly every topic becomes controversial when individuals can’t agree to disagree or even internalize feedback.

 

Let's strive to work together toward the best solutions for our growing, vibrant, outdoor-loving, and enthusiastic community. Transparency will always be the key to success, and there cannot be true transparency without open and honest communication.

 

 In closing, I’d like to wish you and your family a blessed Easter. I hope you enjoy one of the many fantastic activities our community has planned—and I look forward to another beautiful spring in Heber!

Sincerely,

D. Scott Phillips

Heber City Council

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