I am making a change to how I report on city activity in my blog. Going forward I will share my thoughts with you on key items that will be on the council agenda for the next meeting rather than providing an after action report as I did when I was a council member. As mayor I generally do not have a vote on issue but I do help formulate the agenda. As such I will try to provide inside into upcoming issues and share some of the discussions which precede council meeting. Upcoming agendas are posted on the city web page. Click here to see a list of the upcoming and previous agendas.
As residents you can best influence decisions by connecting with council members in advance of meetings (see Tips on Influencing Local Government).
From my point of view there are 3 important items that will be up for a vote or discussion. The first is a resolution indicating that the city supports the construction of the East-West (Murdock) Connector. I shared the resolution with council members earlier, received feedback, and made a few changes to accommodate some concerns.
Below is the final draft of the resolution which will be discussed at council meeting. Following the resolution is some commentary from me, excerpts from some of the the feedback I received from council members and a copy of letter from the Executive Director of MAG, the agency that is funding the road.
RESOLUTION OF SUPPORT OF THE MURDOCK CONNECTOR, SALE OF THE RIGHT-OF-WAY, AND DESIGN OF THE ROAD MEETING COLLECTOR ROAD STANDARDS
WHEREAS the communities surrounding the Utah State Developmental Center support its goals and mission; and
WHEREAS this support is demonstrated each year by volunteers from the communities providing over 16,000 hours of service to the developmental center; and
WHEREAS according to a 2017 UDOT managed study the Murdock Connector road will by the year 2040:
- Save residents of the local communities over 44,000 hours of driving time each year.
- Reduce miles traveled each year by 1.8M miles.
- Will have saved residents of the local communities over $3,500,000.
- Will have reduced CO2 emissions by over 8.7M metric tons.
- Improve the flow of a local traffic in region
WHEREAS the improved access will benefit developmental center visitors, volunteers, and staff members; and
WHEREAS the improved access will also reduce response time for public safety personnel that serve the center thus improving the safety and security the developmental center residents, local school students and surrounding communities in general; and
WHEREAS Highland City has been in discussion with the Pheasant Hollow HOA regarding the connector road and will continue this discussion as the road is developed; and
WHEREAS the Murdock Connector will start at Harvey Blvd/N. County Blvd on the east and run west to Canal Blvd/Alpine Hwy; and
WHEREAS the Murdock Connector was referenced multiple times in the Utah State Development Center Properties Master Plan which was approved by the legislature in 2014; and
WHEREAS the approved Master Plan and the Highland General Plan classified the Murdoch Connector as a “collector” road; and
WHEREAS the funding set aside for the road by the Mountainland Association of Governments is contingent on the road functioning as a collector that benefits multiple communities.
NOW, THEREFORE Be it resolved that on this 9th day of January 2018 the City of Highland supports the sale or lease of state land for the construction of the Murdock Connector and requests that it be designed by engineers to meet the standards associated with collector roads.
This past summer the Utah State Developmental Center Board voted to authorize the construction of a road through their land with the following restrictions:
- Limit the speed to 25 mph.
- Central Connector Road will have 2 lanes, with no center turn lane.
- Bike lanes will be added along both sides of the road.
- No roadside parking.
My first concern is that this road described does not necessarily meet the definition of a collector road, which is the only type of road that the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), who is funding the road, can build. My second concern is that a USDC board member mentioned at the time they approved the road that if Highland doesn’t want to build the road the way the USDC wants they don’t have to let us built it. No one disagreed with her statement.
Here is the letter from MAG regarding they type of road that needs to be built in order to have it funded.
Below are comments I received on the initial draft of the resolution I sent to the council.
Thanks for your email and sharing your proposed resolution.
My first question deals with the resolution already pasted by the City Council. Do we need a second resolution?
Second, it looks like this resolution is a boiler plant resolution. Who is the author and which other cities are acting on the same resolution?
Third, it's my understanding that the State Legislature is already working on a bill to approve the road and development of the USDC property. Isn't that correct, and if so, why do we need this additional resolution?
