Changes in the Recycling Industry Leading to Fee Changes

The recycling industry is struggling in the United States. According to a recent bulletin provided by Waste Management, until this year almost 30% of all recyclables from around the world were shipped to China, including 50% of the world’s recyclable mixed paper and plastics. China has implemented new aggressive environmental goals, which include establishing their own recycling programs, and on January 1st banned all mixed paper and mixed plastic imports. Additionally, due to the cost associated with separating contaminated materials from recyclable items, on March 1st China began enforcing a new 0.5% contamination limit on imported recyclables. Then on May 3rd China announced it had suspended inspections for all recyclables from the U.S., and because all loads must be inspected and certified, this means that no recyclables will ship to China from the U.S. for at least a month.

Due to these issues and the cost of separating contaminated items that have been placed in recycling bins, Waste Management has increased rates for recycling toters. The rate for the first toter per household will increase from $4.79/month to $6.90/month and the rate for subsequent toters per household will increase from $2.24/month to $5.00/month. These increases are still less than paying for a second garbage container, which is $10.99/month.

While customers have no control over China’s new policies, we can help improve domestic demand by reducing the number of contaminated items being placed in recycling toters. Click here to see the most common contaminants. Waste Management has created a number of educational materials on how to best use the recycling program and we will be sharing those with residents over the next several weeks, but wanted residents to be aware of the associated rate increases that will be coming in July. For more information on the recycling industry and for helpful materials on how to recycle, please visit recycleoftenrecycleright.com.

 

Settlement Reached on Land in Commercial Zone

I am happy to announce that on May 1, 2018, the City Council approved a settlement agreement to resolve a lawsuit with developer Cedar Hills Farmland, LLC and the property owner regarding the development of land located in the city’s commercial zone just south of Walmart. This piece of land has been in a litigation status since 2015 and the settlement will allow all parties to be fully released from all claims in connection with the development of the property.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the parties agree in concept to a proposal submitted by the developer to develop the property as a single-family planned unit development with up to 80 single family lots, 14,000 square feet of open space, and a 7,000 square foot commercial pad with associated parking. As part of the agreement, the city will consider formal action approving a new zoning district to accommodate the development, a development agreement, and preliminary and final subdivision plats. These items will be on a future agenda for the Planning Commission and City Council.

Background

In 2013 Mr. Doug Young and representatives of the Smart family approached the city regarding the development of 11 acres owned by the Smart family and located in the city’s commercial zone. The original presentation included a five-story congregate care facility (55+ housing) on the Smart property and commercial/retail businesses located on the nine acres owned by the city, which is located on North County Blvd south of Harts. After several meetings with staff, Planning Commission, and elected officials to discuss the allowed uses in the zone, the application submitted by Mr. Young was to develop only the 11 acres of property owned by the Smarts and included a 291-unit 3-story congregate care facility and three commercial buildings.

During the discussions that occurred before and after Mr. Young submitted his application, a concern that was frequently raised was whether the congregate care facility was allowed per city code. The code stated that in the mixed-use office/retail zone, which included most of the Smart property, residential was only allowed if it was less than 50% of the building, was ancillary to retail, and was located on the upper levels of the building, not the main level. The only exception to this was assisted living facilities, which did not need to have a commercial component. As Mr. Young’s congregate care facility did not have any retail/commercial located in it, and as congregate care was not an allowed use in the zone, his proposal did not comply with city code.

Mr. Young indicated that he was willing to change his facility to be assisted living instead of congregate care, however, the feedback he was receiving from some members of the community was that congregate care was preferred over assisted living. For uses that are not expressly mentioned in city code, the City Council can make a determination on whether a project is “substantially similar” to something that is allowed or disallowed in code. On December 2, 2014, Mr. Young’s representative approached the Council and asked them to decide whether the congregate care facility being proposed could be considered substantially similar to an assisted living center, which is allowed in the mixed-use office/retail zone. After much debate, the Council voted 3-2 to allow congregate care to be treated as assisted living.

Once that decision was made, the Council was required by law to approve the congregate care facility but could impose conditions in order to address any adverse impacts the development would have on the community. The preliminary plans submitted by the developer included 291 housing units in the congregate care facility and three commercial buildings in the retail portion of the land. The layout presented is below.

