1) What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
I would continue working to improve communication and transparency and would like to see the city utilize technology to get information to residents. I would also encourage more resident involvement with issues we face as a community. I have enjoyed working with resident-driven committees and feel they are a great resource as we make decisions on city issues.
2) How have you already been volunteering or serving in the city?
I have been serving on the City Council since 2012. During that time I have served with the Planning Commission, Family Festival Committee, Parks & Trails Committee, Finance Committee, and the Cultural Arts Committee. During Family Festival I volunteer at most of the events.
3) Over the past years, development of a congregate care (senior living) facility with 300 units has been proposed and is currently pending with the planning commission. What is your opinion on this proposed development?
I believe that the City Council should hold the developer to the intent of our General Plan, zoning laws, and Design Guidelines. While some parts may be ambiguous, I believe that overall they are very clear as to what type of development was intended when that area was zoned as part of our commercial area. There are several areas where I feel the current proposal does not meet our city ordinances and have outlined that on this blog, which can be found here.
4) Recently, several alternative options for the future of the golf course have been discussed. What is your position on these options and the discussion?
First, I think it is important to note that the data which has recently been provided on Facebook is the perspective of one person and doesn’t give the complete picture. While I agree that it is good for the city to explore options on anything that impacts the city, I think that the data that is presented should be complete and accurate. I am pleased to see the Golf Course Finance Committee working on this as I have seen that our resident-driven committees consistently do a great job analyzing data and making recommendations based on what is best for the city. I believe the option presented of turning the golf course into parks is not feasible. It ignores that fact that we still have a bond to pay, that it would cost a considerable amount of money to convert the course into usable park space, and it opens the city to lawsuits for not adhering to agreements it entered in to. The lawsuits alone could take years to settle before any of the land could be sold or developed, and at a tremendous cost to the city. I’m sure the Golf Course Committee will look at these issues and many others as they do a complete analysis.
5) The city’s general plan and design guidelines need to be updated regarding zoning in the commercial area. What would you suggest?
The process that is currently in progress is a good start. A resident-driven committee was formed (General Plan Committee) to review the current General Plan, solicit feedback from residents, and make a recommendation to the Council. The Planning Commission is in the process of reviewing the Design Guidelines to make recommendations for changes. I believe the intent of our General Plan already reflects the desires of the community when it 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.” I believe our Design Guidelines could be more specific to remove any ambiguity. I appreciate that both the General Plan Committee and the Planning Commission are soliciting feedback from residents throughout this process.
6) Recently the council has had a discussion on making the recreation center more of a community center that residents can use regularly. Currently the city has been using the Vista Room as a revenue source, bringing in approximately $80,000 in revenue this year, above expenses. Would you prefer to have more community or resident events in this space, even if this meant less revenue for the city? How would you use the basement areas? What ideas do you have for making the community center a better resource for our community?
I would prefer to have more community and/or resident events in this space. The building was paid for with recreation impact fees that were collected to build a recreation facility. We should honor that and have recreation and/or community events often, and allow residents to utilize the building at reasonable rates. I also understand that the intent of those who approved the current building was to bring in revenue to offset some of the golf course losses. I think we can find a middle ground. During the last Council meeting I suggested that we not book any receptions on Monday and Tuesday nights and leave these open for residents to use at a highly discounted rate (I’m thinking $10/hour). Our residents pay for this building with property taxes and it should be a building that is open for residents to use. We could continue to have paid bookings for Wednesday-Saturday nights, which is when most events are currently scheduled, and the revenues do help offset golf course losses. I would also like to see a minimum of four community events held each year. We already have the Santa night and the summer breakfast, I would like to see at least two more each year that are sponsored by the city. I would also like to see the basement utilized for more youth activities, whether that be additional classes, merit badge classes, game nights, etc. I would like to hear from residents on what types of events they feel could be held there that would be successful. We’ve tried some adult classes (gardening, IFA), but nobody showed up so I feel youth activities would be better attended. I am fine adjusting our revenue budget for events to accommodate more community or resident use of the building.
