Monthly Archives: July 2015

Meet the Candidates Q&A

What involvement have you had with volunteering for the city in the past?

During my 3 ½ years on the City Council I have served with the Planning Commission, Family Festival Committee, Parks & Trails Committee, Finance Committee, and the Cultural Arts Committee. For the week of Family Festival I volunteer for most of the events.

If you could choose 2 council assignments after you hopefully get elected, what would they be and why?

All of the assignments are important and benefit the city and I would be happy to work on any assignment given to me. Narrowing it down to two, I would choose the Family Festival Committee and the Planning Commission. I have loved serving with the Family Festival committee as Family Festival is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It is great to see so many members of our community come together at the various events, have fun, and build relationships. I have also enjoyed serving with the Planning Commission. They spend a lot of time learning and understanding our city code and making recommendations on a variety of issues. I always find their meetings informative and helpful. The Planning Commission is also working on revising our Design Guidelines and will be making a recommendation on a proposed development in our commercial area, both of which are big topics in the city right now. I would enjoy the opportunity to continue serving with them.

What do you think should happen with the property south of Walmart owned by the Smart Family? 

While I support the rights of the Smart family to sell their property for development, I also believe that development in our community should comply with city ordinances and guidelines. This parcel of property is located in the city’s SC-1 zone, which according the our zoning ordinances, “is established to provide an area in which the primary use of land is for commercial and service uses to serve the needs of the community and surrounding area” and “is intended that development within the zone shall be characterized by a harmonious grouping of commercial stores and shops.” According to our General Plan, “the zone allows the community to better balance the tax base, and provides residents with employment opportunities, retail goods, and office space.” It goes on to say that “Cedar Hills will encourage commercial development which will directly benefit the residents of the community.”

There is a portion of the Smart property which is located in the Mixed-Use Office/Retail subzone of the SC-1 zone and is the site of a current proposal for the development of a 55+ housing complex. According to our Design Guidelines, this designation “is intended to accommodate less intense uses than found in the Neighborhood Retail designation. The lower intensity may be due to size, scale, and height of the structure or due to less-intense land use.” The Design Guidelines also state “The City of Cedar Hills values the tranquil environment that currently exists and would like to preserve the small town atmosphere.” With regards to development, it states that “considerations shall include density, diversity, and design.”

I feel our zoning ordinances, General Plan, and Design Guidelines are very clear as to what type of development should be permitted on this property. I believe that any proposed development should meet the intent of the zone and our ordinances. While I recognize it may take some time to get the type of commercial that our zoning laws intend, I believe we should be patient and do it right so that our community benefits from the development. I am opposed to high density housing in our commercial zone and feel that the proposals that have been presented so far do not meet with our ordinances and guidelines.

Many in the community think revenue at the golf course would go up if cold beer was sold at the club house.  Many have also heard that a lot of golfers bring in their own beer to drink while they golf anyway.  Do you support selling beer at the clubhouse?

I do not support this. I’ve found it hard to believe that selling beer at the course will have much of an impact on our revenue. However, I’m not a golfer and don’t know the industry, so last week I met with our Golf Course Manager to get his thoughts on this and a few other topics. He knows this business well and his an asset to our city. He advised against selling beer at the course. He agreed that it would not have a significant impact on our revenues as most of our golfers who drink beer know we don’t sell it so they bring their own, and those who don’t know have us hold their tee times while they purchase beer and come back. He went on to express a few concerns, one of them being that, in Utah, the law states any individual can be held personally liable for selling alcohol to a person who is intoxicated if the individual should have known the person was actually or apparently intoxicated. He also expressed concern that it may impact the number of youth in the community who can work at the golf course.

I would prefer our facility to be a place where teens in our community have the opportunity to work. I also do not want our staff to be put in a position where they have to determine if a person is intoxicated and face potential charges if they aren’t aware. Lastly, I believe that selling alcohol at the golf course would cause controversy and contention within the city, which is the last thing we need. Because it won’t have a significant impact on our revenue, and because of the risks and downsides involved, I don’t think we should sell beer at the course. I am fine with allowing golfers to bring their own.