Based on studies provided by the developer and performed at the request of the city, the Council approved the project on November 17, 2015 subject to fourteen conditions, which the city later reduced to ten. These conditions were all based on city code and included:

  1. Limiting the project to no more than 165 units;
  2. Requiring the congregate care facility to provide on-site services such as meals, healthcare, fitness classes, and social activities so that the facility was operating similarly to an assisted living center;
  3. Requiring 1.4 parking stalls per residential unit;
  4. Prohibiting outdoor overnight parking in areas adjacent to existing single-family homes, with covered parking provided in those areas;
  5. Requiring landscaping and open areas with linked pedestrian corridors designed to promote pedestrian activity and a walkable area;
  6. Constructing of the development in phases that include both commercial and residential components in order to keep with the intent of the commercial zone;
  7. Reducing the size and scale of the building to comply with the maximum density of 165 units;
  8. Requiring that each unit be occupied by at least one resident who is 55 years of age or older and not allowing for residents younger than 25 years of age;
  9. Requiring parking lights adjacent to single-family homes be low to the ground in bollards rather than on light poles; and
  10. Final approval of the project being made by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Mr. Young appealed all conditions stating they were illegal and not supported. As part of the appeal, Mr. Young and the city agreed to both submit arguments to the State Land Use Ombudsman for an opinion. While the opinion of the Land Use Ombudsman is not legally binding, the opinions of this office closely align with what a court will eventually decide. Additionally, both parties must agree that once the Ombudsman provides an opinion and either party decides to go to court, the losing party must pay attorney’s fees for both parties.

On December 28, 2017, the Land Use Ombudsman provided an advisory opinion. The only conditions upheld were the requirement of 1.4 parking stalls, the requirement to have covered parking adjacent to single-family homes, and the requirement for bollard lighting instead of pole lighting in parking areas adjacent to single-family homes. All other conditions were dismissed as unlawful and unenforceable.

Settlement

After the Ombudsman’s opinion was released, Mr. Young requested a meeting with the city’s attorney to discuss a possible settlement. In the end, the settlement agreed on by the City Council and Mr. Young was for a residential community consisting of 80 single-family homes, 14,000 square feet of open space, and a 7,000 square foot commercial building. While this changes the use of that land from commercial to residential, the city agreed to the settlement for several reasons.

  1. Based on the Ombudsman’s opinion, the city’s chances of prevailing in court on all 10 conditions were slim. Whether the city was required to approve the 291-unit congregate care facility or agreed to the settlement, the land would be used for residential purposes, not commercial.
  2. Throughout this process, the number one concern heard from residents was related to the density of the project. The settlement lowered the number of housing units from 291 to 80.
  3. The original project was for a large facility of leased units as a senior apartment complex. The new agreement will be homes that are purchased, not leased.
  4. The layout and use of the land with the settlement matches the adjacent residential area, whereas the 291-unit congregate care facility would be very dense and would be the tallest building in the city. The proposed zone change under the settlement agreement better fits with the rest of the community and the surrounding area.

Next Steps

The developer of the project will go through the subdivision approval process as outlined in city code, which means they will submit plans to the Planning Commission and the City Council for review. Additionally, the rezoning of this land for residential use will go to the Planning Commission and City Council. The concept plans provided by the developer at this point are provided below, though these plans could change as it goes through the approval process. However, the number of houses will not exceed 80 and the size of the commercial building will remain the same. Additionally, this will be an HOA community and the intent of the developer is to market it as a 55+ HOA.

While the original intent of this land was to serve as a commercial district for providing residents with retail goods and services, we are pleased that the resolution consists of 80 individually-owned homes instead of the original proposal of a 291-unit senior residential facility with leased units. I appreciate the feedback we received from residents throughout this process, and the help of our staff and legal team to finalize an agreement that satisfied all parties. We look forward to welcoming a new neighborhood into our community and adding some additional retail space to our commercial zone.

