Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Highland City Proposition 1: Shall the city sell 1.1 miles of existing city trails and 5.8 acres of open space in the Wimbleton subdivision

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In December of 2019 the city council voted 3 to 2 to surplus 1.1 miles of trail in the Wimbleton Subdivision and sell 5.77 acres of adjoining open space. Subsequent to the vote a group of residents filed to refer the decision to voters. They collected 1,857 signatures in support of this effort, many more than the minimum required. As a result of their work Proposition 1, which asks residents whether or not they support the council decision,  is listed on this year’s ballot (click here to read the Voter Information Pamphlet for a detailed description).

I believe the council decision contained a fatal flaw (which I will discuss later) and will be voting AGAINST the proposition. The post below provides an in-depth review of the issues along with my perspectives.

Below is a map showing the trails under discussion. The yellow trails are the ones being sold. The six separate purchase segments are identified with a unique background color (red, orange, green blue …). Note, if you click on the green arrows a picture taken at that point will be displayed (the direction of the arrow identifies the direction of the picture.

Pictures taken Oct 13, 2021. Started on NW corner of the system and walked the perimeter in a counterclockwise motion (these are the pictures shown in the map).

Pictures taken Feb 24, 2021. Started on NW corner of the system and walked the perimeter in a counterclockwise motion.

Over the years I have reviewed the information provided by those requesting to purchase the land behind their homes and rationale to do so. Here is a brief summary of my thoughts to the arguments supporting the sale:

  • The city has not maintained the trail and adjacent open space adequately.
    Could the city do a better job maintaining the native areas? Absolutely! There are areas where puncture weed (I hate puncture weeds) has been and is an issue. We started a puncture weed abatement program along all our trails this year as this is not a unique issue to Wimbleton. The trail and adjoining open space shown in the picture at the top of the post represents part of the property that will be sold. Clearly, some property is being well maintained. As to the condition of the trails in Wimbleton, I’ve walked them several times in the last couple of years (pictures of the trails from my walks on Feb and Oct of this year are shown above). There are sections that need rehabilitation, but they are all very walkable. Note, the road into my subdivision is worse than any section of the trail.

  • The city has made promises with respect to the trail in the past and we are tired of them not being fulfilled.
    I cannot speak to the issue of what promises were made by former councils, council members, or city staff but the current council and I have followed through on making improvements to the trails.

    1. Over 60% of the trails in Highland were seal-coated last year.
    2. Staff developed and the council approved a 5-year trail plan (if you include the current year it is a 6-year plan).
    3. The trail plan is funded with current revenues. NO additional taxes required.
  • The trails are not used and are unsafe.
    Trails are safer for pedestrians than sidewalks. There is no risk of being run over by someone backing out of their driveway. The trails are used. In Nov and Dec of 2019, we collected trail counts in two locations (see map below). We also counted traffic in two similar locations during Sep and Oct of this year. Comparing 2019 and 2021 counts, in one case the average daily traffic doubled in the last year (32 to 64 per day) and the other case it nearly tripled (38 to 111 per day). You can click on the walking man icon to see the collection date range, the average daily traffic (ADT), and a link to the spreadsheet containing the data. Note, a summary report shows that there is a modest bump in trail traffic around times that school starts and ends indicating the trails are used by school kids.

  • My $20 open space fee is not being used to maintain the trail and adjoining open space therefore the trail should be abandoned.
    I have researched the cost of maintaining open space, trails and parks for over three years. Here is what I can definitely say about the open space fee – it does not cover the cost to maintain the trails. Nor do the funds generated by the fee cover all the entire cost of maintaining the open space and parks in Open Space subdivisions.

  • The city will make money if open space and trails are sold.
    These funds are one-time money. Yes, we will generate a small amount of ongoing revenue from property tax (less than $100/yr) and will save money on reduced maintenance (<20,000/yr).

