Editor: My family moved to the Heber Valley forty years ago, when I was eight. We came from the fast-growing suburbs of Denver, which I thought were a paradise at the time: out on the edge of the prairie there were miles and miles of new subdivisions with houses in various states of construction to wander through, soon-to-be pocket parks offered mounds of dirt for us to ride our bikes on, and fast food options promising happiness in their kid’s meals were popping up on all sides.
It took me many years—and a move to an actual paradise—to realize that the appeal of that land was that I was there early in its transformation. Today Aurora, Colorado, is considered an undesirable part of Denver—it is crowded, unattractive, and crime-ridden. It is like so many other parts of this country that failed to balance its original appeal with any kind of vision for its future.
This election year we have the opportunity to do more than hope our beautiful Heber Valley retains some of its appeal and charm. We have the chance to dedicate some actual resources toward keeping our open spaces open. The methods for doing so are not only economically sound, but they utilize the power of the market economy. They are fair to the landowners who elect to participate, they are realistic, and frankly they are very affordable when compared to the costs of development.
I know many people living here who say they will move somewhere else when the valley loses its charm to over-development. But it isn’t too late to take a stand here, and now. We do have the right to speak up and help shape the future of our paradise. Driving from Heber to Midway, we can see that “gentlemen’s agreements” won’t be enough to preserve our open spaces—all it takes is a politician or two with a vested interest, or a friend to protect, to undermine them. No, we need actual money, actual tools, and the political will to preserve our paradise.
The open space bonds for Wasatch County and for Midway City that have made it to the November ballot go a long way in doing just that. As someone who has seen the transformation of once-beautiful areas into typical suburbs of urban blight, I urge you to join me in voting YES on both.
How Can We Save Midway’s Charm
Editor: We got quite a shock at Midway's City Council meeting on 10/2/2018. Currently there are 305 new homes permitted for construction, with another 810 scrambling for building permits. Once all 1,115 new homes are completed, Midway's population will double. We are at the front end of a subdivision tsunami that could ruin Midway forever. Are we prepared for this small town to double in the next few years? Will Midway have any chance of retaining it's small town charm once the population has doubled? Can the Roads, Water systems, Sewer systems, and Schools keep up with this rapid growth? What can we do to save the Open Spaces? Voting FOR the Midway Special Bond is a crucial first step.
If you figure 4 people per home, once all 1,115 new homes are built, Midway's population will increase by 4,460 new residents! It will double the population of Midway. There will be tremendous strains on infrastructure. Roads will be a major issue. Traffic congestion will become a big problem. We got our first traffic light last year. There will be many more. We will need multiple bonds for more Schools, more Water and Sewer, which will drive taxes up dramatically. We will have to endure years of construction, with torn up muddy roads, the endless "clack" of nail guns, and heavy construction trucks running day and night. Will all this rapid, unchecked growth change Midway forever? Yes it will. It will make us like all the other towns in UT that sold their soles to the endless development, strip malls, gas stations, convenience stores, and fast food joints. Midway and the Heber Valley are just too beautiful for that kind of unconstrained growth. Is this really what the citizens of Midway want? If you want to inject some sanity into this development chaos, then vote FOR the Midway Special Bond.
It's time for the citizens of Midway to get involved with the future of their town. Go to City Hall and voice your opinion at the meetings. A year ago, hundreds of folks came to City Hall to protest a grotesque 695 unit storage facility that was going to be lit up 24/7 like a lunar landing site on Main Street in front of Memorial Hill. Thankfully, we got it defeated. The Midway Special Bond for Open Spaces is coming up in this election. Study after study across the country show that Open Space preservation ends up being much cheaper than subdivisions. So it makes great economic sense. Midway's economy has transitioned into a tourist economy. People here come to relax, not deal with traffic congestion and endless subdivisions. Preserving Open Space is crucial to Midway's economy. Preserving Open Space is crucial to maintaining Midway's small town charm. Vote FOR the Midway Special Bond.
Midway is at a very critical junction. Either we speak up now or it will change in ways nobody will like. There are two groups, Pure Midway (www.puremidway.org) and the Open Space committee at Midway City need your help. Both of them are dedicated to a much more balanced approach to Midway's growth. They are not against growth, rather they want to see thoughtful, balanced growth done in a manor appropriate to Midway's needs. Engage with them. Come to their meetings and learn whats going on. Donate your time and money. Follow their results on Facebook. Register to vote and make your voices heard. Let's not wake up five years from now and wish we had done something. Together, our voices and actions can keep Midway a beautiful place.