I personally prefer the wording in the original resolution previously passed the City Council. In addition, there are several comments in your resolution that needs more discussion. First, it's my understanding that the USDC is planning on leasing the property rather than selling the property so they can retain some control over the road to protect the residents of the USDC. Second, funding for the road is probably not contingent on it functioning as a collector road (this is a critical issue since the USDC Board only approved a two lane road with reduced a speed limit across the USDC property). Third, there is an agreement between Highland City and the Pheasant Hollow subdivision that is not referenced in your resolution that grants Pheasant Hollow the right to be involved in the design of the road (as elected officials, I think it's our duty to make every effort to protect as much property in Pheasant Hollow as possible).
I would prefer more discussion with the City Council before proceeding with the resolution as written.
Thanks for sharing!
Councilman Scott Smith:
Rod, thank you for crafting the Resolution.
Just a few comments: 1) While you reference the USDC Master Plan Development from 2013/14 as discussing the Connector, the Plan, as I have looked at it, addresses additional connections west to the Alpine Highway as well as the Murdoch Connector. In the Resolution, I would recommend that you modify this section by referencing the USDC Governing Board vote on May 17th, 2017 that allowed the current Murdoch Connector route as this vote formally recommended to the Legislature that the Connector be built across State Land. 2) As a Mayor and Council, I would think that it would be a good gesture to acknowledge in the Resolution the ongoing negotiations with the residents of Pheasant Hollow on the configuration and the specifics of the Murdoch Connector in their neighborhood. I think it is always good as a Mayor and Council to acknowledge any negative impacts on our citizens while promoting projects for the 'common good'. 3). I appreciate your referencing the UDOT Road and Traffic Analysis Study, as the recommendations in the Study should serve as valid, professional guidance. 4) I too have had a long conversation with Andrew Jackson who basically told me that if the road connects Harvey Blvd to the Alpine Highway (point A to point B) and will carry the traffic projected in the UDOT Study as a collector, that MAG will finance it. He also was present and participated fully in the discussion held during the USDC Board Meeting on May 17th. Although I am not thrilled going through the construction of the Murdoch Connector, I support it's completion, however, I would hope that the City and MAG would also be responsive to the concerns of those who are directly negatively impacted. There are some compromises which would provide a win-win for all those involved while providing the necessary traffic flow and volume. Thanks again for taking time to craft the resolution. If you would be willing to consider some of my suggestions, I could support the Resolution 100%. Best wishes for a Happy New Year! I am looking forward to working with everyone. I understand that Ed is sending around a resolution encouraging us to keep the USDC land in Highland until we have more information about the final, accepted RFP. I support this. Scott.
Kurt Ostler’s comments:
- I also recommend adding the approval and recommendation by USDC Governing Board May 17, 2017, as suggested by Scott
- There seems to be some question, to what Andrew Jackson, MAG Executive Director has mentioned MAG funding would fund. I would suggest we get a letter from MAG concerning the funding to specify exactly what MAG will fund. Question being: ONLY a collector road with certain speeds or the road that the USDC board has recommended?
- Concerning Pheasant Hollow: I'm not sure if it needs to be put in this Resolution since it really is an issue and agreement dealing with Highland City and Pheasant Hollow subdivision area, not sure if its a Statewide concern.
- Is this Resolution just for the State Legislators or as a statement to the community as a whole? If for the community then recommend adding Pheasant Hollow wording, if just for State Legislator not sure if needs to be in Resolutions.
The resolution was updated to reflect some of the change requests. Here are my comments where I did not incorporate a change request. Note, the council can revise this by majority vote:
- MAG funding is absolutely contingent upon the road functioning as a collector. I have spoken with Andrew Jackson, MAG Executive Director, and met with him at office along with his head of transportation planning. They were both quite clear on this issue. Your point on the board vote is exactly why this resolution is needed. Dan Hemmert and Mike Kennedy understand this as well but our support will help them [Refer to letter from MAG above]
- The problem I have with the board vote is that they stipulated a two lane 25 mph road after Mr. Jackson spent over 20 minutes talking about road design and how engineers use national standards and best practices to determine the proper design and speed of a road. After that discussion the board designed and set the speed of the road based on their personal opinions.
- After the vote a board member made the comment that if the road wasn't designed according to their wishes the board could just not to allow it to be built. No one expressed an opposing view. If we were to acknowledge their vote I would want to be clear that we disagree with their stipulations. I wanted to avoid putting the board in a bad light when I don't see that it is required.