Public Safety Services

Over the next few months, the city will be soliciting bids for public safety services. We currently receive our police services through a contract with American Fork Police Department and our fire and EMS services through an interlocal agreement with Lone Peak Public Safety, which also provides services to Alpine and Highland. Because our contract with American Fork Police will expire in 2019, last year the City Council decided it would be best to go through a bid process for our public safety services to research all options available to our city. This is not to suggest that we are unhappy with either American Fork or Lone Peak. We receive exceptional service from both entities and appreciate the relationships we have built with those who serve our community.

Because of our location, we are in a unique situation in that we have a few neighboring cities who have expressed interest in partnering with our city for public safety services. In addition to neighboring cities, we also have the option of utilizing the county for fire and/or police. Other cities of our size may only have one or two options available to them, so we are fortunate that we have multiple options, all of which are highly qualified.

Public safety is our largest General Fund expense and we are anticipating an increase in both fire and police services. With the growth that has come to our area, there has been an increase in the number of calls to dispatch for public safety services. As we review bids the City Council will be discussing items such as what level of a police presence we need, and what levels of staffing we want for fire and EMS in our city.

While the impact on our budget matters, we will be looking at several other factors as we go through each bid. For example, as we look at police services, one thing to keep in mind is that we have experienced an increase in the number of calls for police services over the past few years.

A significant portion of those calls is responding to issues related to theft and other issues in our commercial area. We also saw an increase in property crimes in 2017, many of which were related to open vehicles or garages. While our police department is proactively analyzing data each month to help us identify trends and issues in order to reduce crimes of opportunity, we may wish to explore increasing patrols or having an officer stationed in our public safety building. Adding more patrols and/or increasing the police presence in our city increases our cost, but might be something worth considering, especially with the growth that is coming to our area around North County Blvd. In addition to patrols and presence, we will also be looking at other services that the police department provides, such as community outreach programs, victim’s advocate services, and other resources that are important to members of our community. Our budget for police services for the fiscal year 2018 is $420,395.

When it comes to fire and EMS services, response time is essential. When we formed the Lone Peak Public Safety District with Alpine and Highland (I’ll refer to it as LPPSD or the District), the plan was for each city to have a fully-staffed station in order to quickly respond to fire and medical calls. Unfortunately, the cost to do this has been challenging for all three cities and we have been unable to keep all three stations fully staffed. There have been multiple occasions when the District has had to close either the Cedar Hills or Alpine station because of staffing shortages. The District Board is working with the new fire chief to address this, but may not be able to staff at levels that were originally agreed to.

When we talk about being fully-staffed, that means having four firefighters/EMS personnel at each station at all times. This is because, by law, when firefighters respond to a fire call, they are not allowed to enter a burning building unless a team of four arrives at the scene. That same rule does not apply to medical calls; we can have a team of two or three EMS personnel respond to a medical call. If we have four firefighters at all three stations at all times, they are able to respond to a fire in each city. However, fire calls are a small fraction of the number of calls we receive. In 2017, the number of calls for fire and/or EMS dispatched to Cedar Hills were as follows:

We also have mutual aid agreements with all surrounding cities and each city responds to help with large fires, as needed. Knowing this, a valid question to ask is whether or not it makes sense to staff all three stations with four firefighters at all times, or if we instead lower the staffing levels for each to handle medical calls and work together to handle fire calls. As we will be receiving bids from other entities as well, we will be looking at response times as it will be important to know how quickly those entities can respond to every area of our city. Fire/EMS services are currently our largest public safety expense at $680,496 and we expect an increase this year.

As the Council discusses these services, I urge residents to share feedback. Public safety is an essential service and we value your opinion. When the bids come in, we will have a better understanding of what our options are and what the impact will be on the budget moving forward.

UPDATE
Based on a comment received, I am providing some financial information showing costs of Fire/EMS as a percentage of General Fund Revenue for Cedar Hills and cities of about the same population and General Fund Revenue.

Transportation Taxes and Watershed Protections

This week I want to focus on two additional bills that we’ve been discussing.

