Saturday, January 11, 2020

Wimbleton Trail Referendum: Comments on the Do Not Sign the Petition Flyer

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.

    Comments
    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.

    Comments
    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.

    Comments
    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.

    Comments
    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.

    Comments
    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.

Links

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to clarify the partial truths in the mailer. I would like to add a few thoughts. From the way the mailer was written, someone who is not well informed on this issue may make the assumption that all Wimbleton residents are in agreement on this matter. That is not the case. As a Wimbleton resident who lives adjacent to open space and trail that goes to Freedom Elementary, I am very opposed to the sale of city land in our neighborhood and there are others who feel the same as I do for a variety of reasons. We purchased our home specifically because of the trails and open space in Wimbleton. The space behind our home is maintained by the city and we have beautiful park-like views, yet this area was included in the potential disposal. So clearly, the push to purchase open space isn't just about the city's failure to maintain trails as the mailer implies. Also, I would like to address the point that no one will be materially harmed by the sale. The sale of open space behind us means that we have two choices: either we spend thousands of dollars to purchase a small part of what we currently enjoy or we don't participate in the sale and allow our neighbors to buy the land behind us. Either decision would have financial repercussions. I doubt we would get a dollar for dollar return on the purchase if we sold at a later date and not participating would most likely affect the value of our property because the views and open feeling we currently have would be gone. Even if the sale of open space in Wimbleton ultimately succeeds, signing the referendum creates a little time to discuss the issue more completely and allows Highland residents a voice in a matter that affects all of us.

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  2. Katie, I agree the trails near your home are very well maintained. I agree some of the others weren't maintained as well. I think it would be unwise to sell now, just as the city has promised over 3x more budget for the trails. From $0.37 to $1.43 per linear foot as noted by the Mayor on a facebook post on https://www.facebook.com/groups/HiObservers

    I found this on savehighlandtrails.com website. It shows how some studies have been done about homes with and without open space and the home values.

    Trails Add Property Value

    Land in open space communities with trails demand a higher value. Some links to back up this.

    There are several other studies that back the finding that Open Space and Trails add to nearby property values. These are just a few! So studies show, removal of trails, will decrease the property value of the homes nearby.

    “Based on our empirical results, we estimate that the externalities generated by adjacency to open space increase residential home property value by approximately $40,000 (or 20% for a mean-valued home of $188,000).” https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/375a/5261d4b2b6d098a33ddd50ebd3bc687d9862.pdf

    “A desirable public park or other recreational open space boosts the property value of nearby homes by 8%-20%. One study looked at 16,400 home sales within 1,500 feet of 193 public parks in Portland, Ore., and found these boosts to home values: Natural areas: $10,648.” https://www.houselogic.com/remodel/windows-doors-and-floors/9-surprising-things-add-value-your-house/


    “Trails, like good schools or low crime, create an amenity that commands a higher price for nearby homes. … When trails increase property value, local governments receive more property tax revenue.” http://headwaterseconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/trails-library-property-value-overview.pdf


    “Along a popular trail in Austin, Texas, the price premium ranged from 6 to 20 percent, depending on whether the neighborhood had views of the greenbelt surrounding the trail and whether it had direct neighborhood access to the trail. https://www.nrpa.org/globalassets/journals/jlr/2005/volume-37/jlr-volume-37-number-3-pp-321-341.pdf

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  3. I've had friends complain that big dogs roam free on those sections of trails, so the friends quit walking there.

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  4. Your friends should call the Lone Peak Animal Control Office. Here is a quote from a post in the Lone Peak Police Facebook page.
    "As always, if you have any questions, give me (Tamra Shadoan, ACO) a call: 801.756.9800. I will try to answer your questions. If I can’t, I will tell you I need to go find the answer and call you back. Additionally, if you have any animal complaints, i.e. dogs running loose, feral cats, horses running down the road, etc., call the non-emergency dispatch number: 801.794.3970."

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding this post.