A big thank you to the Cedar Ridge PTA for hosting our meet-the-candidates event. Also, thank you to all those who attended and submitted questions. For those who were unable to attend, below are the questions we received and my responses. I am happy to discuss these or any other topics that we didn’t address.
Is the current status of Canyon Road in Cedar Hills acceptable? If not, what will you do to make it acceptable in the next 4 years?
The current status is unacceptable. There are several known safety issues that exist along this road, including lack of center turn lanes, lack of shoulders and sidewalks, visibility issues, drainage issues, and surface damage. Through a deal with the State, the County took ownership of the road in 2014 and while they are looking at making some small improvements, the only thing they plan on doing for the portion of the road located in Cedar Hills is an overlay. The county commissioners have fought against adding safety improvements by claiming that there are no safety issues, or stating that county roads don’t have safety features such as curb and gutter, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
While most county roads may not have these features, this does not have to be the case for every county-owned road. The commissioners have the authority to create policy for infrastructure and could decide that safety features for roads should be based on the traffic counts, road designation, and location of the road, not solely on who owns the road. Canyon Road has average daily traffic counts that exceed 10,000 – far higher than any other road owned by Utah County. This road is highly traveled and is considered both a connector and arterial road. In addition to being a connector/arterial, it serves as an access point to American Fork Canyon.
Funding safe roads and infrastructure is an essential role of government and should be a priority. While I realize that an overlay will soon be coming for Canyon Road to address some of the surface issues, I will continue to advocate for the County to address all safety issues that exist on this road. As Utah County citizens, we pay taxes to the county and deserve to have our concerns regarding safety taken seriously.
Do you support commercial zoning of St. Andrews Estates?
I do not. This area was originally part of the golf course and zoned open space. Later when that land was reconfigured, it was zoned residential and an agreement was entered into with the original developer to grant some residential density in that area. I believe any commercial development should occur in our already established commercial zone. I do not support re-zoning any of our residential or open space areas for commercial use.
Do you support zoning St. Andrews Estates as open space, for future use as park space? (This could include a dog park, mountain biking trail, or numerous other uses, either with a fence to shelter people from golf balls or reconfiguration of the course to provide for a different space on the hillside for public use. This may be 10+ years in the future.)
I am open to this option. The city spent approximately $600,000 to reconfigure the golf course to create the residential lots known as St. Andrews Estates, with the intent that the proceeds from the sale of these lots would be used to pay down the golf course debt. If that doesn’t happen, then the city wasted $600,000 and changed the golf course for the worse for no benefit. I also support paying down our golf course bond as quickly as we can. My only reservation is for the people who may purchase those lots. Over the six years I’ve served on the Council we’ve heard from residents who live, walk, and play near the driving range. We’ve heard complaints about property being damaged due to stray golf balls going over the fence, about pedestrians and cars being hit by golf balls, and concerns soccer teams have had with the number of golf balls landing at Mesquite Park. We eventually approved the money to construct higher nets at the driving range to reduce these issues. If there is a high likelihood of damage to homes, or if the safety of those living below the hole on the east of Canyon Road is going to be an issue, I would rather see that land re-zoned open space. However, I would encourage that we re-seed it with native vegetation and let it blend in with the mountain. If it is too risky to build homes there due to damage from golf balls, it is also too risky to have people recreating in the area. I don’t believe it makes sense to spend more money trying to reconfigure the golf course again.
The city recently purchased 12 acres to develop a park. Would you prefer to complete the park in phases that may or may not cost more due to the fast growth in construction costs over several years or finish the park all at once issuing debt at relatively low interest rates?
My preference would be to finish the park all at once. While saving up for large expenditures makes sense with our personal finances, it doesn’t when it comes to government projects. The reason for this is that many may pay taxes to the city, which is then saved up for a project, only to move before the project is completed, and therefore never benefit from the money they contributed. However, if a bond is issued and the project is completed all at once, then those paying for the bond now are also enjoying the benefit now. I also support this option as a bond can go on a ballot for residents to vote on whether or not to fund a project of this size.