Transportation

The first is SB136, Transportation Governance Amendments. The State is looking at transportation needs for the future, especially with the anticipated population growth, and this bill makes several changes related to transportation. This includes items such as:

  • Changing the UTA governance structure from the current 16-member board to a 3 full-time member commission with a 9-member advisory board. The 3-member commission members would each serve a three-year term and would receive feedback and direction from the advisory board.
  • Increasing the registration fees for electric cars from $44 to $194, and for hybrids from $44 to $65. The intent of this increase is to collect revenue from vehicles that use roads but do not contribute as much revenue through gas tax. (There is pushback on the increase by those who feel owners of these vehicles should not be penalized as these vehicles help with air quality issues, but that debate needs its own blog post).
  • Implementing a road usage charge pilot program, which is a fee based on mileage. UDOT is performing this pilot program with 100 volunteers.
  • Imposing the fourth quarter-cent sales tax on counties that did not pass this in 2015.

This post will focus on the last bullet point above. State law allows counties to impose an additional sales tax for certain transportation needs. This sales tax is divided into four quarters and must be used as outlined in State code. Below is a table showing how these funds may be used.

Utah County has imposed the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter-cent sales taxes, but has not imposed the 4th quarter. You may recall that this proposed tax increase, known as Proposition 1, was defeated in seven counties, including Utah County. This proposal was for an increase of 0.25% with 40% going to UTA, 40% going to cities, and 20% going to counties. All funds would be for transportation projects. Many stated that while transportation funding is needed, residents rejected the increase because of the lack of trust many have in UTA.

As part of SB136, the State is now saying that counties will have until 2022 to impose the allowed quarter-cent sales taxes. If counties do not impose them, the State will and 100% of the revenue will go to the State. This bill also allows county commissioners to impose the taxes without going to a vote of the residents, though the commissioners still have the option to put it on a ballot if they so choose. If this bill passes, I would encourage Utah County residents to ask the Utah County Commissioners to impose the  4th quarter-cent. If we are going to be paying it we may as well have some of the revenue coming into our city and county to fund our roads and other transportation projects.

Watershed Protection

The other bill is HB135, Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Amendments. Currently, State law allows cities to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction for the purpose of maintaining and protecting watershed resources from injury and pollution. The law says that cities “are authorized and empowered to enact ordinances preventing pollution or contamination of the streams or watercourses from which the inhabitants of cities derive their water supply, in whole or in part, for domestic and culinary purposes.” This is important as cities are obligated to provide safe water to their residents and, as such, should be able to implement policies to protect those water resources. Cedar Hills did implement a Watershed Protection ordinance last month. This bill would remove many of the rights cities have to protect water resources. It instead gives authority to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to establish standards and administer controls to maintain water quality in watersheds. However, DEQ has stated they do not want this authority, nor do they have the resources needed to take on this responsibility. I am working with the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) and other cities to oppose this bill. I would encourage residents to reach out to the bill sponsor (Rep Michael Noel, mnoel@kanab.net) as well as our local representatives (Rep Mike Kennedy, mikekennedy@le.utah.gov and Senator Dan Hemmert, dhemmert@le.utah.gov) to express opposition to this bill. I have heard that Rep Noel may be looking at rewording this bill to only include Salt Lake City, however, it still sets a precedent and would make it easier for the Legislature to remove this local authority from any city.

Affordable Housing in Utah and What It Means for Cedar Hills

The Issue

Utah’s economy is booming, and we can see growth all around us. This means more and better paying jobs, but has also resulted in a housing shortage, especially for those who have lower incomes. The number of available and affordable units for low-income families is decreasing, which puts these families at a greater risk of being homeless. The State Legislature is looking to push through legislation this year that will financially penalize cities that do not have adequate affordable housing.

The Stats

According to a report published by The Department of Workforce Services, Housing and Community Development Division, the median family income (MFI) for a Utah household is $5634/month or $67,608/year. The report states that to be considered affordable housing, a family/individual should not be paying more than 30% of their income for housing. Based on that info, a family at the median income level should not be paying more than $1690 for rent.

The report goes on to look at data for those making 80%, 50%, and 30% of the MFI and the availability of housing units for those families and individuals. What they have found is the closer a family/individual gets to low-income or extremely low-income, the fewer units that are are available.

The Arguments

Housing developers claim that the lack of affordable housing units is primarily based on city zoning ordinances that limit or prohibit high-density and low-income housing units and high impact fees assessed by cities. Cities have pushed back stating that market conditions and other conditions outside of local government land use authority are contributing to the increase in housing prices. These include items such as increased costs for building materials, labor, and land; market demand (developers are looking to build “luxury apartments”), and realtor fees (real estate commissions = $325 million in Salt Lake County in 2016).

