An Interview with Heber City Manager Matt Brower and Mayor Kelleen Potter
After more hours than you can count on your family’s fingers and toes combined, Heber City Council has approved the Sorenson Annexation. In response to a petition to annex into Heber City by developers, deliberations to create a master development agreement began over one year ago. Naturally, there have been, and continues to be, strong feelings on both sides. To help everyone understand how the development will move forward as a part of Heber City, we asked City Manager, Matt Brower to share a few significant points from the Master Development Agreement (MDA).
First, it’s important to recognize that the entitlements to build 5,700 units on the 8,288 acres were granted twenty years ago by a previous Wasatch County Council. This means that even without the annexation agreement, the upper Jordanelle master-planned community would have had the same amount of units in unincorporated parts of the county. Mr. Brower stated, “. . . the Sorenson area is going to develop. The question is which jurisdiction is going to process it . . . Heber City is the right choice primarily because of the Envision Heber 2050 master plan and being able to incorporate many of the significant principles and tenets into the MDA.”
One of the major components of the project is a direct result of the Envision 2050 master planning. Matt shared, “The community was very clear that they wanted to cluster and preserve as much open space as possible. To do that, we created village centers; the Lakeside Village Center, UVU Village Center, and the Jordanelle Mountain Village Center. Each center will have its own synergies, its own design, and open spaces.”
Matt expressed, “There is extensive open space and improved park space. In fact, they [the developers] are required to dedicate up to sixty acres of improved park space to the city, most of them being in the village centers. We’ve organized the parks into three types; neighborhood parks, village center parks, and regional parks.” Neighborhood parks will be smaller parks owned and maintained by neighborhood HOA’s. The village centers and regional park are much larger, open to the public, and will be owned and managed by Heber City.
“What is interesting with this project is that the open space will be the regional park which will encompass the trails that are there now. Additional trails . . . and we are negotiating the construction of three trailheads, each with restrooms, a fire pit, pavilion, and paved parking. The park is unique, and there will be none like it in the area. It’s not organized baseball or soccer fields, it’s really about the outdoors, it’s about protecting it [the open space] in a way that we can enjoy now and for a long time into the future.”
The overall project will include 5,122 acres of open space, 3,166 developable acres, and is slated to be built out in five phases over the course of forty years. That’s a long time! We all know that things will change with each decade. Thankfully, City Council covered these concerns, “. . . the agreement allows the city to change standards, ordinances, and fees that we charge. The only thing that the city can’t change is the density, land uses, and sequencing of the project. The city still has the ability to amend and make sure that the development complies with the most recent standards and ordinances.”
Many residents of Heber City have voiced their concerns regarding the costs associated with the annexation. Mayor Kelleen Potter shared in an interview with KPCW that the developer has invested $20 million into a water and sewer system for the project and will not use the city’s existing system. Matt Brower stated that, “. . . if there is something unique or specific to this project that results in higher costs, the provisions negotiated in the MDA would allow us to recoup those costs. We can establish some type of taxing mechanism to make sure that those increased costs are solely borne by those that are contributing to them.”
Others in the community have asked what happens if the developer sells. Mr. Brower said, “The terms of the agreement run with the land, not the ownership, the agreement states that the developers have to comply with the MDA. Mayor Potter stated, “I am positive there’s not a development agreement in this county that has been discussed and worked on for so many hours and is so thorough. I think everything was thought through. Well done to everyone who’s worked on this.”
We may not have enough fingers and toes to count everything involved in this process. We may not all agree with the outcome. We can, however, rest assured that our current City Council has worked hard to create a unified approach to growth as we build a remarkable community together.