Monday, February 26, 2007

An Open Letter to Heber City Council

The Heber Big Box issue was recently on KSL Click here: broadcast on KSL!!!

Dear Heber City Council members,

Some momentous decision are apparently soon to be made on two items which will have a lasting and unchangeable effect on the Heber Valley. The removal of the cap on retail business (Big Box) and the approval of the Red Ledges development. I urge, in the strongest terms, that a slow and deliberate process be made in the consideration of these items.

Probably the best thing that has happened as a result of the proposed Red Ledges development is seeing the County and Heber City working together to attempt to solve mutual problems. One of the saddest things about that cooperation is that the solution seems to be more to the advantage of the developer than the consideration of the health, safety and welfare of the Heber Valley community as a whole.

The issue of density was apparently not considered in the Interlocal agreement, the developer’s proposal of 1370 was accepted as the maximum density allowed. The original allowed density was under 100 ERU's, as purchased, on the current county portion of the land.

A plan is being formulated by the County Conservation/Open Space committee and was planned to be implemented for this development. This was to be in coordination with all governmental entities in the valley and talks are reportedly being held to implement the plan. Under the plan, the open space mitigation fee structure for "zone changes," which would include Red Ledges, is being proposed as 12.5% of the lot value times the density increase.

The proposed mitigation fee in the Interlocal Agreement of $4.5 Million is off by a factor of over 10. At an approximate 750 increase in houses requested by the zone change, times $600K average lot price at 12.5% equals $56 Million. With the annexation approval this would now be limited to $4.5 Million. Is this to the benefit of the community or the developer?

As is generally agreed by everyone interested in this issue, the primary (if not sole) reason for the annexation petition by the developer was DENSITY. The primary (if not the sole) reason for consideration of the petition by Heber City was money - in proposed taxes and fees. The city has NOT done any independent analysis of the fiscal impact figures presented by the developer as was promised by Heber City Manager (see podcast of interview with Mark Anderson labeled "city part I" and "city part II")

Many of the developer’s figures are suspect, in my opinion, and overestimated in the developer's favor. At the very least, an analysis needs to be done for a conservative impact of costs and benefits - to the City AND to the county, in general. ALL Heber City residents are also Wasatch County residents, but the City fiscal impact analyses generally ignore the County (and school) costs.

The Red Ledges project has little positive effect or benefit on the "health, safety and welfare" of the community as a whole, which is, or should be, the major deciding factor in these issues.

The Red Ledges developer extols three "benefits" on their website :

  • Money - taxes which may be overestimated and costs which may be underestimated.
  • Public Facilities - of which there may be a few for the community, a private golf course not included.
  • Prestige - Wasatch County is already World Class as proven by all of those desiring to come and those desiring to stay.

There are similar financial analysis problems with the new "unlimited’ mixed use zone and the proposed Boyer development. An analysis of these financial impacts - other than that presented by the developer - should be a MINIMUM requirement for approval consideration. I strongly urge you to revisit Heber’s $10,000 study on the Big Box - it was far from a ringing endorsement of the concept. The Dan Jones survey - including the comments - also needs to be read and heeded - not to mention listening to the strong opposition shown consistently and recently by your constituents.

I won't even mention the traffic issues, which have dominated the discussion so far and still have NOT been solved. The Boyer development will virtually destroy the current concept for the Western bypass. Red Ledges agreement apparently builds a road to nowhere.

In the final analysis, these projects are mainly about one thing - profit for the developer. At the Aug 14 2006 joint County City meeting, the County Manager wisely asked this rhetorical question: "Is it the government's responsibility to maximize the profit to someone that owns property or let them develop under guidelines that are socially compatible with the people that live here?"

The answer to that question, in my opinion, should be your guide to a decision to continue with the protest. To me the answer is clear; maximizing developer profit is not the responsibility of government; protecting the welfare and property rights of the community, as a whole, IS.
This is an opportune time to continue a discussion between all of the entities in the Heber Valley to work, in conjunction, to implement the various General Plans and attempt to retain the rural, small town environment that is cherished by the residents. I strongly urge you to do the right thing for the residents of your community.

Council people, the decision is yours now on both of these issues. Approval of either one will drastically change the face and future of this Valley, in ways not generally favored by the residents OR contemplated in the current Heber City and Wasatch County General Plans. Do the right thing, follow the wishes of the Heber Valley residents.

No comments: