How we are addressing affordable housing in Cedar Hills

Affordable housing is an important topic in Utah, and in 2019 the State Legislature will again be discussing potential policies, incentives, and penalties to encourage more affordable housing throughout the state. As elected officials and staff, we have had several conversations on how we can do our part while also maintaining what residents love about Cedar Hills. We’ve also encouraged legislators to implement policies that encourage all types of affordable housing, but that does not enforce a one-size-fits-all approach as each city is unique and has different opportunities and challenges.

As we look at how we can do our part to allow for affordable housing, we recognize that we face several challenges. These include a lack of available land as we are almost built out, distance from major transportation corridors, distance from employment centers, and a lack of public transit, all of which make Cedar Hills a less than desirable location for apartments. We also recognize there are other factors that impact the affordability of housing that are outside of city government control, such as land costs, rising costs of labor and materials, construction labor shortages, and market conditions. We are committed to helping provide opportunities for affordable housing in Cedar Hills, and as such we have implemented the following:

  1. As detailed in a previous newsletter, we recently updated our Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance. As part of this, we eliminated all impact fees and reduced the registration fee from once per year to once per household, making it more affordable for residents to own and operate an ADU, such as a basement apartment.
  2. We allow for single-room rentals. Every house in the city may have up to four unrelated individuals living in the house.
  3. We are looking to reduce home-based business regulations to allow residents to use accessory buildings for business purposes while also continuing to adhere to nuisance ordinances, such as lighting, noise, and parking.
  4. As part of the settlement agreement on the property located west of The Charleston, we created a new PD-1 zone that is mostly residential with smaller lots, at 7.2 homes per acre. This is some of the highest residential density in our city. As it is located near North County Blvd, it is a good location for a higher density development.
  5. We have allowed higher density housing in the form of townhomes on the two streets in our city considered collector roads, which are Canyon Road and Harvey Blvd.
  6. Within the last six years, we had an outside firm evaluate our building impact fees and adjusted them accordingly, which included removing some impact fees altogether.

From discussions we’ve had, it appears that state leaders will recognize that these efforts comply with their stated intent of increasing the number of affordable housing units in Utah. We will continue to have conversations with legislators encouraging them to recognize the efforts we have made and to allow each city to provide opportunities that work in their community. As always, we welcome your feedback on this important issue.

For those interested, here are some statistics and information provided in our recently approved Moderate Income Housing Plan on the current housing market in Cedar Hills. The entire Moderate Income Housing Plan can be viewed here.

  1. According to the American Community Survey (2012-2016), Cedar Hills had 2,679 housing units at 96.5% occupancy rate.
  2. The housing stock is relatively young, with approximately 66.8% of the housing units being
    constructed 2000 or later, and a full 93% constructed 1980 or later.
  3. Single-family dwellings constituted 84.8% of the housing stock with another 9.7% being attached single-family dwellings and small multi-family units.
  4. Twenty plus unit apartments made up the remaining 5.5% of housing units.

 

An affordable unit is one which a household at the defined income threshold can rent without paying more than 30% of its gross income on housing and utility costs. A unit is affordable and available only if that unit is both affordable and vacant or is currently occupied by a household at or below the
defined income threshold.

Renters seem disproportionately burdened by housing costs in Cedar Hills according to rental
rates from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey.

County Quarter-Cent Sales Tax

On December 18th the Utah County Commissioners will vote on whether to impose a ¼-cent sales tax countywide that would be used to fund transportation infrastructure and operations. They are asking for feedback from the City Councils in Utah County so we will hold a special electronic session on Monday for our Council to consider and vote on a resolution. As such, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what this is and provide residents with the opportunity to weigh in.

In 2018, the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 136, which among many other things included the following:

  • Changed the board of UTA from a 16-member board to a 3-member commission with one representative from Weber/Davis counties, one from Salt Lake County, and one from Utah/Tooele counties. There is also a 9-member advisory board that is to work with the new commission.
  • Allows for counties to enact a quarter-cent sales tax (1 penny for every $4 spent in the county) to fund transportation needs. However, time limits for enacting the tax were set.

In the bill, three options were provided.

