On December 3rd 2019 the city council agreed to sell trails and adjacent open space property in the Wimbleton subdivision to neighboring land owners. The map below shows trails in the vicinity. The yellow ones are those that the council agreed to sell.
I read with some interest the flyer I received today from the “Neighbors and Friends of the Wimbleton Subdivision.” The subject of the flyer was a referendum that was filed to overturn the city council’s decision to sell the trails and adjacent open space in the Wimbleton subdivision. The flyer states “You will soon be asked to sign a referendum to reverse the wise decision to sell this property.” Was it a “wise” decision? Let’s begin by reviewing their questions and answers.
Questions & Answers From the Flyer with My Comments
- Was this decision legal? YES!
The City Council’s decision was legal and met the requirements of Utah state law. There were no conflicts of interest by anyone involved.
It is incorrect to say there was no conflict of interest. I believe there was, albeit it was not necessarily a legal conflict of interest. A city council member did state that he had a personal interest in this decision. Note, it is legal according to state code for a council member with a conflict of interest to vote, if it is declared. We had three attorneys review this issue to ensure that there was no legal conflict of interest.
It is correct to say that it was legal for the council member who stood to gain personally to vote on this issue. The decision to vote in spite of the personal conflict of interest was not, in my view, wise. .
- Does this establish a precedent to sell other City rails? NO!
Per the Trail Master Plan, the majority of the city trails are not optional and cannot be sold nor eliminated by this process.
Over 26% of Highland City trails are eligible for removal by the same process used to remove the Wimbleton trails. Highland City has never removed a trail that is actively used (to see trail use data in the Wimbleton area click here). The sale of the Wimbleton trails would be the first and would eliminate 6% of Highland City trails.
- Is the Price Fair Market Value? YES
The price was determined based on a formula recently agreed upon by the City Staff and City Council.
The proposed price formula was never agreed upon by the council in any public meeting. Additionally, the city recently sold open space property to Lehi for over $6.00 per sq. ft. (over 2.5x more than the proposed sale price for Wimbleton). Also, the proposed sales price is 20% less than an appraisal that was performed over one year ago for the Wimbleton Open Space property.
- Will the money from the sale be used to improve other City trails and parks? Definitely YES!
This decision has the potential of generating over $600,000 for other needed City trails and park improvements.
All funds generated from the sale of Wimbleton trails and open space (with the potential exception of up to $90K) would be used to improve city trails and parks. However, if the objective was to raise money by selling city assets, then wouldn’t it be better to look at unused assets rather than well used trails.
If all of the Wimbleton trails and open space property was purchased, the city would incur expenses of $80,000 to $90,000 to put in storm drains needed to replace two detention basins and move a pressurized irrigation line. Thus eroding the value gained from the property sale or in effect reducing the sales price.
- Is there enough money currently to maintain and develop all the City trails without a significant tax increase? NO!
Signing the referendum to overturn the sell of the Wimbleton Neighborhood Option Trail is agreeing to a potential City-wide tax or fee for parks and trails.
This is not an accurate statement. The net annual financial benefit to the city to selling the trails and open space (reduced maintenance costs and additional property tax revenue), excluding one-time money from the sale, is $13,800 a year, $0.25 per month per household or 0.14% of the general fund budget. If the city were to implement a tax or fee to cover this lost benefit few would call it a significant tax or fee (no council would ever initiate a tax or fee for a dollar amount this small).
The cost to seal coat all Highland City trails is about $140K. The city increased the annual trail budget by $100K annually starting this year (3.8x the amount previously spent). Seal coating all trails could be readily be accomplished within a few years without a tax increase. The city has not provided any cost information with respect to repairing sections of the trail with large cracks but is in the process of creating a multi-year trail plan (similar to the road plan that was put together a few years ago)..
Does the city need more money to maintain parks and trails? We don’t know yet. It will depend on a number of factors including what we the residents want in the parks and what we want on our trail borders. What we do know is that this sale will have a very negligible impact on annual costs.
In 2019 an Eagle Scout project was organized to repair a nearby trail that is about the same length as the trail being sold. The cost to the city (Highland provided the asphalt used to repair larger cracks) was very limited. Click here to read about the project and what was accomplished.
It is interesting to note that two of the three council members who voted for the sale of the trails and open space, also proposed implementing a city-wide park fee of $8.00 per month on June 18, 2019 (the proposal failed). They did so without prior discussion in any council or public meetings. To watch the video click here.
So, was this a “wise” decision? In my view, NO, as this irreversible decision affects all of Highland. Why would someone lobby to deny residents a voice in this decision? Many of us live here because of the trails and open space. A “wise” decision in this case, would be to let Highland residents vote to reverse the sale of 6% of our trails, plus adjacent open space.
If you want to watch the council decision on December 3rd click here. If you want to skip past the staff presentation and public hearing the council discussion starts at 4:35. Earlier in the meeting there was a vote on providing pressurized irrigation service to a property owner in the county. This discussion starts at 2:02 in the same video. Providing this service allowed the ditch on the east side of Wimbleton to be abandoned and facilitated the sale of the adjacent trail. The trail on the east side was necessary to provide access to maintain the ditch.
- Map showing the trail being sold (in yellow)
- Overview of the Eagle project that repaired trails in the Canterbury North subdivision
- June 18th council meeting where city-wide park fee was proposed
- December 3rd staff report, public hearing and council discussion regarding trail disposal
- December 3rd council discussion regarding trail disposal
- Map of all Highland City Trails (neighborhood optional trails shown in yellow)
- Wimbleton Referendum Information Pamphlet
- Save Highland Trails website. Information from those supporting the referendum.