Public safety–fire and police contracts will be renewed or updated in the next 2 years with substantial increases likely to maintain the level of service. Would you want to raise taxes or fees to maintain or increase the level of service for fire and/or police, or would you be willing to consolidate fire stations or move police services to another partner to reduce costs?
Public safety is our largest budget expenditure and will continue to rise, which is the case for other cities as well. This is an issue that needs more research and discussion. We need data showing response times from every station within Lone Peak Public Safety, as well as from neighboring cities. We need to know what are considered acceptable standards for response times and how neighboring agencies can meet those for us if we did decide to make a change. While we currently have fire stations in Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills, the stations in Alpine and Cedar Hills are rarely fully staffed, which suggests consolidation may be an option. Once we have all the data on what options are available, what the response times will be for each of those options, and what the cost will be for each option, we need to have a discussion as a community on what level of service we are willing to pay for. It may be that if we want to continue with what was originally planned, which is a fully-staffed fire station in our city, we will need to pay more in taxes to cover the cost.
Nobody wants to pay for legal services, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil to protect the city residents desires. Should the city spend funds fighting for residents desires on legal cases that are probable or likely to lose? At what point do you limit your spending on legal services? $100,000, 1 million or until the city is bankrupt?
I would never support bankrupting the city for any legal expense, nor would I support fighting a battle that our attorney said we were going to lose. Whenever legal services have been required, we work closely with our attorney to decide on the best course of action. It is important for the mayor and council to work closely with the city attorney to understand the expense and risks of any course of action for every lawsuit, and when allowed, to communicate to residents why the final decision was made.
What are your thoughts on a community swimming pool in Cedar Hills?
While that would be a wonderful addition to our community, I don’t believe it makes financial sense. We will be paying off the golf course bond for some time, and our population size makes it challenging to fund additional large projects. In a recent survey conducted throughout the city, residents were provided information on three different types of pools and asked if they would support a bond to fund the pool. On the $5million bond, which would increase taxes approximately $13/month per household, 63% of residents said no. On the $9million bond, which would increase taxes approximately $22/month per household, 61% of residents said no. On the $12million bond, which would increase taxes approximately $27/month per household, 70% of residents said no. When asked about a $1.5million bond to build a splash pad, which could require a monthly tax increase of approximately $3.50/month per household, 52% of residents said yes. With this information, if we are going to have a water facility of any kind, it makes the most sense to build a splash park at our newly acquired park in the southern portion of the city.
What skills or expertise would you bring to the council that the current council members don’t already have?
I have been serving on the City Council for almost six years and am running for mayor this year. One of the important roles of the mayor is to serve as the official spokesperson and represent the city in a variety of ways. This includes serving on boards and interacting with officials from throughout the state. In order to best represent the community, it is essential for the mayor to communicate with fellow elected officials and staff, and to consistently engage with residents to best understand the desires residents have for the city. I have worked hard over the past six years to engage with residents through a variety of formats and will continue to do so. I provide all my notes from Council meetings on my blog, and I am actively engaged in sharing information and responding to questions through social media. I share my notes and updates from my assignments with the City Council and work with staff to make sure I understand all sides of the issues we face. I will encourage communication and collaboration with elected officials, staff, and residents as we work to address the needs and concerns of the city. I will proactively share information that I am legally allowed to as it relates to our city and/or on issues that impact our community and quality of life, and will solicit feedback on those issues. I remain committed to representing the will of our residents.
How would you attract businesses to the commercial zone (Be specific.)?
We recently updated our commercial zoning ordinances to more accurately define the intended purpose of the commercial zone and describe what is allowed and what is prohibited. This was based on feedback received from residents over the past several years and helped clarify any portions of our code that some felt were unclear. As for attracting businesses, the biggest factor for commercial development is population. While our population is small, there are things happening now that make our commercial zone more desirable. First, it appears the State Legislature is prepared to move forward with developing their land just south of Lone Peak High School. Part of this development will include single-family and high-density housing, which brings more people to the area who need goods and services. Additionally, the east-west connector road should be approved in the next legislative session, which will connect Cedar Hills to American Fork through the southern portion of that land and make it easier for residents in Cedar Hills, Alpine, Highland, and American Fork to get all four cities. As this road will be near our commercial zone, that also increases the value of the area.