Option 1

If a county enacted the quarter-cent sales tax before June 30, 2019, the county could keep all the funds collected during the first year to pay down debt service or fund regionally significant transportation projects. After July 1, 2019, the funds collected from the tax are split with 40% going to cities, 40% going to transit, and 20% going to the county.

Option 2

If a county does not enact the quarter-cent sales tax before June 30, 2020, then cities have the option to enact the tax. The distribution of funds would be 50% to the city and 50% to transit, with nothing going to the county. If the county decided to enact the tax after June 30, 2020, it would only apply to those cities that had not already implemented the tax and unincorporated parts of the county.

Option 3

If the tax is not implemented by June 30, 2022, by a county or city, it can no longer be enacted.

As of today, Davis and Weber County approved this tax through a vote of their residents in 2015. Salt Lake County approved the tax a few months ago. Utah County leaders have discussed but not yet voted on this. Currently, one commissioner has stated he wants to wait and put it on the ballot in November 2019, one has expressed support for enacting it now, and one is asking for cities to weigh in.

This is a difficult position for city and county officials to be in. Voters in Utah County rejected Proposition 1 in 2015. At the same time, Utah County and cities are struggling to keep up with road infrastructure and maintenance needs, as evidenced by several cities implementing road fees, and the quarter-cent sales tax would generate some much-needed revenue for those projects. Here are the considerations for and against that I have discussed with others throughout the county.

Considerations For:

  1. Utah County is growing rapidly. We currently have approximately 600,000 residents but are projected to have 1.6 million residents by 2065 and surpass Salt Lake County at some point. Studies indicate approximately 65% of that growth is internal, meaning our children and grandchildren are choosing to stay and have families in Utah County. We must start planning and preparing for that growth. That includes new roads, new freeway systems, and alternate forms of transportation as we can’t build enough roads to handle that kind of congestion, especially with the geographical challenges we face.
  2. Utah County and cities are struggling to keep up with transportation infrastructure as revenues from gas taxes have decreased with more fuel-efficient vehicles and electric vehicles. Some cities, such as Provo, Highland, and Pleasant Grove have enacted monthly road fees to catch up on road projects. The Utah County Public Works Director has indicated that county road projects have been postponed due to lack of funding. The tax would bring in much-needed revenue for roads and transportation projects. The estimates we have received show this tax would bring in $22 million per year for the county, with Cedar Hills receiving $118,435 per year once the 40/40/20 split was in place. If the County did not enact the tax and Cedar Hills chose to do so in 2020, the portion to Cedar Hills would be $148,044. To better explain what this would mean for Cedar Hills, in our current budget we anticipate receiving $435,000 in road fund revenues but expending $695,000 in road projects. This means we must transfer money from the general fund to help make up the difference. 
  3. The Utah County Commissioners and UTA recently agreed to an interlocal agreement on the UTA portion of the tax that would benefit Utah County. The two main points being that UTA is required to use their portion, which is a little over $8 million per year, to pay down the $65 million bond that the county issued for the UVX (otherwise known as BRT) project. After that, UTA must spend the $8 million per year on Utah County transit projects and operations in consultation with the Utah County Council of Governments. Currently, Utah County spends about $6 million per year in bond payments and operation/maintenance costs for the UVX project so this would free up a considerable amount of county money to be used for other transportation needs. As Utah County has been using savings to fund operations and plans to use another $8 million of savings next year to cover current expenditures, this could have a substantial impact on the County budget and their ability to keep more in reserves.
  4. With Salt Lake, Weber, and Davis counties having approved the tax, they are in a better position to fund transportation and transit projects to prepare for growth. If Utah County doesn’t approve it, we will fall behind our neighboring counties along the Wasatch Front and it could be harder to get the UTA Board to approve transit projects in our county as two of the three represent Weber, Davis, and Salt Lake counties and will understandably want to keep those funds in those counties.

