Author Archives: Jenney Rees

Q and A on Changing the County Form of Government

I’ve received several questions on my support for changing the form of government, so am including those questions and my responses here.

Q: Why do we need to change the form of government?

A: Our current form of government consists of three commissioners that hold both executive and legislative powers. As a county of approximately 600,000 residents, we need a form of government that provides a separation of powers and checks and balances. Additionally, with our current size and projected growth, we need regional representation. There are different challenges that exist in the various parts of the county and having additional representation from throughout the county means we will have more ideas and perspectives at the table as decisions are being made to address the issues that come with growth.

Q: Why does regional representation matter?

A: Regional representation means that the issues that matter to our area will receive attention. A good example for Cedar Hills is Canyon Road. This road is owned by the county and we’ve long advocated for necessary upgrades and maintenance needed to make this road safe for drivers as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. It is a major collector road connecting two state roads and serves as an entrance to American Fork Canyon. Unfortunately, we’ve never had an advocate on the County Commission for addressing the issues. This is one of many that can be better addressed through regional representation. Having elected officials who are accountable to specific regions in addition to the county as a whole means that smaller cities such as ours won’t continue to be ignored.

Q: Why do you support seven council members? Why not five?

A: Having seven council members means the county will be divided into five districts with representation from each district, and two council members elected at-large. We currently have approximately 600,000 residents and are considered a county of the second class. We are expected to be over 700,000 within the next couple of years, at which time we will be reclassified as a county of the first class. A 2017 Research Brief issued by the Kem C. Gardner Institute (https://gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/Projections-Brief-Final.pdf) shows us being at 1.6 million by 2065, just slightly behind where Salt Lake County will be at that time. With our current size and with the rapid growth we are experiencing, I don’t believe dividing the county into three districts provides adequate regional representation. That is approximately 200,000 residents per district. For reference, our state senate districts are divided so that each represents approximately 100,000 people and our state house districts are divided so that each represents approximately 40,000 people. Most of the other counties in Utah that have gone to an expanded form of government have chosen to go with the seven-council member option. Here are those details:

  • Salt Lake County (1.1 million residents) – 9 council members
  • Cache County (124,000 residents) – 7 council members
  • Grand County (9,600 residents) – 7 council members
  • Morgan County (12,000 residents) – 7 council members
  • Wasatch County (32,000 residents) – 7 council members
  • Summit County (41,000 residents) – 5 council members
  • Tooele County (67,000 residents) – 5 council members

Q: Why do you support the mayor/council form over another form?

A: Having a mayor/council means the executive for the county is elected by the residents of Utah County and is accountable to them. Legislation passed by a county council can be vetoed by a mayor, making it so residents have another path to stop legislation with which they have concerns. A county manager does not have veto power, and an expanded commission doesn’t have a separation of legislative and executive powers. While a mayoral veto may be overridden by a 2/3 vote of the county council, it gives residents an opportunity to work with elected officials within the executive and legislative branches before legislation is passed. Ultimately, state law grants a lot of power to the executive, whether that be a mayor, manager, or commissioner. As citizens, we must decide if we want that executive to be voted on by the people and to be up for re-election every four years, or to be appointed by the County Council and serve at the will of the Council. We also need to decide if we want the checks and balances of power between the executive and legislative branches, such as exists at the state and federal level, or if we want a referendum process to be the only check against legislative decisions. I believe the mayor/council form to be a better option when it comes to checks and balances. If there is a desire for an experienced county administrator to oversee daily operations, like what many cities have, we have the option to advocate for that position to be hired as part of the mayor/council form of government.

Q: Didn’t the county commissioners create a committee to explore options?

