Herriman city council candidate answers: Herriman Hills initiative
I would like to sincerely thank the four candidates for taking the time to address my questions. I have included links to their respective websites and/or Facebook pages below.
Here is my original question for the candidates on the topic of the Herriman Hills initiative:
Herriman is flanked on the south by undeveloped, wild hills. There are some trails on some of the south face of these hills which offer spectacular views of the city and the Salt Lake Valley. The land that comprises the hills is mostly owned by private landowners who either now or may sometime in the future want to sell their property or develop it in some fashion.
Many Herriman residents fear that development of the Herriman Hills would be a bad thing. Some feel Draper did a horrible thing by developing the hills above their city. A petition has gathered a sufficient number of signatures to place a referendum on the ballot this November asking residents if they are willing to set up a rolling bond or fund that would collect a fee from all residents so that the city can purchase Herriman Hills property from property owners to preserve it for use as trails (hiking, ATV, biking, etc.) and other recreational purposes.
Currently, the Herriman Hills land is zoned such that if it were developed, lot sizes could be no smaller than 1 acre. Therefore, fears of high-density townhomes, apartments, or even houses with tiny yards are not founded.
Obviously, development of the Herriman Hills would require quite a lot of infrastructure for utilities and roads, but would give firefighters the means to fight a fire in the hills area by placing fire hydrants nearby and roads that would let them get their equipment up there.
Do you support the Herriman Hills initiative of locking up all the land for preservation by the city, some of the land, or none of the land?
I am in favor of trying to preserve as much as possible of our beautiful hills. The payoff for other opportunities in the future are much greater if we can preserve this area now. I could envision ATV trails, mountain bike trails, and sledding hills as a few things I would like to see there in the future. The slope of most of these areas exceed current building code so expanding further up the hillside will only increase the cost for infrastructure and maintenance.
I am in favor of the initiative and preserving this space for open trails.
I am a supporter of property rights and I agree that the proposed density is not a problem. As it stands now, the private group has gathered the necessary signatures to put this issue on the ballot and I am certainly interested to see where the vote will stand.
If the Initiative Fails:
I support any property owner to develop their land as long as they are within the master plan and zoning of the city. If we as a city have not done our due diligence in proper planning, I'm not supportive of "changing the rules" on a developer, particularly if we are just responding to public clamor. There's a definite danger is this mentality. I do have a few concerns about the ingress/egress as it's my understanding there may be only one way in and out (I need to verify on that fact, though). Given our history of fires, I'd want to make sure the residents were safe in the case of a wildfire. Continuing the public safety theme, I'd want to make sure our fire trucks would have access, as well.
If the developer moves forward, we will still be able to work with them to get recreational elements as part of their approval, as we do with other developers. I would certainly like to see complete trail connectivity throughout our community and this would be a wonderful opportunity with or without the development. Draper has done a nice job setting itself apart with a trails amenity and Herriman has the potential to do the same, if not better.
If the Initiative Passes:
As that point, the city has a dedicated revenue stream to purchase land for open space preservation. I would like to see us be judicious with that money as open space is desirable, but expensive for a city to maintain. I also do not want to the city to engage in any activity that would prevent development from property owners unwilling to sell (such as purchasing property from a willing owner solely to restrict access to another's property essentially making them unable to develop). I don't support those tactics at all.
With all of that said, I do support amenity-development within our community. In part, because I believe it may be our niche, as it were. We are at a disadvantage with economic development given our geographic location (we don't' have the ideal 360 degrees access), limited access until Mountain View Corridor fully develops and our population right now. There are recreational elements we could develop that would make Herriman a destination community for those with outdoor interests. We have plenty of land, that is an asset that many other communities don't have as they are far more built-out than we are. Ideas could include an outdoor amphitheater, a world-class shooting range (placed much further out than the original), an ATV course, bicycle course, large, programmable sports fields, etc. At one time, we made a play for the county fairgrounds and I thought that was another good idea to establish Herriman.
I believe that it the right of the people to make that decision for themselves, which is why I am glad that it is on the ballot for a vote. I am more concerned about the difficulty of getting infrastructure to those locations then anything else. Several developers have approached the City in the last two years, and none of them want to put in the needed infrastructure to make any project feasible. I don't know if is possible to reasonably get the infrastructure built, and so it make sense to look at other uses for the land. The voters will tell the City what they want to do in November, and I believe that will be the best course for the City.
Kudos to candidates Martin, Kingsbury and Hurdsman for taking a stance on this issue. I found David Watts' response to be nothing short of a cop-out and severely lacking of leadership.
I have several concerns with the initiative.
First, it may infringe on property owners' rights and people often forget that property rights was one of the most central in our country's founding. Too often we see cities and other municipalities strongarm their way and inappropriately exert their power in the form of eminent domain for no legitimate governmental purpose.
Another issue is the increased tax burden on Herriman residents to take on the ownership and management of the land. Herriman residents are already taxed higher than in neighboring communities because the city has a comparitively smaller commercial tax revenue base and has to rely on residents to fund operations. The purchase and maintenance of the Herriman Hills land will only add to that burden.
There are portions of the Herriman Hills land in question that is already unsuitable for development and could be used for open space purposes such as various types of trails. And, as has been done in the past, the city could work with landowners and developers to ensure open space is part of their development plan.
I am in favor of the city owning a portion of the Herriman Hills land to preserve it for open space use and developing it for recreation use and possibly entering in partnership with companies that operate recreation businesses which could make the hills and the city a destination for others to come spend their money.
On the issue of the Herriman Hills initiative, for me, it's Nicole Martin.