Pure Midway Advocates For $5 Million Open Space Bond

Oct 2, 2018

Credit Pure Midway

Residents of Midway are being asked to approve a $5 million open space bond on this November's ballot--even while all of Wasatch County will also consider an open space bond of up to $10 million on the same election day.

The citizens group Pure Midway is campaigning for the local bond and a representative talked to KPCW on Monday.

The Pure Midway group is hosting a meeting on Tuesday, October 2nd, starting at 6:00 pm at Midway's Community Center. A representative for the group, Kate Noble, said attendees are invited to make their arguments for and against the bond.

She said the bond has been proposed due to the phenomenal growth headed to their town and county.

"One of our board members said that the Heber Valley is at risk at being loved to death. It's really caught on, people are moving over to Midway and Heber in droves as they get priced out of other places. What's happening is there is a huge building boom going on. There's nothing wrong with building and people need houses and places to live. At the same time when it happens that quickly you've got to plan for that growth so that it doesn't just happen unchecked. We've got to have some green spaces that get saved for the residents and also to keep that valley special, keep it's rural character going."

Noble said county residents have talked about open-space bonding for 20 years, without a proposal. Now there are two bonds on the ballot.

The group website. "Pure Midway.org" has a section for Frequently Asked Questions. She said one of the most popular questions is--why are two bonds being proposed simultaneously.

She discussed what the Wasatch County bond could accomplish.

"Nobody has identified any land yet, but a lot of people have talked about how it would work to protect the North Fields. Also, with the Wasatch County bond only a small portion of that will go over to Midway and if the county bond doesn't pass then Midway won't have any funds for open space."

She said another major question from citizens is--why haven't bond proponents identified the parcels they are going to buy?

"We spoke to a lot of experts as did the city and the county. They determined after that it was better not to identify properties first. A lot of times if you identify a property the price will go up. Or you've put the property in your bond language and then the property is suddenly no longer available and all of that work on your bond is for nothing. Or you can't purchase it on the terms that you thought you could purchase it on, whether it's a purchase, a conservation easement, etc. If the deal falls apart then you've bonded, and you can't use the money."

Noble said for the county bond, the cost, per $100,000 of home value, would come to $6.66 a year. For a home at $600,000 value, the tax would be $40 a year.

For the Midway bond, a house at the same value would pay $162 a year.

In other words, if both bonds pass, the tab for a $600,000 home would be about $200 annually.

She said if the Midway bond passes, an open space committee will recommend how to allocate the funds.

"So, there's an open space committee that was convened by the last administration. That open space committee has spent hundreds of hours looking at various ways of preserving open space. So, the open space committee is coming up with a list of criteria for what would be an appropriate piece of land to purchase. From what I understand, that should be in the voter information packet before people vote. From what I've heard, pieces of land like that have the most eyes on them, larger parcels instead of really small, under five acres parcels. Things that are more in the valley floor. I do know that they're going to try to protect some things that could be legislatively unwound. So for example, like property in a steep slope ordinance, that's kind of low-hanging fruit."

She said under the current unofficial plans, they hope to establish conservation easements on parcels. She said Wendy Fisher will help to negotiate the deals, and Fisher's group Utah Open Lands will hold the easements.

"Utah Open Lands will hold the easement but the idea is that if it's land on the valley floor it's rural agrarian land. The idea would be that either the land owner would continue to work the land with either grazing or horses or alfalfa fields; or they would lease it out to somebody else who would farm the land."

Noble also said they will host one more informational meeting on October 9th, 7:00 pm at the Growing Light Montessori School.