Sunday, October 24, 2021

Is The Annexation of 109 Acres Into Lehi Rather Than Highland Good or Bad?


I would like to clear some some issues which were raised in two flyers from a council candidate. Here is a quote from each:

I have been told that if we protest this annexation, we will lose the ‘goodwill’ of the  developer and Lehi City, but while I respect property rights and the importance of being good neighbors, I was elected to represent Highland citizens and protect our boundaries. If you agree, please contact the rest of the City Council at We are in the 45-day window to present. WE NEED YOUR OPINION NOW!

With apologies to the Star Trek ‘Borg Collective,’ let’s talk about the recent council decision into into a Tri-Party Agreement with Lehi City and the developer of all the property around Micron Technology (now Texas Instruments) …

Borg-Picard_thumb6As a member of the “Collective” I thought I would share my perspectives on this issue. The 109 acres in question are unincorporated (i.e. in county) but are in Highland’s annexation plan. The land is in the process being annexed into Lehi at the request of the property owner, DR Horton. Highland, Lehi, and DR Horton recently signed a tri-party agreement in which we agreed not to contest the annexation in exchange for what the Highland City council and I thought were very favorable terms.

2021-10-05 DR Horton
109 acres of ground that was included in Highland annexation plan.

2021-07-06 DR Horton NE Micron
DR Horton Concept Plan

The short story is that Highland’s ability to negotiate was based on our ability to lengthen the annexation process and thereby delay the development of the land which DR Horton purchased from Micron. Note, we asked three attorneys what our chances of winning an annexation battle. The answer from each of them was slim to none. The property owners have the largest say in what municipality their property is annexed into. In this case DR Horton wants to go into Lehi and Lehi is willing to annex the property. I spoke with a former county boundary commission chair and the county attorney who advises the commission. They both felt the property owners desires were the most important factor..

So what did we get out of the deal we signed with Lehi and DR Horton?

  • All lots bordering Highland will be developed at 2 lots per acre. Had we stuck with the 2014 agreement stipulating the 2 lots per acre on the 109 acres those the western border of Highland would have been developed at a much higher density. The current plan is preferred by most of the residents and council over the plan that showed the 109 acres being developed at 2 lots per acre and the remainder at a much higher density.
  • DR Horton agreed to limit the total lots on the ~190 acres to 597 units and to not change the number of units in any of the identified pods  by more than 10%. Note, the overall density of the project is 3.1 units per acre which is 47% less than the density of 5.9 units per acre that council approved for the development south of Lone Peak High School. Note, about 42% of the Horton project will be “active adult” which has a significantly lower impact on traffic and schools than traditional single family units.
  • DR Horton agreed to put in a connection to the trail the trail system in the project from Highland’s western boundary if the residents agreed to allow an easement for the trail.
  • DR Horton agreed to split the cost of adding medians to Highland Blvd north of 11800 N if the city decides to put them in.
  • Lehi, Highland and DR Horton will split the cost of the traffic control to be put in at 11800 N and Highland Blvd 33%, 33%, and 34% (most likely a traffic light but it could be a round-a-about). Absent the agreement Highland and Lehi would have split the cost. Our portion would have been between 50% and 75%. This likely saved us over $150K. The cost of a light is between $300K and $500K.
  • Lehi will split the cost with Highland of maintaining the portion of Highland Blvd adjacent to the eastern boundary of the project.

The Borg
So are 4 out of 5 council members and I part of a “collective” who agreed to assimilated with the “Borg?” You be the judge. Would we better off making a symbolic gesture to defend Highlands border by contesting the annexation? Absolutely not! Doing so would have lost us any leverage to negotiate and thus cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct benefits. The development would have been less desirable in terms of impact on schools and traffic (no active adult and lots of multi-family units). Would contesting the annexation have resulted in a loss of “good will” with with Lehi and DR Horton? Yes. Was that the primary motive for not contesting the annexation? No.

Here are a few of other items to consider.

  • An independent analysis of having the whole project in Highland showed that after 10 years the cost of the development to the city (road maintenance, public safety, infrastructure) vs. the benefit (increase in property taxes, sales tax, and fees) was about break even. At 25 years the city would lose over $4.5M.
  • The additional homes may provide increased motivation to develop the 1.5 acre commercial parcel located on the NE corner of Highland Blvd and Grant Blvd (see parcel identified by red boundary in picture below).. If that happens our tax base will grow a bit.
    2021-10-22 Commercial Prop Highland Blvd
  • Lehi is requiring the developer to put in a road to the west that will provide an alternate to using Highland Blvd.
  • Our residents had the opportunity over a period of six months to attend two open houses with DR Horton, interact with the council in public meetings, via phone, email, and text. I personally had about 170 emails exchanges with the public (17 different residents), elected officials, and the developer as well as numerous phone calls and meetings.

Would there be some benefits to Highland if this development came into Highland? Yes. They include letting us have final say over what is built and a short-term increase in revenue that is higher than our costs.

Below are links to documents, audio, and video related to the annexation issue.


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