We are currently under contract on the nine acres owned by the city, just south of Harts, but I cannot provide more information than that at this time. The rest of the property in our commercial area is privately owned, but the items mentioned above also make their land more desirable to commercial developers.
What have you done as a volunteer or otherwise to be engaged with the city?
I have volunteered for numerous beautification projects. I have served as the volunteer coordinator on the Family Festival Committee for the past two years and volunteer at every Family Festival event. I currently volunteer every Friday for the American Fork Police Victim’s Advocate Department.
What is your position on the PARC tax?
I support the PARC tax. If approved, it would add an additional 0.1% tax on all retail items sold in Cedar Hills, which means that for every $10 spent in a retail establishment within Cedar Hills, the city would assess a tax of one penny. By collecting this small sales tax, residents and non-residents who shop in Cedar Hills assist in generating funds for parks, arts, and recreational opportunities within the city. While this tax is minimal, it has the ability to have a large positive impact on our community and quality life. Our parks, trails, and community events are highly valued and provide the sense of community that makes Cedar Hills a place where people want to raise families and enjoy time together as friends and neighbors. The PARC tax provides revenue for those things—parks, trails, and community events–most desired by our residents. Because it is a tax added to retail sales, residents from other cities that shop in Cedar Hills also contribute to the revenue generated for these services. Our commercial district, adjacent to Walmart, is now on the verge of expanding. As these retail opportunities expand in our city, the PARC tax can provide funding for such things as the completion of our trails system, completion of our newly-acquired 12-acre park near Deerfield Elementary, and the provision of community services.
Lindon, PG, AF and other cities around us have senior centers. We’re too small to afford that. What, if anything, should / could Cedar Hills do to provide more support/activities / engagement for seniors in the community?
If there is a desire for this among seniors in our community, I would like to see activities scheduled at the Community Center. The purpose of this building is to provide these types of community opportunities for residents, and I would love to see it utilized more for these types of activities.
Would you support a tax/bond increase to make improvements to Canyon Road beyond what the county is willing to do?
No. The County owns this road and is responsible for improvements. When the County approached us about taking ownership of Canyon Road, we hired an outside firm to provide us with information on what it would cost us over a 30 year period to maintain it to acceptable standards. Without adding any new safety features such as sidewalks and bike lanes, it was estimated to be $5 million. If safety improvements were added, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, roundabouts, etc, the cost would be much higher. Our city is not in a position to take on the financial responsibilities of a regional road like Canyon Road.
Communication with residents is a challenge for the city government. What would you suggest to improve connection with residents?
I would like to see City Council meetings live-streamed and posted on YouTube so that residents who are interested have an opportunity to participate. The city has made a push to move away from paper and utilize more electronic communication, such as social media and email, and I’ve heard positive feedback from this. I would encourage elected officials to engage with residents via social media as that has been an effective and easy way to understand multiple points of view.
Have you read the General Plan? What changes do you think need to be made in it?
Yes, and it needs to be updated. The title page still refers to Cedar Hills as a town instead of a city, and the last revision was done in 2002. Since then, some of the projects suggested have been completed and others have been removed from the Capital Projects Plan. While much of it is still relevant as it relates to the desired look and feel for the community, it is time for a significant update.
What would you like to see done with the park on Harvey?
We recently hired a group to help us develop a parks master plan for the entire city, and it includes the park on Harvey Blvd. While they are in the early concept design phase, I am pleased to see that the design is being based on feedback provided by residents through the recent park survey. As the design process continues, I will encourage outreach and communication with residents so that the final plans reflect the desires of the community.
Tell us how you would gauge the sentiments of residents on issues you will vote on?
I rely heavily on data provided through surveys, through discussions posted on social media, on public comments made in Council meetings, and on information provided to me directly through email and phone calls. I will continue to reach out to residents through all these formats in order to best understand differing perspectives and make decisions based on the needs and desires of residents.
The various budgets set priorities for the city. Have you looked at the budgets? If so, what shifts in priorities might you suggest?
