Herriman city council candidate answers: High-density housing
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 high-density housing:
Talk to anyone who has lived in Herriman for some time and you'll hear about high density housing, apartments, and townhomes. Many feel the city did a poor job planning the Herriman Town Center by letting developers build a huge amount of high density homes and apartments instead of what the rest of Herriman largely consisted of: single-family homes with yards. Some argue that the higher-density housing attracts crime.
How do you feel about the city's direction on high or higher density housing? If you feel it was a mistake to allow its development, what do you think the city should or could do in the future?
As a city we have gone the wrong direction here. We have too much and too little oversight. Contractors have ruled in this area. We can look at current zoning and change where it hasn't already been approved. I think we need all types of housing, but I don't think high density should make up more than about 20-25 percent of our residential development.
In order to bring in businesses, we need more population. With this in mind, high density in the Herriman Towne Center area, and along the major roads (i.e. off the corridor) is the direction I would support. South Jordan and Riverton both have large business areas set to be on the Mountain View Corridor. As a city, we need to secure business here to give a great tax base and less burden on the residents.
I do not think high density is a dirty word, I think "overdensification" is. In the process of planning, a developer requests a certain number of lots per acre and often meets that approved number with a variety of densities. For me, planning is all about balance. (ie. those with a 1/3 of an acre achieve that larger lot with smaller lots to balance out, so that the developer is still meeting their overall number approval).
Smart city planning hopes to create a multi-generational city, and that requires a diversification of densities. Without that fundamental element in place, you'll have a young demographic city at the beginning of development that continues to age. Without a variety of housing types and densifications, property value increases will eventually mean that Herriman becomes a community where only older, well-established individuals can afford to live. Wouldn't it be better to have a community where a child can grow up, buy a town home during or after college, purchase their first starter home, upgrade to a home or two and then retire in a nice active living community--All in Herriman? That is the type of multi-generational city that good planning generates. You see many cities that did not plan multi-generationally trying to do it now with in-fill densification because they have a largely single family community that is aging steadily, seeing population drops and, unfortunately seeing sales tax revenue declining, as a result. Sandy is a good example of this.
High density is always a controversial topic because residents don't understand its necessity. Is there an increase in crime? Yes, there can be, particularly in certain types, but high-density does not equal crime. Nothing is that black and white.
Wise densification also ensures we are able to create a strong economic engine that will generate necessary sales tax revenue. If we are out of balance in our revenue, we are not as sustainable as we need to be and that's when taxes increase and residents are over-burdened. That is not an acceptable scenario for me.
I believe we are densifying as we should to create balance in our community, but I want to take a step back and look at our overall vision with public outreach and education. I think we need to first answer the question of, "What do we want to be when we grow up?". Do we want to be a bedroom community with largely single family homes, small commercial base and the higher taxes that come with that lifestyle choice? Do we want to have a variety of densities, build a larger commercial base and have a more balanced tax revenue stream? I support the latter, with the caveat that I want us to take a hard look at our densities. I do think we've developed so rapidly that I wonder if we've been as careful as we should have been with the quality of the density.
Three changes I would like to make quickly are as follows:
I would inject community input in every development moving forward, as a required step. Sandy City does this with their Community Coordinators, I believe the only city to do it, and I think it's an amazing idea. The city is divided into 30 communities, with each having a Community Coordinator as part of the development process. Each development is required to mail a notice within a radius of their project and hold a community meeting. The recommendations of the affected community during that meeting are then given to the planning commission as the project moves through the approval process. This is an example of a government taking the extra step to ensure the public is a part of the process. A resident may not feel comfortable attending planning commission or even be aware of the process, but they may be willing to attend a meeting in their area, facilitated by one of their neighbors, particularly if they then know their opinions and thoughts are factored in by the planning commission.
Our city council chose to remove themselves from subdivision approval a few years back, with disastrous results, in my opinion. The City Council used to be required signatories on the final plat, ensuring they were able to approve drainage, water, roads, overall connectivity and design requirements. Knowing the city council answers to the public, I do not think we would be seeing the poor exterior facades we are seeing if this policy were still in place. I would work to reinstate this, because the look and feel of our community is simply too important to leave to staff and a planning commission that don't report back to the public.
There is a clear disconnect with the city's view of the growth of the city and the resident's view of the growth of the city. That's a product of poor communication on the part of at the city, in my opinion. I would begin a campaign of planning education and feedback. A public planning charrette, as it were. This could be done innovatively using traditional open houses, social media outreach, online surveys, infographic creation and YouTube information videos, to name a few. At the end of the day, not everyone will agree with the vision, but we will have gone a long way in educating on the reasoning.
It's important to remember, cities don't build cities, developers build cities. None of us would be here were it not for a developer's investment. I am dedicated to ensuring Herriman City continues to have healthy, working relationships with developers and we hold them to the standards we see fit to meet our vision of the city.
I have an article on my website on this one, but in short, I believe that affordable housing is important, but it need to be where we need it, and not placed everywhere because the developer can make more money. I do not support subsidized apartments, and if there is going to be density, it should go along the transit corridors, and not up against the mountain.
It would seem all candidates agree the city needs to be a more prominent participant in deciding what gets built where and how. Kurt Hurdsman said he believes there should be caps on how much high-density development is allowed in Herriman, but his numbers seem higher than the amount we currently have.
Valarie Kingsbury highlighted the need for high-density to be limited to specific areas and that's a very good point. There are a couple of higher-density developments in Herriman that have me scratching my head because they seem somewhat out of place considering the homes around them.
David Watts makes an excellent point about subsidized housing and I wonder how many Herriman residents know that some higher-density housing in Herriman is subsidized.
It's my opinion that rental properties tend to have more occupants that, because they haven't bought into (literally) the culture of home ownership, may not have as much respect for property as those who own their home.
Not all people who rent are criminals, but many criminals simply have no respect for others' property and I think you'll find that's partly because they don't own a home of their own. Subsidized housing only increases the likelihood that you'll have residents who lack respect for property and are statistically more likely to be involved in crime. It seems like common sense to me, but I'd love for someone to prove me wrong.
Nicole Martin makes some powerful observations about how Herriman has missed the boat by not being as involved in planning and not getting its citizens as involved in development planning.
Kurt Hurdsman and David Watts are both highly critical of developers, contractors, and builders and they have valid personal reasons for having those feelings. I definitely think the city needs to be more responsive to concerns that promises aren't being kept and plans aren't being followed, but if procedures are put in place like Nicole Martin describes, there would be more community oversight as well as city involvement in development.
My pick on the topic of high-density housing is Nicole Martin.