- The resolution is being directed at the state legislature and asks them to authorize the sale and require that the road be designed as a collector
A RESOLUTION OF HIGHLAND CITY, UTAH OUTLINING SUPPORT FOR RETAINING THE CURRENT HIGHLAND CITY BOUNDARIES THAT INCLUDE THE UTAH STATE DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER
WHEREAS, we acknowledge the mission of the Utah State Developmental Center
(“USDC”) to care for individuals with disabilities using the development of their land to
provide long-term funding and security; and
WHEREAS, the current boundaries between Highland City and American Fork
involving the USDC land have been in place for over 40 years; and
WHEREAS, the Utah State Legislature has passed laws delineating the open and
transparent process necessary to adjust boundaries between cities; and
WHEREAS, the Utah State Legislature has not yet released the USDC land for
development, so Highland City is currently unable to make decisions concerning the costs needed to provide essential services without more detailed information.
NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved by the City Council of Highland City, Utah:
To retain the current city boundaries involving State-owned USDC land unless, after
properly analyzing the final approved RFP for the Master Plan Development, it is
determined that it is not financially sustainable nor beneficial for Highland City to
provide the essential services required.
Kurt Ostler asked for one change to be made everyone else either had no comment or said they were fine with it as is:
I think this is a well thought out Resolution and appreciate you taking the time to put it together.
Here is the recommended change I have:
"To retain the current city boundaries involving State-owned USDC land unless, after properly analyzing the final approved RFP for the Master Plan Development, it is determined that it is not financially sustainable, in cities best interest to retain nor beneficial for Highland City to provide the essential services required.
Personally, I strongly support any resolution which delays or outright opposes the state imposing a boundary change. In addition to my concern regarding a state imposed boundary change I have significant concerns regarding the state developing ~145 acres south of Lone Peak and retaining ownership of the land. Their objective to create an ongoing revenue stream that will benefit the Developmental Center is understandable but, in my view it is outside the “proper role of government.” The two biggest reasons I oppose this (as does AF Mayor Brad Frost and Cedar Hills Mayor Jenny Rees) is
- If the state retains ownership of the land, the land is exempt from property tax. This negatively impacts both the city and the school as the state intents to put about 1,000 residential units in this area, along with retail and commercial office. The city will need to provide police and fire and the school district will need to accommodate additional students sans property tax revenue.
- If the state retains ownership of the land they do not have to adhere to local zoning regulations or other land use ordinances. In fact the state intents to do put the following in the land immediately south of Lone Peak:
• 255 Single-Family residential lots including 28 senior single-family lots
• 630 apartments
• 50 townhomes
• 200 senior apartments
• 134,000 square feet of retail
• 40,200 square feet of office
Consider this, what if all state agencies attempted to fund their operations by becoming commercial land owners with the right to override local ordinances and operating businesses through joint venture agreements? Does that really reflect the American ideal of limited government and the free market?
Our only source of relief from this is the state legislature or the governor’s office as the master plan (click here to view it) was approved in 2014. A resolution to approve the issuance of an RFP to develop the entire acreage will be before the legislature this year. The project manager for the state expects the RFP responses to contain components similar to those listed above but the physical arrangement/layout will be different than the original master plan. If you have concerns please make them known to your state senators or representatives. You can find their contact information in the following post: “East-West Connector – What Can You Do Today?”
2018 City Survey
Each year for the last two years staff has put together a resident survey which was distributed in the January utility bill as well as being made available online. The previous two years the questions were shared with council in December and revised based on council feedback. This year, there was a late request to hold off on the survey and get professional input to ensure that it was properly constructed. I supported delaying the survey by a month so that we could discuss the issue at council meeting. Below are the current draft survey questions:
- What are the TOP 2 things you like about living in Highland? (Answers are intended to be limited to items the City has control over. Check up to two.)
- Adult Activities: Library Classes, Arts Council Classes, etc.
- Bedroom Community
- Large Lot Size/ Low Density
- Parks and Trails
- Youth Activities: Youth Council, Library, Arts Council Classes, Recreation Leagues, Events, etc.
- What are the TOP 3 things you wish would change about Highland? (Answers are intended to be limited to items the City has control over. Check up to three.)