Yes, I review the budget multiple times every year as the Council is responsible for approving the budget. I would like to see our community center used more by residents and by the city for community events, and would approve a decrease in the expected revenue from other events, such as wedding receptions, in order to accommodate more community uses of that facility.
Are youth sports a proper role of government or should that be left to others to provide?
It is not the proper role for federal or state government, but city government exists to provide services. One of the benefits of living in a city is that we, the residents of the city, have a voice in deciding what we want our community to look like. Residents of Cedar Hills have expressed support for youth recreation, open space, and community events such as our annual Family Festival. These programs and services create a family-friendly atmosphere and provide opportunities for our youth to participate in recreational activities. Our recreation staff continually analyze which programs are the most utilized and charge participation fees that cover the cost of youth sports programs so they are not subsidized with tax dollars.
Should the city provide funds for the bookmobile or retain them to subsidize residents to use nearby libraries?
The County used to provide bookmobile services to our community without an additional cost but recently decided to start charging cities who wanted bookmobile services. In order to keep the service that was being offered to us, which was a 2-hour stop every other Monday from 1-3pm, our annual cost would have been $5616. We currently budget $17,000/year to offer library reimbursements of $40 per household, which means 425 households in Cedar Hills can receive a reimbursement each year. In order to fund the bookmobile, we’d either have to reduce the number of households eligible for reimbursement to 284 or reduce the reimbursement to less than $40. I asked for feedback on this and overwhelmingly the feedback was to keep the current library reimbursement structure as is. Some of the reasons for this are 1) using a library is more convenient as you can go anytime during business hours instead of only having access two Mondays from 1-3pm; 2) the local elementary schools offer free year-round library services for children; 3) the bookmobile was out of commission multiple times, which meant we didn’t always have service; 4) the other city libraries have agreements which allow for cardholders to check out books from multiple libraries; and 5) bookmobile cards can be used by any resident, so Cedar Hills cardholders can still get books from the bookmobile when it stops in Alpine. Based on feedback and the information above, I believe it makes sense to continue to offer the $40 library reimbursement and not continue with the bookmobile.
We don’t do much in the way of joint ventures with nearby Highland and Alpine. Why do you think that is? Should we look more in that direction for things like recreation centers or not? If so, how would you approach that?
The only joint venture we have with Highland and Alpine is Lone Peak Public Safety District, and while it has benefits, it has also been challenging. Each city wants to protect its residents from tax increases and this has led to some difficult decisions when it comes to properly funding the district. Too often there have been arguments over which city is paying too much, or which city isn’t contributing enough. There have been arguments over the formula used to determine how much each city will pay and which stations will be staffed with how many people. When you have three cities with unique challenges and different priorities, these joint ventures can be difficult. I am not optimistic that the three cities could agree on a long-term plan for a recreation center. Before any discussions were had with regards to a venture such as this, I believe the three cities need to first work out the issues that exist within Lone Peak Public Safety.
Did you volunteer for any part of Family Festival? Explain.
Yes, I volunteer for every Family Festival event.
Heritage Park is filled with giant, weak-wooded trees that are starting to die, which has required the removal of several trees along the creek bed. A comprehensive tree pruning job was estimated at more than $100,000. Would you try to extend the life of these struggling trees with pruning and irrigation improvements, or do the status quo and take down the trees as they die or fund new stronger trees as a replacement for the affected areas?
I would first seek an opinion from our parks maintenance team as they know better than I on how to best resolve this issue. It may be a combination of pruning and irrigation improvements along with planting stronger replacement trees. One of the best features of Heritage Park is the beautiful trees and I would support efforts to preserve that feature.
Who should approve free community events organized by outside groups or individuals at the city’s event center? What qualifications should be met by the event center when they are not paying?
The current policy is that staff approves free community events. This is the best course of action as decisions are then not based on political pressure. When a group or individual requests use of the facility at no charge, staff will generally approve it if the event is open to the entire community at no cost to residents, and if the event is not political in nature. All political events are excluded from the no-charge policy as the legal opinion provided by the city attorney specifically said that state law prohibits the use of city funds for any political purposes. This includes meet-the-candidate events or other similar political gatherings. Decisions of this nature should be made by staff, with guidance from the city attorney if there are questions.