A: Yes, the commissioners created the Good Governance Advisory Board (GGAB) to look at the various forms of government and to make a recommendation on what form Utah County should have and when it should be on the ballot for citizens to vote on. The GGAB held several public meetings throughout the county and discussed a variety of issues. They received public feedback from many throughout this process. Ultimately, the GGAB recommended that Utah County transition to a mayor/council form of government with seven councilmembers, five of which would be elected by district and two elected at-large. They recommended that the new form of government also have a full-time county administrator to handle day-to-day functions. They also recommended that this be on the ballot in 2019 for the citizens of Utah County to vote on. It is yet unknown if the commissioners will be able to put this on the ballot this year as a new petition has since been filed, recommending an expanded commission form of government.

Fire and EMS Services

In the summer of 2017, the city gave notice to Lone Peak Public Safety District of our intent to leave the District and sent out requests for public safety proposals. We received proposals from three agencies that offered both fire and police services, and in September 2018 the Council made the decision to contract with American Fork City for both police and fire services. There were three main factors that led to this decision: 1) Having police and fire responding from the same agency provides a better level of service as the two departments have more opportunities to collaborate and train together when they work for the same agency, 2) The proposal received from American Fork was significantly less than the other two but provided the same level of service, and 3) Our contract with American Fork has a set annual increase, so forecasting and planning for future public safety expenses is much easier. Our contract with Lone Peak Public Safety ends on June 30 and American Fork Fire will be the agency providing fire and EMS services to our city effective July 1.

I want to express our appreciation for the men and women who work for Lone Peak Public Safety. Our city has been well served by their fire and EMS teams for many years. Not only did they provide these services with professionalism and expertise, but they also participated in community events such as Family Festival and our annual city breakfast. I am grateful to each of them for their commitment and their service.

I also want to welcome American Fork Fire to our city. We’ve had a long and valuable relationship with American Fork Police and I have no doubt that our relationship with American Fork Fire will be just as good. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Chief Brems and several of the fire and EMS personnel and know they are highly qualified and experienced and will serve our city well. They are also looking forward to participating in our community in a variety of ways and are excited to start next week.

For now, American Fork Fire will utilize our fire station and will keep it fully staffed to respond to our area. At some point, American Fork will be building a new fire station near our border on North County Blvd and will move there, though there is no set timeframe for this. 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.

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. We look forward to a long partnership with American Fork Police and Fire and appreciate their leadership and teams for contributing to our community.

Suicide Prevention Resources

When I logged into my email account today I was heartbroken to read that a student at a nearby high school committed suicide and that this was the 6th Alpine School District student lost in 2019 to suicide. There have also been numerous reported suicide attempts in our city as well as in our neighboring cities. Because we live in a small and safe community, we often don’t realize that issues such as these exist, yet the data shows that Utah’s suicide rate has dramatically increased over the past 20 years, and our city and schools have not been immune. The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition has published the following information about suicide in Utah:

  • The suicide rate in Utah has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate for the past decade
  • Utah ranks 5th in the nation for suicide deaths
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-17
  • Every 16 hours, someone in Utah dies by suicide

This is an issue that impacts every community in Utah. As such, I wanted to share a few resources that I know of and encourage us all to have an ongoing dialogue with our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our colleagues so that we can work together to help those suffering or contemplating suicide to receive the help they need.

  • Download the free SafeUT app on your smartphone. This allows users to chat with a crisis counselor via phone or text. Counselors provide a non-judgmental space to talk about your crisis and help direct you to resources.
  • Add the suicide prevention lifeline to your contacts: (800) 273-8255. Counselors are available 24×7 to help.
  • Take a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training in person or online. This course provides training on suicide warning signs and information on how to talk to those who are considering suicide. Visit qprinstitute.com for training information.
  • If you are worried that someone you know is suicidal, call 911 or take them to a hospital so they may receive the help. Law enforcement officials and hospital staff want to help get people to the resources that they need.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide with those you love. It can be a tough conversation, but one that could save a life.

Addressing this crisis takes effort from schools, churches, communities, workplaces, and families. Working together we can help those suffering find the resources they need and reduce any stigma associated with seeking help.