Considerations Against:

  1. Utah County residents voted against Proposition 1 in 2015. Now county and city leaders are being asked to enact it to fund needed transportation projects. If cities approve it, some will look at this as local leaders going against what their residents want.
  1. It’s a new tax and nobody likes to pay new taxes, especially as there have been tax and fee increases from other entities, such as school districts, cities, and special service districts.
  1. UTA doesn’t provide service to Cedar Hills. This is less of a concern for me as I look at our needs from a regional perspective and our residents are also dealing with the congestion issues of nearby cities that are rapidly growing, but for some, this is a concern.
  1. UTA has struggled with issues related to transparency and poor fiscal management and has about $2 billion in debt. The hope is that the new 3-member commission and 9-member advisory board will be able to get UTA on a better course, but UTA has a lot to overcome to gain back the trust of many. There are residents in our county who are opposed to giving any more money to UTA, even if it means paying higher taxes and/or fees to cities to fund road needs.

As our City Council will be voting on a resolution regarding the quarter-cent sales tax, I wanted to get this information out so that residents have an opportunity to understand the decision we face and to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your feedback and are happy to answer any questions.

A Wonderful Year

The close of this year marks the end of my first year serving as mayor, and it has been a privilege to serve in this capacity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I look forward to working together as we move our city into 2019. I want to express my gratitude for all those who work and serve on behalf of and within our community. We are a small city, and many cities of our size struggle to keep staff for long, as nearby larger cities can offer more opportunity for career advancement. Yet, we’ve been fortunate to have a dedicated and highly qualified team of staff members that have stayed with us for many years and who are willing to wear multiple hats to meet the needs of our city. We have great people serving on our City Council who have all shown a commitment to working together to make the best decisions for our city. We have many incredible volunteers serving on committees or at various city events, and they each willingly give of their time to support and enhance our community. Additionally, we have many residents who serve in other ways and who provide insight and feedback and help keep Cedar Hills a wonderful place to live. Thank you, everyone, for all you contribute to our community. I anticipate that in 2019 we will see growth in our commercial zone, a new residential development near Walmart, and a new park next to Deerfield Elementary School. As always, we appreciate your feedback as we grow. I encourage you to reach out to me or any member of the Council to share your thoughts as items are discussed by the City Council. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Ranked-Choice Voting in Utah

Election Day is November 6th. As a reminder, Utah County conducts a vote-by-mail election. If you did not receive a ballot, you can vote in person on Election Day at the Cedar Hills City offices between the hours of 7:00 am and 8:00 pm. If you aren’t registered to vote, you can register on the day of the election and vote at the city offices. Also, if you prefer to drop your ballot off instead of mailing it, the city does have a secure ballot box where ballots can be submitted. If you are interested in researching the candidates and various propositions and amendments, please visit vote.utah.gov.

While on the subject of voting, this past legislative session the Utah State Legislature passed HB35, which is a pilot program allowing cities to conduct nonpartisan races using ranked-choice voting. In our October City Council meeting, a presentation was given showing how this would work. In a ranked-choice election, all candidates for each city office would be listed on the ballot and voters would rank them in order of preference. Candidates receiving more than 50% of the first choice votes would be elected. If there is no candidate who receives 50% in the first round, or if there are multiple open seats, the lowest vote getter would be eliminated and the ballots would be counted again based on the second choice, then third choice, continuing on until winners are selected based on receiving 50% or more of the votes. The main benefit to the city is that there is a cost savings as it eliminates the need for a primary election. There are a handful of large cities across the country now voting this way, however, it is a new concept in Utah. Any city wishing to participate in the pilot program next year has to notify the Lt. Governor’s Office by the end of this year. For a two-minute video showing how this works, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53z9feUiqdg.

I’m interested in hearing how residents feel about this option. Feel free to leave a message here or email me at jrees@cedarhills.org.

 

Change to Public Safety Services

In the summer of 2017, the city gave notice to Lone Peak Public Safety District (our current provider for fire services) and American Fork Police Department (our current provider for police services) that we were going out to bid for public safety services to research all options available to our city. This was not to suggest that we were unhappy with the service provided by either entity, but as our public safety expenses have been steadily increasing while our revenues are not, we felt it was important to determine what options were available to us, just as we’ve done with other service contracts.