Do you think we should have a public swimming pool? If so, how should we pay for it and go about deciding to build it?

While my family and I would love to have a local swimming pool, I feel that it would be a financial burden on our city at this time. Most of the surrounding communities that do have a pool are considerably larger than Cedar Hills and have a sales tax base that we will never have. That being said, if the majority of our residents want a pool then I feel we should research this option. I would want the city to have a feasibility study done that provides accurate information on the cost to build a pool and the cost of ongoing annual operations and management. This information and the subsequent increase in taxes that each household would realize should be shared with residents and placed on a ballot for a vote.

How can we better utilize the community center basement for community wide activities? 

To start, I want to say that our Recreation Director does a great job of analyzing the participation rates for each of our recreation programs to make sure that what we provide each year is what our residents want. I believe that community events and recreation programs should receive first priority at the community center. However, I also feel it is important that we are offering classes and activities that are being utilized. Looking over the past three years it is clear that adult classes don’t do well. We offered adult aerobics and bootcamp classes early on and this year we offered a free gardening class. None of these were well attended. At the same time, we do currently offer karate classes, youth acting classes, and youth singing and dance classes at the community center, all of which are well attended. We also have our annual Santa party in December where families can enjoy cocoa and a dessert while the kids visit with Santa. Looking at what has worked and what hasn’t over the past three years, I feel we should focus on adding additional youth programs and family events, as those seem to be what our residents are looking for. I encourage residents to share ideas on events and activities that we should include.

What should we do with the grill in the community center?

This is another area where I think we need to provide something that residents want. The grill opened in 2012 and the city attempted to run it for a time. It was losing money so we changed course and entered into a contract with two separate vendors to operate the grill. Neither entity was successful. After three years of trying without success, I am led to believe we are providing an amenity that most of our residents do not want; at least not in the form of a full-time grill. I recently had a conversation with our Golf Course Manager on this topic as our golf staff work in that building and see firsthand when people were coming to the grill. He recommended that we open the grill for shorter hours (10am-3pm Monday – Friday and 8:00am-3pm on Saturdays) and have a smaller menu. This way, labor costs are reduced since the grill isn’t open all day and food costs go down as there is less wasting of food with a smaller menu. It appears that most of the customers who visited the grill came during those hours. I think this is an idea worth exploring.

Mayors and Council members from all over the state regularly attend the Utah League of Cities and Towns training conventions twice a year to get trained on state and city laws so they can stay within the bounds of the law while serving.  Do you feel like this is an effective use of your time? Are you willing to go to these two conferences yearly even though they can be a big sacrifice of time?

I have attended ULCT trainings every year since I became a council member and have found them to be very informative and helpful. The annual conference is in September in Salt Lake City, and the semi-annual conference is in April in St. George. I attended both conferences in 2012 and just the Salt Lake City conference in 2013 and 2014. I chose to attend the Salt Lake conferences because they are just as informative, but the cost to the city is less. If re-elected, I will continue to attend the ULCT conference in Salt Lake so that I can stay up-to-date on laws and issues that affect cities.

How will you solicit input on different issues from different segments of the city? Many issues in the city affect one section more than another?

One of the best way to receive input is to encourage resident involvement. Over the past 3 ½ years we have created new resident-driven committees that have been formed to research specific issues facing the city and present recommendations to the City Council. This type of resident involvement and input is invaluable and I appreciate all of the residents who have been willing to serve on these committees.

In addition, I think it is important for the city to continue with the large survey done every two years as this is a wonderful way to get feedback from residents. I would also like to see the city utilize technology to survey residents each January before the annual Council retreat to get feedback on what residents feel should be the goals and priorities for the upcoming year.

I believe that all elected officials should stay engaged with those whom they represent. I have stayed engaged with residents through social media and online forums, emails, phone calls, and personal visits. These have all proven to be effective ways to hear from residents. I will continue to utilize these avenues of communication to solicit input from residents.

What would you do to encourage retail development in the city?

