It continues to amaze me how some elected officials are seemingly oblivious to the desires and wishes of their constituents. Last week (3/15/07) the Heber City Council unanimously approved the annexation of the 1400 unit Red Ledges development. That application, submitted 11/22/06, had previously attempted approval through Wasatch County, but was brought to Heber City when it became apparent that the desired density increase from about 50 to 700 was not going to be approved.
Heber City officials, from the first inkling of the project, seem to have coveted for the perceived tax revenues which they felt would flow into the city's coffers. (see blog of 9/16/06)
Throughout the entire process, the 'public' was overwhelmingly opposed to the project for various reasons - traffic, congestion, density, gated exclusivity and little direct community benefit. At the 'final' approval meeting before a packed room,s several people spoke against approval primarily for traffic and fiscal reasons. A request was repeated for a deliberate analysis of the potential community fiscal impact prior to annexation. At the conclusion on the public comments, the City Manager Mark Anderson, was asked about that impact.
Reported, as it were, from a quick crayon scribbled analysis on the back of a napkin (figuratively), he acknowledged that the house "values" presented by the developer may be inflated by 30% and the benefit to Heber Light may be exaggerated. He also agreed that the percent of secondary residences was probably way off, etc. While not giving any real analysis of the potential costs to the average taxpayer of Heber AND Wasatch County, he concluded that (paraphrased) "I'm certain that it will be revenue positive for the city." and that his decision was not based solely on money and that we need a "diverse" community and affordable housing. Anderson also declared that there is correlation between retail business and population and that increasing housing will bring more business which will offset the cost of the residential. (A recurring philosophy, he has promulgated for some time in his quest for more annexations and growth.)
Council member Hokanson, then asked if a berm could help the road impact to surrounding neighbors. Anderson replied that with a 102 ft wide property being purchased for the road (connection to Mill Rd.) and only 56 ft required for the road, Heber would have a surplus of 36 or 38 ft (sic) (An example of his analytical prowess?) which could be sold to the neighbors or landscaped.
Council member Bradshaw then indicated that he is just a regular guy and knew there are certain thing government should and should not do and it wasn't government's business how much profit a business should make. He said we should ensure that this project is a benefit to the community and he had confidence in the City Manager and he was favorable to approval.
Council member Lange, gave a delightful homily about a man riding his horse in a neighbor's cornfield and respecting property rights which warmed the cockles of one's heart.
Council member Lazenby said something about if we don't approve it the county will at the same density (A statement which, on its face, failed as the reason for the annexation was DENSITY). Council member Shelton was present. Mayor Phillips was out of town. Approval to annex passed five to nothing.
Now that we have the additional 1400 houses we assuredly will need a Big Box (or two), per the Anderson dicta on growth. Coming soon at a meeting near you.