 

New Construction Projects

There are a few construction projects starting in the city, so I figured I would give a brief update on those items.

First, the land just south of WalMart will be a new home development. Details on how this came about can be found on this previous blog post, but all agreements have been finalized and the land has been purchased by David Weekley Homes. They are starting to put in the infrastructure needed and hope to have several homes built this year. The development will include 80 single-family homes. The image below provides concept ideas of what the houses will look like, though there may be some changes as they move forward.

Next, we have begun construction on Harvey Park, which is located next to Deerfield Elementary. The City Council approved a bid for Phase I, which includes a splash park; playground; pickleball, tennis, and basketball courts; a baseball diamond; and field space for sports such as soccer, football, and lacrosse. The final design for the park was based on feedback received from residents in a city-wide survey sent in 2017 and a subsequent city event where conceptual plans were shown and residents had an opportunity to weigh in on the plans. The final result incorporates the elements that received the highest number of votes with the goal to accommodate as much outdoor play and recreation as possible. Additionally, the park connects to the Murdock Canal Trail, aligning with city plans to have trails connecting our parks for better pedestrian access.

Lastly, though construction hasn’t started, two businesses have received preliminary approval in our commercial zone, located on North County Blvd just south of Harts. Both businesses still need to receive final approval from the Planning Commission and City Council so there will be some changes to the renderings below based on feedback and approvals from both groups. The first is Taco Bell, which will be located right on North County Blvd at the north end of the parcel. They plan on starting construction as soon as final approvals are received and hope to be open before school starts in the fall.

The image below shows the layout of Taco Bell, with the yellow line representing North County Blvd. The road to the north of Taco Bell will be a new access road built between Taco Bell and Harts.

The second building is Extra Space Storage, which will be located east of Taco Bell, on the back northeast portion of the commercial zone. The building has 35 bay doors for storage units accessed from the outside of the building, all located along the back and sides. The rest of the building consists of indoor climate-controlled storage units.

The image below shows the layout. The road to the west is a new road that will be built in the commercial zone, which will be located behind Harts, Dollar Tree, Marcos Pizza, and Great Clips and will connect to Cedar Hills Drive. To the north will be the new homes discussed above, to the east is the existing residential neighborhood, and to the south is undeveloped land for future commercial development.

Feel free to reach out with any questions. I will provide updates as additional applications come in for development in our commercial zone.

 

 

The History of Canyon Road

The city recently sent out a survey to residents and received over 400 responses. We appreciate the time that you took to provide feedback as it helps us as we consider plans for the future. My newsletter messages over the next few months will be focused on some of the common questions and concerns that I saw in the responses.

One of the biggest concerns listed in the survey was the Canyon Road construction project. There were several comments regarding the quality of the road, the lack of safety features such as sidewalks, the change to the entrance to American Fork Canyon, and the new striping. While I share many of these concerns, the issue for us is that Canyon Road is a county-owned road, it is not a city road. For several years before the project started, city officials met with county officials to identify additional funding for needed enhancements and requested improvements to make the road safer. However, county officials were unwilling to upgrade the road and consistently stated that the city would need to take ownership of the road if we wanted it maintained to a higher standard. After hiring an engineering firm to provide us with an analysis of what it would take to maintain the road with some basic improvements, which did not include sidewalks, we determined we could not afford to take ownership of the road without a significant increase in taxes from residents. We did not feel it should be the responsibility of Cedar Hills residents to bear this cost as the road was designed to be a collector road, not a city road. Had it been designated a city road from the beginning, it would have been designed and built to city standards.

The county contracted with Kilgore to complete the Canyon Road project last year and they are aware that there are issues that still need to be addressed, such as portions of the road that weren’t completed, new potholes, uneven surfaces, and incorrect striping. They had to end most of their construction efforts due to weather, but they plan on addressing these outstanding items in the spring. As a city, we will continue to advocate for improvements that provide safety for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians that use Canyon Road.

For those interested, here is a history that I wrote last year on Canyon Road.