- Adding Senior Programs
- Better Maintenance of Current Parks and Trails
- Constructing New Parks and Trails
- Focus on Long Term Financial Health of City
- Increased City Events & Programs
- Increased City Library Programs and Materials
- Increased Communication/ Transparency
- Increased Economic Development Efforts
- Increased Fire Department Funding
- Increased Police Department Funding
- Increased Repair and Reconstruction of Roads
- Zoning Changes to allow for senior communities
- Zoning Changes to allow for senior high density apartments in Town Center
- Zoning Changes to allow smaller lots, condominiums, town homes, etc.
- What would you say is the quality of life in Highland City? (Mark only one oval.)
- Poor to Excellent 4 point scale
- Please rate the following City services. (If you haven’t had experience with any of these services or don’t have an opinion, please skip.) (Poor to Excellent 4 point scale)
- City Cemetery
- City Hall Hours
- Code Enforcement
- Communication with Residents
- Emergency Medical Services
- Fire Services
- Highland Fling
- Number of Parks
- Number of Trails
- Other Civic Events
- Police Crime Prevention
- Police Traffic Enforcement
- Quality of Parks
- Quality of Trails
- Road Maintenance
- Snow Removal
- Utility Billing
- If you marked “Poor” or “Fair” on any category, please let us know what you would like to see changed.
- Please rate the following City personnel groups on their professionalism. (If you haven’t interacted with any of the groups or don’t have an opinion, please skip.)
- Elected Officials
- General City Staff
- Library Staff
- Public Works Field Staff
- Describe your general experience with staff and/or elected officials.
- If in the past year you have come in or called City Hall, please select why. (Select all that apply. Please do not consider the Library, Justice Court, Police Department, or Fire Station.)
- Building Permit Arrangements
- Business Licensing
- Cemetery Arrangements
- City Council Meeting
- Development/ Engineering
- Pavilion or Facility Rental
- Public Works Issue
- Records Request
- Utility Bill or Garbage Can Issues
- How would you rate the City’s communication efforts with the following methods (If you haven’t experience with any of these methods or don’t have an opinion, please skip.) (Poor to Excellent 4 point scale)
- City Newsletter
- Email Alerts
- Signs around town
- Social Media Updates
- Text Alerts
- If the City were to begin live streaming City Council meetings, how often would you view the video?
- Likely never
- Only for specific topics that interest me
- Every or almost every meeting
- How likely would you be to support the City raising additional funds through fees or taxes for following categories? (Very Likely to Very Unlikely 4 point scale)
- City Library
- City Wide Events
- Events & Programs for Adults including Older Adults
- Events & Programs for Youth
- Fire Department
- Parks and Trails Construction
- Police Department
- What do you consider to be a “large lot”?
- 40,000 square feet
- 30,000 square feet
- 25,000 square feet
- 20,000 square feet
- How long has it been since you’ve visited the Highland City Library?
- 0-2 years
- 2-6 years
- 6-9 years
- Why would you visit or consider visiting the library? (Select all that apply.)
- special events
- story time
- computer use/ WIFI access
- quiet space
- research assistance
- proctored tests
- attend a class
- borrow a movie/music
- Which, if any, online library resources do you use with your library card? (Select all that apply.)
- Ebook/audiobook checkouts (OverDrive, Recorded Books)
- Continuing education classes (Universal Class)
- Language learning (Rocket Languages)
- Researching databases (Ebsco, digital Utah, legal collections)
- Utah’s Online Library collection (standardized test prep, government documents, newspaper portal, auto repair, genealogy, homework help)
- Driver’s Ed practice tests
- How long have you lived in Highland?
- 0-5 years
- 5-10 years
- 10-20 years
- 20+ years
- How long do you anticipate that you will continue to live in Highland?
- 0-5 years
- 5-10 years
- 10-20 years
- 20+ years
- What is your gender?
- What area of Highland do you live in?
- north of Timpanogos Highway (S.R. 92) and west of Alpine Highway (5300 W)
- north of Timpanogos Highway (S.R. 92) and east of Alpine Highway (5300 W)
- south of Timpanogos Highway (S.R. 92) and east of Alpine Highway (5300 W)
- south of Timpanogos Highway (S.R. 92) and west of Alpine Highway (5300 W)
- Do you have any children living at home under the age of 18?
- What is your age?