It is important to realize that some factors that a business looks at when deciding to open a location are out of our control, such as daily traffic rates, number of households within a certain radius, and demographics of a location. I think we can do our part by being perceived as a business-friendly city. I would like to see our Design Guidelines updated with more clarity so that business owners and developers are clear on what we are looking for. Working with the media for positive media coverage is helpful as controversy and contention only scare businesses away. While we are waiting for the right retail to come to our commercial zone, I would like to see us think of other ways to bring services to the community. For example, I was an advocate for a food truck night once a week during the spring and summer months so that residents have a variety of food options to choose from. This was recently approved by the City Council and will begin at the end of this month. I believe this can bring some recognition to our community within the food industry as these vendors see that residents want food options and are willing to support the businesses in our city.

How would you propose revising our general plan or design guidelines to improve Cedar Hills?

I would like our Design Guidelines to provide more clarity, and I would like our General Plan and Design Guidelines to clearly indicate what types of commercial businesses our residents want in Cedar Hills. I am happy to hear that the resident-driven General Plan Committee has put together a survey and is asking residents to provide feedback on our commercial zone. The Planning Commission has spent many meetings discussing recommendations for the Design Guidelines. Our General Plan and Design Guidelines should align with the will of our residents as they dictate what type of development should be allowed and encouraged.

What influence if any do you think Cedar Hills City government can have on the future of American Fork Canyon?

I believe that all elected officials should represent the will of the people they represent. A good start was the Resolution recently passed by the City Council asking for the County to oppose the land swap proposed by Mountain Accord. This came about after hearing the concerns of many residents. While the city government will not have a vote on what happens with the canyon, I believe that the residents of Cedar Hills can have an impact by making their views and concerns known and advocating for elected officials on the city and county level to create resolutions that support the will of the residents.

What skills or knowledge do you bring to the council?

As an incumbent, I have almost four years of experience working on issues that face the city. This history and knowledge of city issues is valuable as many of those issues still exist. I have been a strong advocate of communication and transparency and have worked hard to implement ideas and tools that provide residents with a variety of ways to stay informed on city issues. I have a good working relationship with officials and staff and value their input and opinions. If re-elected, I will continue to focus on communication and give the appropriate time and attention to my Council assignments. I believe all elected officials are first and foremost representatives and should be actively engaged in the community. I am willing to listen and discuss any resident concern and while we may not agree in the end, I want every resident to feel that their representatives are taking the time to hear them out.

What is one area where Cedar Hills is strong and one area that you would like to see improvement?

One of my favorite things about Cedar Hills is the sense of community that exists here. I am impressed with how many freely volunteer their time to work on city issues and events. At last count, we have seven resident-driven committees currently working on city items, which equates to about 50 volunteers. Each year we have over 100 residents volunteer at different events for our Family Festival. It is this desire to serve that makes Cedar Hills a wonderful place to live. One area where I would like to see improvement is in dealing with differences of opinion with regards to city politics. We can be very passionate, and unfortunately that has, at times, led to personal attacks and accusations. I would like to see us able to discuss the issues without the negativity. That type of negativity only leads to bad media coverage and bad feelings in our city.

What would you recommend we do with the golf course?

I am not a golfer and have never golfed. I wish we weren’t in the golf course business. That being said, I recognize that the golf course is an asset to our city and we have an obligation to pay back the debt which we incurred. I don’t mind discussing other options; I know we have in the 3 ½ that I’ve served and I know that previous Councils have also explored other options. It is good to discuss other options, but I haven’t yet seen a better option that makes sense for the city financially and legally. While an alternative was recently offered, I believe some of the assumptions are wrong and am happy to see that the Golf Course Committee is being reconvened to research this alternative and the data provided. I am a big believer that, to the extent possible, we should pay our debts and live up to the obligations we entered into.

Commercial Development

Commercial development has been a hot topic in the city for many years. Over the past three years, there has been a lot of concern expressed over a proposed congregate care facility. I’ve been asked about my thoughts on this topic and feel it is important to dive into our city code as I explain my reasons for opposing this project.