7) The grill at the community center has struggled to be a viable business, with several outside vendors not succeeding. The city has issued an RFP for a new vendor, recently, to try again. The city has tried running the grill itself, but lost money as well. Do you have suggestions for using this space more effectively?
We’ve tried running a grill for three years and it has not worked. I think the message being received is this is not an amenity people will use. It may be the location, lack of advertising, menu, or a combination of many things, but I feel it’s time to recognize that it will always struggle as a grill. I would like to look at other options for that space. CM Zappala made a suggestion at Council meeting that we look at changing it into a community spot where residents can utilize it at any time. Something like a volunteer library or gathering spot. If this isn’t feasible and we need to keep it as a grill, I think it makes sense to reduce the hours to only be open when the majority of the customers were coming in. It doesn’t make sense to have a grill open for 12 hours a day if it is empty many of those hours.
8) The city has struggled with overuse of pressurized irrigation water. As a result we are now using our backup water supply for irrigation during busy months, meaning we no longer have an adequate backup for irrigation water should a component fail. During summer months, we are pumping water into the PI system at its maximum capacity, which causes wear and tear on the components leading to a higher probability of component failure. Basically, our system was never designed to carry the volume of water residents are using, which is twice the rate it was designed for resulting in our system not having the capacity. Some have suggested voluntary water restrictions are the right solution to this problem, others have said we need metering to ensure everyone pays for what they use, like other utilities. What would be your recommendation to move forward on this issue?
This is an issue the entire state is facing, not just our city. I believe that the State will mandate PI metering at some point. They are already having discussions on this topic and acknowledged that they would have an obligation to help fund it if it was mandated. I agree with the concerns expressed, and I worry about the amount of culinary water we push in to our PI system each year. We tried an aggressive education campaign last year and watering restrictions this year. I look forward to seeing the numbers at the end of the season to see if either has had much of an impact on water usage. I do believe we should hold off installing meters on our own until we see what direction the State is going. It doesn’t make sense for us to shoulder all of the financial burden if we can receive help from the State.
9) If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?
I would continue to stay in touch with my elected officials and share my thoughts or concerns in a constructive manner. I have already told one resident-driven committee chair that I would like to become a permanent volunteer on that committee if I am not re-elected. I have enjoyed working with other volunteers in our city and am impressed with what is accomplished through those efforts. While I hope I can continue serving on the Council, I will continue serving as a volunteer if I’m not re-elected.
10) If you are elected, how will you solicit input from areas of the city outside of where you live?
I have worked to stay engaged with residents throughout the community through my blog, social media, the About Cedar Hills forum, email, phone, and face-to-face meetings. I would continue with these avenues as I’ve found them effective.
11) When the council is faced with a decision, it often wants resident feedback. Some have suggested we could poll residents on every major issue, but others worry this could be tiring for residents (leading to low response rates) and would rather trust those who represent them to study the issue and make a good decision. How would you handle these concerns?
I think it needs to be a combination of both. The city hires a firm to do a rather large survey every other year, and this has always provided very good feedback as we discuss the long-term goals of the city. I would like to do an online survey each January as the Council puts together the goals for that year so that we know that they align with what residents want. I think staying in touch with residents through a variety of channels helps elected officials know the will of the residents. But I also feel that residents elect officials to do the research, attend the meetings, meet with staff and residents, receive legal counsel, etc. and make decisions based on findings from these efforts. We are elected to do the work and should be doing it, not passing the buck by putting out a sentence or two in a survey and expecting the decisions to be made for us.
12) When you hear about something that concerns you in the city, what steps would you take to see that this concern is resolved?
I’m a big believer in following through. When issues have come to my attention, I work with other officials and/or staff to see what resolutions can be found and then make sure that the information is being communicated back to those who had the concern. While it will never be possible to make a decision that everyone in the city agrees with, I think most appreciate receiving communication about how their concerns were discussed and addressed, even if the outcome wasn’t the one they were hoping for. Residents should expect elected officials to research their concerns and report back in detail.