Important Local Ballot Issues
Editor: Besides your usual candidate choices, there will be a few new issues to decide when you get your mail-out ballots around October 16th. If you recall in 2016, 74% of the voters denied a rezone in the North Fields. This year there are a couple of issues that are similar, or a direct result of that vote.
There's Proposition 10 which is on your ballot because a group of citizens was successful in gathering signatures for a referendum petition this summer, so as to overturn a county council decision last May. They voted to amend our General Plan, which is the document to guide future county councils as our county grows. The council moved a major zoning boundary just for one landowner to get higher density. We have concerns with that decision.
One, it moves the Central Planning Area boundary, which includes the North Fields, to allow a landowner to increase his density from 1 home per 20 acres (A-20) to 1 home per 5 acres (RA-5). That exception of the General Plan now encourages other landowners to ask for the same benefit. You can see where this is headed, more and more A-20 zoning may be converted to RA-5. Sounds like what we voted against in 2016, right? Just a little different mechanism by the council to change the zoning.
Second, this council decision also introduces the RA-5 zone into the Central Planning Area, which the General Plan doesn't currently allow. So the rest of the Central Planning Area could get the 1 home per 5 acre zone in the North Fields. The councilmen who voted for this amendment say that we don't know what we're talking about and that they know better, but it's still not clear that they understand the gravity of their decision.
The other decision for you to make is concerning the Wasatch County $10 million Open Space Bond. Since that 74% 2016 vote mentioned above, some citizens have been working towards securing grants and private donations to give willing landowners permanent conservation easements while they continue to own and maintain their property. All these grants and private donors require local seed money to show we have some skin in the game. That's where this Open Space Bond comes in, this money will be leveraged at least 2 or 3 times. The cost to taxpayers would only be $19.97 per YEAR on a $300K primary residence, or $36.30 per YEAR on a $300K commercial/ second home. This bond is a county-wide bond, all interested landowners can apply, but there is criteria to meet. There are also many checks and balances in the system, from a county advisory board, to the IRS and grant committees' requirements. The decision is yours. Whether this is affordable for you, whether we will have to pay increased future infrastructure and services taxes anyway for growth and if this bond could offset those, and whether you support permanently preserving these properties as part of a long term plan to protect our quality of life. Do you want less traffic, better air and water quality, and view sheds to be enjoyed for generations to come?
If you would like more detailed information on both these issues and much more, go to WasatchTaxpayersAssociation.com and link to the 2018 Election page. We hope you will learn more about the permanent, long term consequences of these decisions before the ballots start arriving on October 16th.
A Better Way Than a Bond and Debt for Midway
Editor: $320,285 annually for 21 years. That is the amortized payment for a $5,000,000 bond at 3.5% interest that Midway will have to raise taxes for and pay each year if the $5 Million-dollar bond is fully utilized.
In an era of tight budgets, can Midway afford this? The Midway budget is already strained. Some facts regarding this debt: Full term payout would be $6,725,985. At 5% interest it would be $373,118 annually. 3.5% for 15 years, the payment would be $402,910 annually. We all want open space but there are better ways to achieve it than this.
For years we have been counseled to avoid debt, be wise, and live prudently within our means. One questionable feature of the proposed loan is that money can be withdrawn over a 10-year period. It is to be repaid over 21 years, potentially making it a 31-year ordeal.
This bond in essence is writing a huge blank check.
What if we have an emergency like an earthquake or a hillside fire or added taxes for a pending lawsuit, new High School, a Wasatch County Bond or any number of unforeseen expenditures?
There is a fear that all the land in Midway is going to be developed. This isn’t the mindset of most landowners. The tax increase may be counterproductive to a lot of the landowners causing them to sell because they are taxed too much.
We have a competent mayor and town council, city planners, and importantly, Courtland Nelson who chairs the Open Space committee. We can and will have open space without this bond. They will use other means to help preserve open space. There are better ways than putting a burden on the future generation to pay $320,0000 annually for 21 years.