Trails and open space are one of the most highly valued amenities in Highland. If we sell them, we won’t get them back. My preference is to continue down the path we are on which is addressing the maintenance issues for trails and open space for all Highland residents. If is OK to remove them in Wimbleton for the reasons listed above then it is OK to remove them everywhere.

Finally, even were I in support of abandoning the trails and open space, the approach approved by the 2019 council has a fatal flaw. The flaw is that in order to circumvent the all-or-nothing policy to the sale of contiguous open space they approved a plan that breaks the open space and trails into 6 sections; each of which can be sold independently, provided homeowners agree to purchase all the land in a section. There are homeowners who aren’t interesting in purchasing. The city will end up owning  a broken trail system which provides little, if any, value to Highland residents.

Please join me in voting AGAINST Proposition 1 to preserve 1.1 miles of trail and 5.77 acres of open space, avoid breaking a functioning trail system, and not setting a precedence that could be used to justify eliminating trails and open space in other parts of our city.

Rebuttal to the argument supporting the sale. Submitted by Kathleen Roberts

Wimbleton’s trails and open space are used by the public for travel and recreation – children use the trail to walk to school and parks. Much has changed since the 2019 council decision to sell 5.8 acres of open space and remove 1.1 miles of trail.


  • The city began receiving a portion of a new county transportation tax. The council allocated 50% of these funds to trails adding $100,000 per year to the trail maintenance budget.
  • Over 60% of the trails in Highland were seal coated, including more than 50% of the Wimbleton trails.


  • A 5-year plan to maintain and rehabilitate the trails was approved. It is funded by current revenues. No new taxes are needed!
  • A puncture weed abatement program along city trails was started.
  • The Neighborhood Option Trail designation was removed. This was a bad policy that allowed a few residents to petition the Council to buy the trails.
  • The ditch is in the process of being abandoned and won’t be a safety issue.

The approved plan divides the trail into 6 sections. If a homeowner adjacent to any section elects not to purchase, then this section of trail cannot be sold, thus creating a fragmented trail system and reducing the expected revenue.

Please vote “Against” the 2019 Council decision.
Overturn the sale and preserve Highland’s trails and open space!

Endorsed by: Mayor Rod Mann and current council members
Kurt Ostler, Timothy Ball, Kim Rodela and Brittney Bills.

Rebuttal to the argument opposing the sale submitted by current council member Scott Smith, former council member Ed Dennis, and current council candidate Colby Gibson [a current candidate for city council], Bruce Braithwaite, and Mark Hafen. My inline comments to the rebuttal are italicized. Click here to read my comments on Do Not Sign the Petition flyer the was mailed while referendum signatures were being collected.

Selling this trail generates large funds to improve other parks and trails, resolves years of subdivision concerns, and will prevent a tax increase to rebuild trails.

Selling the trail will generate some money but how much is unknown because we don’t now which of the 6 segments will end up being sold. Additionally, we don’t know if the city will need to build a storm drain sump to replace detention basins which could be sold. The approved 5-year trail plan is funded with current revenues (mostly from a county sales tax dedicated to transportation). The council has not discussed any tax increase to further improve the trails.


  1. Residents with beautiful yards have had to deal with a trail that is breaking apart, surrounded by weeds (Goathead thorns), has sections that are unsafe for residents, and includes a dangerous ditch.

    It is true that in the past trail maintenance and weed abatement has been sub-optimal. However, beginning in 2020 the city increased trail funding from $35K per year to $135K. The increase in funding came from a new county sales tax specifically for transportation. Last year we seal-coated over 60% of Highland Trails. This year the council approved a 5-year plan to repair and maintain the remaining trails funded with existing revenues. We also started a puncture weed abatement program this year and are in the process of taking the steps necessary for the ditch to be abandoned. Below are pictures of the trail taken in October of this year. I would encourage you to walk the trail and determine for yourself if it is breaking apart and unsafe for residents to walk.