History of Canyon Road

For over a decade, Utah County officials, members of Mountainland Association of Governments[1] (MAG), and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) discussed a change of ownership of Canyon Road (SR-146). This came about as county officials wished to expand what is now North County Boulevard as a regional road. In order to receive the federal funding necessary to build the type of road desired, the ownership of that road needed to transfer from the then owners (Lindon, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, and Highland) to the State of Utah. UDOT would only agree to take on this road by giving up ownership of another road in the area. While there was some talk of Alpine Highway being transferred to Highland with UDOT taking over North County Blvd[2], eventually the decision was made to transfer ownership of Canyon Road from UDOT to the County.

As early as 2007 when this transfer was being considered, Cedar Hills was upfront that Canyon Road needed to be brought up to standard, including adding curb and gutter[3]. Though UDOT was responsible for Canyon Road, the maintenance had been neglected for some time and the road had been in a failing rating for several years. Once North County Blvd was finished, the County Commissioners indicated that Canyon Road was the next project on this list[4]. However, upgrades and maintenance items continued to be ignored as the County and UDOT were looking to instead transfer ownership of Canyon Road to the cities of Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove instead of the County. Because of the ongoing costs associated with maintaining a road of this size, both cities expressed an unwillingness to take ownership[5] and requested that the County do so, as per the original agreement.

In 2014, an agreement of jurisdictional transfer of Canyon Road was drafted where the County agreed to take ownership[6]. The agreement included:

  • A transfer of the following roads from local jurisdiction to UDOT: 700 North in Lindon, North County Blvd in PG, AF, and Highland.
  • UDOT transfers $3.3m to the County for Canyon Road improvements
  • Canyon Road to remain functionally classified as a Minor Arterial and Major Collector
  • Utah County assumed all maintenance responsibilities

In addition to the $3.3 million, the County committed an additional $1.5 million to this project, which came from unused federal funds originally allocated to North County Blvd. Because all parties understood that $4.8 million would only cover a basic overlay of Canyon Road and not address many of the road issues, the cities of Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills, along with Utah County, submitted a proposal to MAG in the spring of 2014 requesting additional funding for improvements[7]. This was approved at $4.5 million, bringing the total amount available for road improvements to $9.3 million.

During this process, the County again approached Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove about taking ownership of Canyon Road at some point in the future and taking on maintenance responsibilities immediately. Cedar Hills continued to turn down any proposal consisting of a change in ownership[8]. There was some indication that a refusal to take ownership would mean the approved upgrades would not be completed. To obtain clarification from all sides, Cedar Hills officials requested a meeting with UDOT, Utah County, and the City Council. The following points were made:

  • UDOT stated they suggested Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove take ownership of Canyon Road, but the cities weren’t interested. They will not make improvements if they continue to own the road and are requesting the County take ownership.
  • Andrew Jackson with MAG stated that that the tax code allows for counties to impose a sales tax for road construction. A percentage of those funds have to go toward state roads or those likely to become state roads. In order to obtain the money needed for North County Boulevard, it was proposed that a swap is made for SR-146 (Canyon Road).
  • Commissioner Ellertson with Utah County stated that at the time this discussion began it was agreed that if the cities did not want to take possession of the road, the county would take it as a county road, with no obligation to increase the level of service by installing curb, gutter, drainage, etc. The county was not interested in accepting the MAG money because it was not interested in maintaining the road at a higher standard. In his opinion, Canyon Road is a safe road and any safety issues are the fault of vehicle operators. Commissioner Ellertson stated the only reason that the county agreed to this jurisdictional transfer is that they were interested in getting state money for North County Boulevard and they would reject any MAG money approved for improvements if the cities didn’t take ownership[9].

Cedar Hills officials explained that Canyon Road serves as a major access point to American Fork Canyon and is a regional collector road, not a city road. They also advised the County that it would be irresponsible to reject MAG funds and not make necessary safety improvements to the road as significant safety issues had been identified.