When making decisions on development, the city needs to follow the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Design Guidelines. According to our zoning map, the area in question is zoned SC-1 Commercial. Our zoning ordinance states:

The SC-1 zone is established to provide an area in which the primary use of land is for commercial and service uses to serve the needs of the community and surrounding area and is located in the portion of the city most appropriately suited for the purpose. It is intended that development within the zone shall be characterized by a harmonious grouping of commercial stores and shops and essential ancillary uses (parking, signs, landscape features) architecturally designed and functioning as an integrated unit.

Our General Plan states:

This zone [SC-1] provides for commercial and retail uses within the community…The zone allows the community to better balance the tax base, and provides residents with employment opportunities, retail goods, and office space….Cedar Hills will encourage commercial development which will directly benefit the residents of the community.

Looking at the Design Guidelines shows this area is divided into subzones:

subdistricts

The portion of the proposed congregate care facility is located in the Mixed-Use Office/Retail subzone. According to the Design Guidelines:

The Mixed-Use Office/Retail designation is intended to accommodate less intense uses than found in the Neighborhood Retail designation. The lower intensity may be due to size, scale, and height of the structure or due to less-intense land use.

The Design Guidelines also state:

The City of Cedar Hills values the tranquil environment that currently exists and would like to preserve the small town atmosphere.

With regards to development, it states that:

Considerations shall include density, diversity, and design.

My concern with the proposed congregate care facility is that I don’t believe it meets the intent of the zone, or the ordinances and guidelines in place that clearly indicate what type of development is allowed in that zone. As it is a residential facility, the property will be taxed at the lower residential rate of 55% of the value of the building instead of the commercial rate of 100%. It does not meet the intent of balancing the tax base and providing retail goods or services to the community. The height and density of the building do not meet the definition of less intense use as the developer is proposing 300 units, which has the potential for 600+ residents.

I feel our zoning ordinances, General Plan, and Design Guidelines are very clear as to what type of development should be permitted on this property. I believe that any proposed development should meet the intent of the zone and our ordinances. While I recognize it may take some time to get the type of commercial our zoning laws intend, I also believe we should be patient and do it right so that our community benefits from the development.

Meet the Candidates

A meet the candidates night will be held Tuesday, July 14th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Lincoln Academy in Pleasant Grove. The plan is as follows:

6:00pm to 7:15pm meet with candidates at individual tables

7:30pm to 9:00pm debate and Q&A

I look forward to seeing you there!

Accomplishments

When I ran for City Council four years ago, my platform focused on finding additional ways to communicate with residents. As a resident, I felt that I knew very little about what was happening in my community, and I wanted to find and implement convenient ways for residents to stay informed and involved on city issues. As part of that effort, I have done the following:

  • Created the city’s Facebook page and managed it for two years. Social media is a great way to share information immediately and with a wide audience. To date we have 713 likes on the city’s page, and I would like to see this number grow so that more residents are receiving timely updates.
  • Created the city’s Twitter account. This was a great resource when we had a fire on the hillside east of Canyon Road and residents wanted to receive quick updates on the situation.
  • Created the city’s YouTube channel. I believe we should be filming and uploading every Council meeting and townhall meeting. We have many residents who would like to attend some of these meetings but have other obligations on these nights. Posting videos allows any residenSOTCt to view the meeting at a time convenient for them.
  • Created the annual State of the City report and have published it every year since 2012. This report provides details of the city budget, information on property taxes, and comprehensive information on city issues.
  • Participated in the development of the city’s updated website. As part of this, we created a page called “Transparency”, which provides information to residents on items such as the budget and allowed us to receive an A+ rating for transparency from the Sutherland Institute.
  • Created a personal blog in 2011 where I have posted my notes from every Council meeting since I was elected. I’ve heard from several residents that this has been a helpful resource.
  • I have actively rebutted false accusations in the press that have cast the city in a negative light and developed positive relationships with members of the media in order to promote positive press coverage.