  2. This trail is redundant and underused; it doesn’t connect directly to other trails. There are sidewalks that run parallel.

    Trails are safer for walking than sidewalks – children and adults don’t have the risk of being run over by cars backing out of their driveway. “Underused” is subjective term. Without information about trail usage in other parts of the city is a claim that I don’t believe can be substantiated.

  3. This trail needs to be repaired (not just seal coated) which will cost thousands of dollars!

    Over half the trail was seal coated last year. It is correct that much of the remaining trail needs to be rehabilitated but that is covered in our our 5-year plan which, as mentioned, is funded with existing revenues.

  4. East of the Wimbleton Subdivision, the City is currently developing a “destination trail” from the Murdoch Canal Trail through Mitchell Hollow to the County Equestrian Park. Funds from the sale of this trail could be used to complete this new trail benefiting more residents.

    Also correct. However, the trail mentioned is part of the county’s regional trail plan and it’s construction has a very good chance of being funded by the county (we would be required to pay a 6.67% match). We do not need to sell existing trails to fund the creation of new ones. The eastern trail does not take kids in Wimbleton to school.

  5. Freedom Elementary does not consider this trail a safe route to school.

    It is true that the trail does is not on Freedom Elementary Schools’ list of safe routes to school. It is not true that Freedom Elementary school does not consider the trail to be safe. I’ve spoken with school district officials. There is a simple process to put the trail on the official safe route to school list and the trail routes have not gone through that process.

Does this set a Precedent?
NO. This only applies to the perimeter trail in the Wimbleton Subdivision.

It absolutely does set a precedent! The city has never eliminated an existing trail system. How would breaking this trail system not set a precedent.

Can the proceeds be used for other trails and parks?
YES. Over $600,000 would be available which is five times the amount of yearly funds available for trails from the County gas sales tax.

Any one-time funds generated from the sale could be used for capital improvements in other parks. $600,000 represents an unrealistic best-case scenario. The council agreed to divide the trail system into six segments. Each segment can only be sold if adjoining residents purchased the entire segment. My understanding is that from one to four of the segments have adjoining residents that do not wish to purchase the trail and open space. Moreover, two of the segments contain water detention basins which if sold would need to be replaced by sumps constructs at the city’s expense and selling another segment would require the relocation of a pressurized irrigation line.

Note, the phased approach shown below was used to circumvent sections 12.30.090.B and 12.32.090.B of the Municipal Code which state:
”All of the property designated for disposal shall be purchased so that there are no isolated parcels to be owned and/or maintained by the city. If one or more parcels of city owned property in a subdivision is not purchased, then all the city open space property in the subdivision cannot be disposed of under this ordinance. The City Council may approve exceptions to this requirement if the City owned property can be accessed without the need to cross private property.”
Absent the phased approach if any piece of the trail was not purchased none of it could be sold.

Does it really make sense to sell an existing city asset to fund the improvement of others? Would we sell a road that is used to fund the construction or maintenance of another?


Was this Resolution Legal?
YES. The City’s Council decision was legal and met the requirements of Utah State Law (then and as amended).

Actually, according to state statute (10.91.609.5(4) a & b) the council was supposed to explicitly state:

(a) good cause exists for the vacation; and
(b) neither the public interest nor any person will be materially injured by the vacation.

The council did neither in the motion to sell the land. This is a technicality that could be remedied by the current council if Proposition 1 passes. Personally, I don’t believe good cause existed then or now. However, if the council decision is ratified by the voters then it would imply that the public believes good cause exists and the council would most likely vote that good cause did exist.

Is the Price Fair Market Value?
YES. The City Council approved the selling price based on comparable values for undevelopable landlocked property.

The council did approve the selling price at 20% of the county assessed value of adjoining property ($2.45 a square foot). Whether or not that is the fair market value is subjective. For example, in order to build Canal Blvd the city purchased undevelopable landlocked property for about $10 a square foot.


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