The Proposal

While a bill hasn’t yet been introduced, legislators have stated they will be introducing one that assesses a fee to cities that lack adequate low-income housing units in their city. A preliminary concept is to base the fee on a formula that considers the amount of affordable housing in the city and exempts cities that house a homeless resource center. Speaker Hughes has referred to this as “must pass” legislation.

The Impact on Cedar Hills

As the bill has not yet been introduced, we do not yet know what this means for Cedar Hills. Based on housing data available to us, it is clear we do not have any housing units in the city that qualify as low-income housing. One concern that we’ve raised is that for small cities such as ours that are close to being built-out residentially, there simply isn’t room to expand to zone for high-density low-income housing units. We have been following zoning ordinances that have been legal and in place for decades, but now will be penalized for not having room for this type of growth. Additionally, based on land prices in our area and lack of public transportation, it is unlikely that developers would be interested in building low-income housing in our area. And as we’ve seen from the high-density proposals that have been presented to us, high-density does not necessarily mean it qualifies as affordable housing. In fact, an argument made by representatives of a nearby Utah County city is that they have zoned portions of their city for high-density housing but developers are building luxury apartments in those areas. They do not have developers interested in building low-income housing in their city.

Questions that we are waiting to receive answers to include:

  • What criteria will be looked at when assessing a fine? Population? Land availability?
  • Who will collect, manage, and expend the revenue generated by the fee?
  • What homeless resources will qualify for funding generated by the fee? Will entities such as Lantern House in Ogden, a non-profit organization started by local religious organizations, be eligible to receive funds generated from this fee?

Once we have more information we will assess how this will impact our budget. It appears it may have a significant impact on city budgets, especially for cities such as ours that do not have any low-income housing. While there is clearly a need to address the housing issues that exist in Utah, and while I applaud the State Legislature for wanting to address housing shortages for low-income housing families, it is important for legislators to understand the impact these decisions have on municipalities. A better option may be to seek solutions at the county level instead of pitting cities against each other.

There are a few other bills that we are watching including small cell legislation (cell towers) and extraterritorial jurisdiction amendments (watershed protection programs). I will post more next week about the impact of bills such as these and how we are advocating for our city.

East-West Connector and State-Owned Land

This week I want to talk about the land south of Lone Peak High School, located in Highland. This land is owned by the State of Utah and was set aside for future development, with the intent that the land would generate revenue to provide ongoing funding for the Utah State Developmental Center (USDC), which is located just south of that land and within American Fork boundaries. Discussions about this land and an east-west connector road through the land have been ongoing since 1977. In 2014 the State House and Senate approved a concurrent resolution in support of the master plan created by the USDC, which can be viewed here.

While this land is outside of Cedar Hills, what happens there will have an impact on our community. There are two areas on which I want to focus, the first being the east-west connector road and the second being ownership of the land.

East-West Connector Road

As part of this development, there were discussions regarding an east-west road that would connect the cities of American Fork, Highland, and Cedar Hills and would go through the State-owned land. One suggestion had the road starting in the lower southwest portion and going diagonally through the proposed development to connect with Cedar Hills Drive, as seen below.

Fortunately, we’ve been told by the project manager that after further discussion, it has been determined that the diagonal road will be cut from the plans after concerns were raised about putting additional traffic at that intersection, which is already very busy when school starts and ends at Lone Peak. In May 2017 the USDC Board approved a resolution granting approval for the development of the 143 acres as outlined in the master plan, which includes the east-west connector as seen below:

This road connects to 5300 West (SR-74/Alpine Hwy) in Highland at Canal Blvd (9860 N), goes through the southern portion of the proposed development, and connects to Harvey Blvd in Cedar Hills. There will be a traffic light installed at North County Blvd and Harvey Blvd. This proposed road will reduce travel time from Cedar Hills to American Fork and parts of Highland (including Mountain Ridge Junior High) and makes our commercial zone more desirable to developers as it creates a more direct route to Cedar Hills for residents of American Fork and Highland.