During the September 22, 2015 City Council meeting, the Council was informed that the County may be willing to do some additional improvements to the road if the city was willing to handle some maintenance items, such as snow removal, storm drain maintenance, and street sweeping. While Cedar Hills does not have the equipment or manpower to handle snow removal, a contract with a neighboring city could be drafted to provide this service. After researching the option, Cedar Hills staff indicated it would cost approximately $13,000 each year to handle maintenance, so Cedar Hills officials asked that the County provide a summary of what improvements would be made with this agreement[10].

A year later the County submitted a proposal to Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove, which included the use of the MAG money to provide some safety enhancements in addition to the rebuild of Canyon Road. These safety enhancements would not be to a city standard but would include some curb and gutter, drainage improvements, and a rebuild of the road. As per the proposal, the upgrades would only occur if the cities of Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills were willing to take on several maintenance services immediately and to take ownership of the road in 30 years. If the city rejected the proposal, the County would only do an overlay on Canyon Road[11]. The Cedar Hills City Council rejected this proposal. There were several concerns identified, including:

  • If improvements exceeded the $9.3 million available, the cities would be obligated to pay the difference.
  • Both cities would be immediately responsible for snow removal and salting; pothole repair; road signage maintenance; debris removal; law enforcement; annual costs for striping crosswalks, school crossings, school area messaging, and all additional striping; annual costs of pavement maintenance, such as surface treatment, as deemed necessary by the County in areas of asphalt widening for right-of-way; maintenance of all curb, gutter, and storm drainage facilities; and handling all storm water run-off. Cedar Hills staff anticipated costs for all this to be approximately $15,000-$20,000 per year, which was not budgeted for.
  • Cedar Hills is almost completely built out, which means there will not be a significant increase in revenue needed to maintain this road when the transfer of ownership occurred. Based on figures provided by an engineering firm hired by Cedar Hills, the cost of ownership of this portion of Canyon Road over a 30 year period would be approximately $5 million. This would necessitate a significant property tax increase and/or road fee as incoming revenue would be insufficient. This figure did not include adding sidewalks or bike lanes.
  • Canyon Road is a regional connector road, not a city road. Traffic counts provided in the MAG application show that the current average daily traffic is over 17,000, with an expected increase in daily traffic as population growth occurs in the area[12].
  • For this proposal, the boundary line between Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills is the Murdock Canal; however, there are several homes north of the canal that are in Pleasant Grove. There was a feeling that Pleasant Grove should accept some responsibility for the road north of the canal as more than 50% of the homes between the Murdock Canal and Cedar Hills Drive are Pleasant Grove residents.
  • Pleasant Grove gave up jurisdiction and ownership responsibilities of their portion of North Canyon Blvd, so this agreement was fair for them as they gave up some road and took on some road. This was not the case for Cedar Hills as the city never owned any road that was included in a transfer agreement. Where Pleasant Grove was asked to swap roads, Cedar Hills was being asked to take on an additional road.

On November 22, 2016, a joint meeting was held with the Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove City Councils and the Utah County Commissioners. Cedar Hills again reiterated the concerns identified above and requested the County accept the MAG funds and do the improvements included in the MAG application[13]. The County stayed firm with their decision to refuse any improvements without a transfer of ownership. Eventually, Pleasant Grove accepted the proposal from the County. Because Cedar Hills rejected it, the County made the decision to make improvements for the road south of Murdock Canal while only doing an overlay for the road north of the canal.