In addition to enhancing communications, I have worked on the following:

  • Responded to resident input and concerns, whether that be through email, phone, or personal interactions. My goal has been to represent residents and do my best to address concerns timely.
  • Worked through the County to get the bookmobile to Cedar Hills, at no cost to the city or residents.
  • Worked with the U.S. Army to implement the Community Covenant Program, which creates partnerships between communities and local businesses to help the families of service members who are deployed.
  • Restarted the Cedar Hills Champions Program, through which we have recognized the accomplishments of 14 residents over the past three years.
  • Served with the Planning Commission, Family Festival Committee, Parks & Trails Committee, Finance Committee, and the Cultural Arts Committee.
    • With others on the Parks & Trails Committee, we reinstituted the Yard of the Month program and created the annual summer breakfast and annual Santa party.
    • Worked with the Family Festival Committee to add new events each year to appeal to a wider audience.
    • Worked with the Cultural Arts Committee to add the Summer Concert Series and held our first youth performance at Heritage Park

I am proud of what I have accomplished and participated in over the past 3 ½ years. I feel that these efforts have improved transparency and communications within the city and enhanced the feeling of community we all appreciate and enjoy. I hope to earn your vote and continue serving our city.

Communication

I have had a few people share some concerns regarding my communications assignment on the City Council. I would like to address those concerns here in case there are other residents who share them.

One concern expressed was that it appears I receive more information than others on the Council. This may be true as I’m not shy about seeking information when I have questions or concerns. The mayor has office hours every Thursday morning where he invites any resident, including council members, to stop by and discuss city issues. For most of my time on the Council I did not work outside of the home and my schedule allowed me to meet with the mayor during his office hours. The city manager attended these meetings the majority of the time as well. I used this opportunity to find out what was going on in the city, get answers to my questions, and give feedback. I feel that I am most effective on the Council when I am seeking information and staying up-to-date on city issues. For many months I took detailed notes, typed them up, and sent them to the rest of the Council so that everyone would have the same information I had. One council member complained about these notes multiple times. He expressed his complaints to the rest of the Council, stating I “wasn’t the mayor’s personal secretary” and that “one council member shouldn’t be updating the rest of the Council since we are all 1 of 5”. My intent with sending my notes was to address deficiencies with internal communication. I recognized that my schedule was more flexible than others and felt these updates would be helpful to the Council. However, continued complaints from the one council member, I decided to stop sending my notes in order to eliminate the contention it seemed to be causing. I have continued to reach out to the mayor, city manager, or whomever else I need to in order to get my questions answered and to best fulfill my council assignments. I feel it is my responsibility as a representative of our residents to continually research the issues facing our city. If reelected and if desired by the new Council, I would be happy to once again share my notes from any meeting I attend related to the city.

Another concern expressed was that I seem to always agree with the mayor. I haven’t always agreed with anyone on the council, including the mayor. The difference, as I see it, is that I prefer to contact my colleagues personally to discuss our disagreements instead of posting them to social media sites. I spend a considerable amount of time researching city issues and listening to resident feedback and I’m not afraid to speak my mind and push for what I feel our residents want. At the same time, I respect those with whom I serve and do not find it productive to engage in arguments through social media. We all signed up for this job with one thing in common, and that is to do our best to serve Cedar Hills.

Another claim was that I don’t really want to serve on the Council and am running again for the wrong reasons or that I’m burned out. I admit that dealing with much of the conflict that has been going on over the past few years is very difficult for me. Far too much time has been spent reacting to personal attacks instead of focusing on a vision for our city. That being said, I love serving our residents. I have enjoyed meeting many new people I wouldn’t have otherwise known and forming new friendships. One of my favorite times of the year is Family Festival when our community comes together as friends and neighbors. I volunteer at almost every event that week because, to me, that is what Cedar Hills is and why I live here. I enjoy serving with the residents who make up our many resident-driven committees and am impressed with all they accomplish. With regards to reelection, I had originally decided I wouldn’t run again, primarily because of the contention. Many residents reached out to me through email, phone, and in person and asked me to reconsider. I was humbled by their trust in me, and after discussing it at length with my family, I decided to run again. I do not have any desire to run for higher office, nor do I have any other agenda. My only reason for seeking reelection is to continue to serve the residents of Cedar Hills to the best of my ability.