As part of the resolution, the Board stipulated that the road will have a speed limit of 25mph, will only be two lanes with no center turn lane, will have bike lanes along both sides, and will not allow roadside parking. This may have an impact on available funding for the road. In 2006 and 2009, Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) approved $4.17 million for construction of this road. However, legally MAG can only fund roads that are of “regional significance”, which is defined as a minor collector or above. According to MAG, the UDOT study for this development identifies the need for a collector class road, which is identified as a three-lane cross-section and typically will have a speed limit in the 35mph range. In discussions I’ve had with representatives of MAG and USDC, I have been told that MAG can fund the road with the speed and size limitations approved by the USDC Board, but only as long as the road is designated a collector road. For this reason, several cities in North Utah County are passing resolutions asking for the State to approve the construction of this east-west connector and requesting that the road has the necessary elements to maintain the classification as a collector road.

Ownership

Because the purpose of this land is to provide a continual source of revenue for the USDC, the State plans on keeping ownership of most of the land, which would include some housing elements and some commercial elements. My understanding is that the State plans to sell off the single-family housing units and retain ownership of the high-density housing and commercial areas. The current master plan looks like this:

As you can see from the chart above, the density consists of:

  • 165 single family lots
  • 630 apartments
  • 49 townhomes
  • 200 senior apartments
  • 28 senior single-family units
  • 134,000 sq ft of retail space
  • 40,200 sq ft of office space

The land currently resides in Highland, though the USDC Board has discussed the possibility of requesting annexation into American Fork as the USDC is located in American Fork and they feel it would be easier to deal with one city. While this density is higher than either city would normally allow, the State is not required to adhere to municipal zoning ordinances.

Why does this matter to Cedar Hills?

The chart above shows that an estimated 1,072 housing units will be added to this area, in addition to retail and office space. All the land that is State-owned is exempt from property tax. This means while the city in which the land resides will see an increased need for public safety personnel and equipment, and while the school district will have a significant number of new students added to the school system, neither entity will be able to collect property taxes from the State-owned portions to pay for these needed services. It is safe to assume that the added cost will be pushed to existing property owners. We contract with American Fork for police services and with Lone Peak Public Safety District for fire services, which serves Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills. Regardless of which city this land resides in, it is reasonable to expect that an increased demand for public safety services with no associated increase in revenue to cover those services will impact our residents as well those in Highland and/or American Fork. The mayors of American Fork and Highland are meeting with State representatives and requesting that the State sell the entire 143 acres for development instead of retaining ownership of the land. If this were to occur, the developer of the land would need to comply with city ordinances (which should reduce the proposed density) and owners would be subject to property tax, which would help cover the cost of the increased need for services.

Call to Action

I encourage you to reach out to Representative Mike Kennedy (mikekennedy@le.utah.gov) and Senator Dan Hemmert (dhemmert@le.utah.gov) to

1) express your support for the approval of the Murdock Connector Road to be built as required for classification as a connector road, and

2) list any concerns you have with the amount of density being proposed and the lack of funding to pay for public safety services that will be needed to serve the proposed development.

Feel free to email me at jrees@cedarhills.org with any questions or feedback. As I have updates, I will share those as well.

Welcome to a New Year!

It has been my honor to serve as a City Council member for the past six years and I look forward to continuing to serve Cedar Hills as mayor over the next four years. We have many important issues to discuss and, as always, I welcome your input and feedback as we make decisions for our community.

Communication and transparency have been and will continue to be a priority for me. While I will continue to have a monthly column in the city newsletter, one of the best ways to receive timely and in-depth updates from me is to follow my Facebook page at facebook.com/mayorjenneyrees or to visit this blog. I plan on using this blog to keep residents informed on city issues, as well provide updates from the county and state that impact our community. You may also email me at jrees@cedarhills.org if you wish to receive email updates of the messages posted here.

Because I will now be responsible for chairing City Council meetings, I won’t be typing notes during the meeting and posting to the blog I used to maintain as a council member. However, I will post a brief update by the next day on the topics that were discussed and voted on. This will be posted to my Mayor Jenney Rees Facebook page.

While Cedar Hills is nearly built out, Utah County is still growing, and it is important that we prepare for that growth and preserve those aspects of our community that make Cedar Hills a great place to live. I look forward to working with the City Council, city staff, and residents as we plan for our future.