September 5, 2023 - Council Meeting
Friends and Neighbors,
From the appointment of a new police chief to a highly scrutinized memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this meeting held a lot of weight. But what truly stood out was the unprecedented level of community engagement.
The turnout of people there for public comment far surpassed any previous meeting since I joined the Heber City Council. People were ready and willing to voice their opinions and/or concerns regarding the various agenda items.
This is the very essence of democracy in action, and I’m proud to be a part of a community where we can hear each other out. As Heber continues to grow and change, this is how we will create a thriving community for generations to come.
Heber Valley Temple Proposal
The main concern during our public comment period pertained to the location and lighting of the proposed temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Even though the proposed location is within the County, citizens showed up to the City Council meeting to voice concerns or support.
Let’s tackle some of the concerns…
Many are worried about the brightness and size of the proposed temple, as well as the environmental impact of construction. It’s important to note that our agenda item pertaining to the temple was only concerning a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City, County, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We as a City can’t make demands pertaining to any of the issues of concern because they are outside of Heber City limits. The MOU was only to allow the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a roundabout at the termination of Heritage Farms Parkway and Center Street, which will also be the entrance to the property. The MOU simply establishes that we will allow the roundabout to be built on our City road if the proposed temple is approved. Because we’re unable to charge impact fees to a property owner outside of the City, this roundabout is a $750,000 gift to the city.
If the temple plan is approved, I want to see a roundabout at that intersection. This MOU passed with a 3-2 vote.
During the MOU discussion, I addressed those in attendance and responded to questions and comments I’ve received. The first issue pertains to dark skies and the uplighting proposed. We have been told by the professionals hired by the County—and the property owner—that there will be no light escaping the surface to the night sky, and I believe what they are saying is true. I also spoke with a local lighting engineer after the meeting, and he explained to me that the reflectivity of the building will be very important in this equation. That will determine how much light will reflect from the surface of the building and escape into the night sky. I am confident that the applicant has heard the community loud and clear on this issue and will be sensitive to how the structure is lit.
Another hot topic is the removal of groundwater from the site to ensure the structure is stable. Triple Crown, the neighboring development, has the same issue. Most of the homes in the development have a sump system pumping water from their sub-floors and basements to mitigate flooding. This is an acceptable practice. The plan would never move forward if there was any risk to the water supply of Heber residents. This water is not part of the aquifer, and we do have wells close to the property, which are owned by the City. I trust the engineers to make the right determination on that point.
Lastly, there are concerns about traffic and whether this is the right location for a temple. The temple will generate the daily equivalent of car trips for roughly 200 homes. Red Ledges still has about 800 homes to build—and other planned developments east of town have even more than that. Yes, traffic is an issue, not just for this project, but for all future construction. In my opinion, we’re doing a great job addressing those issues with the new Heritage Farms Parkway and the recent widening of Center Street.
The debate on location is an interesting one. Those in opposition say this temple doesn't belong in a neighborhood and should be moved elsewhere in the valley. My response to that statement is this: We are a community of neighborhoods and anywhere in the valley is a neighborhood.
There is no doubt that this is a difficult and delicate topic in our community right now. Some residents are excited about the prospect. Others—many of them closest to the site—are not pleased with the idea.
I continue to look at the issue from the viewpoint of what is best for Heber City. We have proven that development is something we can do well. Heber will continue to grow and change, so we just need to ensure each project is high-quality and meets our needs.
Chief Booth’s Retirement & Public Safety Building Naming
First, I really want to highlight Chief Booth and his accomplishments.
He took a police department that was broken and turned it into one of the most respected agencies in Utah. Our force of officers is second to none and we are blessed beyond measure to have them protecting our community.
Our public safety building, which he was critical in building, is world-class. We have facilities that allow for the speedy and thorough processing of evidence—putting criminals behind bars faster and more efficiently. Further, our officers have the tools to keep our community safe every single day.
Chief Booth has served Heber City diligently from day one, and I am grateful for his valuable contributions.
As you may know, there was a public open house to meet the new police chief candidates. At the event, Mayor Franco unilaterally announced that Heber City would rename the public safety building after the outgoing chief. There was no warning or discussion with City staff or the Council that the change was even an option.
This made for a tense moment when the action item was brought forward during this meeting. There was a motion made by Michael Johnston to enact the change and the second was by Yvonne Barney, but I voted “no” on the motion—solely because I wanted to discuss the matter further.
Let me be clear: This has nothing to do with whether Chief Booth is deserving of this honor. As I said before, I very much appreciate Chief Booth and his contributions to our community. His input and direction in the hiring process of his successor has been extremely important, and I wholeheartedly believe our department is successful because of the work he put in to get it there.
The issue here is that we do not have any named buildings in Heber City, which makes this new territory. Everyone should have a say in the matter—that’s when municipal government is at its best.
This item will be on the next City Council agenda for further discussion.
In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our Day of Service in remembrance of the lives lost and the heroes who emerged on 9/11. Additionally, I enjoyed getting to know everyone who was in attendance at the family dinner in the park.
At the end of the day, things are always more productive when we work together for the greater good. I love any opportunity to bond and spend time together whether it’s in service or leisure.
D. Scott Phillips