We received bids to provide both fire and police services from Lone Peak Public Safety, American Fork, and Pleasant Grove, and we received a bid from Utah County to provide police services only. As part of this process, we interviewed each entity individually, analyzed our call volumes for police and fire, and forecasted our expected budget revenues for the next several years. At the September 18th City Council meeting, the decision was made to go with American Fork for both fire and police services, which will go into effect July 1, 2019. At that time they will continue with our existing police services and will staff our current fire station with fire and EMS personnel. At some point, American Fork will be building a new fire station on the land south of Lone Peak and across from our commercial zone. While we expect that response times to our city from that new facility will continue to be within industry standards, American Fork is willing to amend our agreement to provide some staffing at our current station if we determine that is needed.

We wish to express our appreciation to those serving in the police and fire departments for the service they have provided to our community over the past 20 years. This decision was not an easy decision as all of the entities who submitted a proposal consist of highly qualified and experienced individuals who are dedicated to protecting the communities they serve. Our goal is to continue to provide high-quality service while also planning for our future needs with the understanding that our city will not be experiencing much new growth.

Summary of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget

In June the City Council approved the certified property tax rate provided by Utah County. This tax rate is set by the county to provide the same amount of property tax revenue to the city as was collected in the previous year, excluding revenue generated by new growth. Because property values increased overall, the tax rate for Cedar Hills went down from .002024 to .001923.

Approximately 19% of each household’s overall property tax assessment goes to the city. The city has no control over the remaining amount paid to other entities such as the school district or the county. Of all the General Fund tax revenue, 27.7% comes from property tax, 50.7% comes from sales tax, and the remaining comes from other tax sources.

Other sources of revenue to the city come in the form of user fees, charges for services, and intergovernmental revenue. Examples of user-specific fees and services include fees for licenses and permits, utility fees, garbage and recycling fees, recreation fees, and passport fees. Intergovernmental revenue includes money received from the State Liquor Tax Allotment and Class C Road funds.

The city’s budget consists of the General Fund; Golf Fund; Class C Road Fund; Golf Debt Service Fund; Capital Projects Fund; Water, Sewer & Storm Drain Fund; and Motor Pool Fund. The budget, which can be found on the city’s website, provides detailed information on the revenue and expenses for each fund. The following pie charts provide a summary of the sources of revenue and the expenses for each fund.

General Fund

Golf Fund

Class C Road Fund

Golf Debt Service Fund

Capital Projects Fund

Water, Sewer, and Storm Drain Fund

Motor Pool Fund

The budget process lasts for several months with staff and officials analyzing every fund. City staff and officials work together to ensure that taxes and fees are being assessed and used judiciously and strive to provide quality services for residents. I appreciate the time and effort that is put into this process by all involved, and for the resident feedback, which helps guide decisions made by the City Council.

 

 

Updated Code Related to Accessory Dwelling Units

Earlier this year the State Legislature passed a new law, which mandates that cities plan for moderate income housing growth by adopting a moderate income housing plan. Cities are also now required to report on and publish data indicating the number of housing units in the city that qualify as low-income and moderate-income. While Cedar Hills does not have any housing that would qualify as low-income, there are some accessory apartments that will qualify as moderate-income housing. In order to comply with this new legislation, the City Council recently approved an updated ordinance related to basement apartments, or accessory dwelling units (ADU’s). In addition to complying with state legislation, the new ordinance makes it easier for residents to own and operate ADU’s within Cedar Hills. Some of the updates include:

  • A permit and certificate of occupancy are required, but registration fees will only be assessed once per homeowner. Annual fees will no longer be required.
  • Impact fees will no longer be assessed.
  • Addresses for the main home and the ADU will be the same, however, the ADU will be listed with the city as the “B” unit so that first responders can be made aware of ADU’s and respond to the appropriate entrance in case of an emergency.
  • Existing ADU’s that have not yet been registered with the city may qualify for some exceptions to the updated code.
  • The newly adopted code related to accessory apartments may be found in Cedar Hills City Code §10-5-32

While we want to make the process of building and registering an ADU easier, homeowners who wish to have an ADU will still be required to meet building code requirements as it relates to safety (smoke detectors, safe electrical and plumbing, handrails, etc.,) and ordinances that apply to single-family homes, such as off-street parking, will also apply to ADU’s. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the updated ordinance or have questions on how to register an ADU, please contact the city offices at 801-785-9668.