After this joint meeting, Cedar Hills officials drafted a new proposal and met individually with each County Commissioner to discuss. During earlier discussions, one item of concern that continued to come up by the County was that County roads do not normally include improvements such as drainage and curb and gutter, so if the County installed these improvements on Canyon Road, it would increase their maintenance costs and set a precedent for other County roads. In order to alleviate these concerns, Cedar Hills proposed that the County use the MAG money to make the improvements originally planned for, and Cedar Hills would handle all the maintenance of the improvements made north of the canal. This benefitted both entities as the road received some needed safety improvements and would prolong the life of the road, but would not increase expenditures for the County. During these meetings, two of the three commissioners indicated support for this proposal. Cedar Hills invited the Commissioners to attend a meeting to discuss the proposal and hear from residents, though only Commissioner Lee attended. A few residents shared concerns and the City Council discussed the benefits of the proposal. Commissioner Lee asked the city to submit a proposal in writing to the Commissioners for further discussion[14].

On May 16, 2017, the Cedar Hills City Manager met with the County Commissioners at a County Commission meeting and presented the proposal. Even though two of the Commissioners had indicated support in private meetings, they presented different views in this meeting and rejected the proposal[15]. The County moved forward with modified plans where Pleasant Grove received improvements south of Murdock Canal, and the road north of the canal received an overlay and some storm drainage.

Cedar Hills residents and officials remain concerned about the safety issues that exist on Canyon Road. Based on traffic volumes and population, there is a need for better drainage, for shoulders, and for curb, gutter, and sidewalks. It is our opinion that improvements and safety features for roads should be based on items such as location and traffic counts, not on which government entity owns the road.

[1] Mountainland Association of Governments is the designated planning district for Summit, Utah and Wasatch Counties. MAG provides local government coordination of mutually beneficial programs and provides regional collaboration and cost-effective public services for the area communities.

[2] Daily Herald article “Residents decry UDOT plan to divest Alpine Highway”. April 10, 2010. http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/highland/residents-decry-udot-plan-to-divest-alpine-highway/article_b168073d-dccd-5f86-87ab-acbc6f59c3e6.html

[3] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/2/2007. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2007-10-02.htm

[4] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 4/2/2013. “Commissioner Gary Anderson states that Canyon Road is the next road on the agenda and that the County is working with UDOT to determine how it will be funded.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2013-04-02_0.pdf

[5] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 11/19/2013. “The Mayor added that neither us or Pleasant Grove are interested in doing this at this point, and neither of us have budgeted to maintain SR 146.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2013-11-19_0.pdf

[6] Resolution deleting State Highway SR-146 and transferring to Utah County. http://utahdot.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=90&meta_id=5927

[7] Mountainland MPO Project Prioritization Concept Report. https://jenneyrees.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/sr_146-reconstruction-and-widening-concept-report_final-2.pdf

[8] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 09/02/2014. ”There is no proposal; other than Mayor Gygi has said many times that Cedar Hills should not own the road.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2014-09-02.pdf

[9] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/07/2014. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2014-10-07.pdf

[10] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 9/22/2015. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2015-09-22.pdf

[11] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/18/2016. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2016-10-18.pdf

[12] Mountainland MPO Project Prioritization Concept Report. https://jenneyrees.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/sr_146-reconstruction-and-widening-concept-report_final-2.pdf

[13] Pleasant Grove City Council meeting minutes 11/22/2016. On https://plgrove.org/component/easyfolderlistingpro/?view=download&format=raw&data=eNpNkE2OgzAMha-CvK_AVKKtWXbd1RygyoChlgJB-Zm2Gs3dXCchVO0q8bO_p2crQqRfRw3BYHTPFlpHeCDoTRcmnr0rXCeZg2e3NpAgOLZ5NEsE1as1Bnb-bRNdrtdVS9Uxo7OaOJUVQXqarEoPrVCVIct6Uf62ukaqPIt_FmcT5k50WVfYbHaDaH7Z7SOHuKvrHTbF18KdKF18gsXlvcaegB9–y39sIXlx1wiNk3kJBgjKu9Vd0t3gPZ7VU-RsPwjfM9LxgVGY0YdU_z9A4yTaM0,

[14] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 04/18/2017. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2017-04-18.pdf

[15] Utah County Commission meeting 05/16/2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6icObXROZg starting point 1:08:45.

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.