Lastly, the concern was raised that I’m the only member of the Council allowed to communicate with residents. This is not true. When I was elected in 2011, I emailed former mayor Richardson with a list of ideas on how we could improve communication, one of these being a monthly “Council Corner” in the city newsletter. When Council assignments were made he asked me to take on communications, and when Mayor Gygi was elected he asked me to continue with that. I have spent the last 3.5 years working to implement those ideas. Each month I submit an article for the Council Corner. These articles have always been used to inform residents of things occurring in the city. I have never used it to promote my own views or personal agenda. In addition, every member of the Council is aware that they may submit an article for the newsletter at any time, and most of them have at one point or another. No member of the Council has ever been refused newsletter space. In addition to the newsletter, I choose to communicate with residents through social media, public forums, and through my personal blog. Every member of the Council has the same access to residents and I encourage all to communicate with residents in all ways they feel are most effective. One suggestion I have is that, as we move to paperless newsletters later this summer, each member of the Council submit to the city a short summary of a topic they want to address and a link to their personal blogs where the details will be. This way residents will have access to the views of all elected officials.

I hope this answers any questions that may have been raised about my communications assignment. As always, feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss further. Thank you!

Golf Course

The golf course is a hot topic in our city. I’ll start by saying that I did not live in Cedar Hills when the golf course started, nor when it was voted on by residents, so my understanding of the history comes from various conversations I’ve had with previous elected officials and residents who lived here during that time. I’m sure many of you already know the history of how the golf course came to be so I won’t include that here.

My goal as a member of the City Council isn’t to look backwards and discuss what could have been done differently, but to look forward and figure out the best course of action for the present and future. Our reality is that we have a bond to pay on the golf course, and that debt will be ours for the next 20 years. I’ve heard some state that we should shut down the course and turn it into something else. Here are some of my concerns with this.

  1. As mentioned above, we do have a bond to pay for the golf course. Being concerned or feeling frustrated about the amount we pay for that bond each year is valid; however, turning the golf course into something else doesn’t remove that debt.
  2. If we were to shut down the golf course and convert it into a park, we would have to bond again to reconfigure it into park space. I had someone tell me that we could just change the sign from city golf course to city park and not make any changes. While that is an option, my feeling is that most residents wouldn’t consider the golf course, as is, a viable park. Our other park spaces have playground equipment for children, pavilion space for family gatherings, trees for shade, and flat space for youth sports. The golf course offers none of these amenities. While it is true that kids could just play on the grass, my guess is that most families in Cedar Hills would want amenities like the other parks. We do not have the money available to convert the course into parks like the others, so we would have to obtain more debt to convert it. Additionally, parks require maintenance, so we would continue to budget for maintenance while eliminating all revenue coming through the golf course in the form of green fees, tournaments, and pro shop sales.
  3. There is a high potential for a lawsuit if the city were to shut down the golf course. The homes in the Cedars were built as part of a development agreement granting open space in exchange for density. Shutting down the golf course would violate those development agreements. Additionally, approximately half of the golf course is located in Highland and is part of their open space plans. They expect us to honor the agreement entered into when they allowed us to build a golf course in their city.

I am not opposed to exploring alternatives to the golf course, but I haven’t yet seen a proposal that makes sense for the city from a financial and legal perspective. I believe that the best course of action is to reduce the debt as much as possible and to work to increase revenues.

We have done a few things over the past four years to accomplish this goal. In 2012 we refinanced the golf course bond at a new lower rate of 2.47%, which equates to a total savings of approximately $500,000 over the life of the loan. Staff has worked hard to increase the number of golf tournaments from 28 in 2012 to 42 in 2014. We have already had 37 tournaments through the end of May this year. Season pass revenue has increased from $35,436 in 2012 to $78,114 in 2014. While these things haven’t eliminated the golf course subsidy, they have helped reduce it. However, I don’t see a time when the golf course won’t receive a subsidy for operations and the bond payment.

I’m not a golfer and I wish we weren’t in the golf course business. That being said, I recognize that we have a financial obligation to pay the bond and a legal obligation to fulfill our part of any development agreements entered into with the golf course. If any alternatives are presented that make financial and legal sense, I would be happy to research and discuss them at length with the Council and with residents. In the meantime, I would love to hear ideas on how to increase resident use of the golf course, whether that be additional golf camps, additional free passes, or through other ideas you may have.