- Under 18
- 65 or Older
- If there is any topic regarding Highland City that you would like to comment on, please do so here.
Note, council has been having an email discussion regarding whether or not we need to hire an outside firm to ensure that the questions are unbiased and produce actionable results. My personal view is that let council continue to work with staff on questions but that we not delay the survey distribution beyond February. If council wants to add to next years budget outside help we should talk about it during our budget discussions. Here is an email from Erin Wells, our assistant city administrator regarding the survey:
Please see below for a discussion on the intended actionable results from the questions.
1) Will help us understand what people value and what Council and staff should work to preserve/emphasize/expand
2) Helps us know where residents would like us to focus our efforts. I believe this can help determine time and financial priorities.
3) There is not a real actionable result with this question. It is one that is common on surveys and is useful for trend tracking.
4) This question is the same as last year and allows to track trends to see if there is something that can be improved/ we need to put more focus on or if people are responding positively to a change that was instituted.
5) Used to help us understand what their complaint is with our service.
6) Again used to track trends to understand how we as staff are being perceived and if we are doing well or need to improve. The Elected Officials category was added because last year we saw a handful of comments regarding elected officials in the next question.
7) Helps us to understand if their is a concern, what particularly it is.
8) As we redo our website, we want to make the most pertinent information very accessible. While we have data on what people access on our website, we don't have much data on why people call/ come in to City Hall. This is designed to do that.
9) Will help us understand how we are doing with each communication device and if we need to put more emphasis in one particular area.
10) If the City were to move forward with staff filming Council meetings, a preliminary cost estimation is $4,000. We want to ensure that cost and the time staff would put into it is justified.
11) In the past few years there has been some discussion on creating a separate revenue source for public safety. This is designed to see if the public supports that. Other categories were put in mainly to provide comparisons/ add other options.
12) This is designed to help us understand what people mean by "large lot" in question 1.
The Library questions were written by Janae, but I will attempt to articulate why she is asking them.
13) While Janae has data on Library supporters/users, she does not on other citizens. I believe this would give a better picture of the use of the library from the community as a whole.
14) This will help them understand what they need to emphasize to be more useful to people.
15) This will help them understand what online resources people are using and likely what they should emphasize or maybe step away from.
16-21) are demographic questions that can be useful in conducting cross tabs which would help us understand if one particular group of people like males, or families with children feel differently about something than females or empty nesters.
22) Often people want a place just to write what they think in general about the City or we didn't cover a particular topic they want to comment on. This is a space for them to do that.
Of course we are not perfect and if anyone has an idea of how to better ask the question to get the intended information, we welcome your feedback. Or if there is other information the Council as a whole would like to gather now, we would be happy to write additional questions. Like Nathan said, if Council wants to and is willing to pay the cost, we can always use an outside company.
I would also like to re-emphasize that this does not have to be our only survey. If a particular topic comes up later that Council needs resident feedback on, we can always do another survey ourselves or hire a company then. We just felt that a more general survey would benefit this council as it is new and we haven't together yet established priorities or a direction.
Let me know if there are other questions I can answer now.
Here’s another email from Erin discussing her experience with surveys:
In terms of my experience and survey training, during my undergraduate at BYU, I studied political science where I took classes such as: Quantitative Political Methodology, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior, Political Psychology, etc.
During my undergrad I worked for 2 years with Quin Monson and Kelly Patterson in the Center for the Studies of Elections and Democracy(CSED) (http://csed.byu.edu/). Quin and Kelley are the founding partners of Y2 analytics (http://y2analytics.com/) which is the company Lewis and Young suggested to us. The biggest survey project I worked on at CSED was the Utah Colleges Exit Poll (http://exitpoll.byu.edu/) where we designed 6 surveys that were administered state-wide as an exit poll during the 2010 national election. I also helped in designing online surveys that CSED administered state-wide a few times a year that essentially were the predecessor to Y2 Analytics data. In both of these situations and others I assisted in question design, survey administration, and data analysis.
While I certainly don’t claim to be a survey or data expert, I do feel confident in my skills there and worked to produce the best survey using the best methodology given the time and cost constraints. Like others have indicated, I would welcome specific feedback to see where concerns lie and where it can be improved. I look forward to the discussion tomorrow and will move forward with whatever decision Council makes.