Heber City Council members, mayor quarrel over bypass resolution
A discussion about the planned Heber Valley highway bypass escalated to an out-of-order ruling at this week’s Heber City Council meeting.
Tensions between city council members and Heber City Mayor Heidi Franco were high Tuesday, before the council voted three to one in support of a resolution about the state’s plan to build a new road around downtown.
The resolution states the council wants Utah Department of Transportation planners to continue studying five new routes for U.S. 40 intended to take traffic off of Main Street, and the city will allow UDOT to make the final decision. The resolution has no power to influence the final decision, which UDOT plans to announce by spring 2024.
Councilwoman Yvonne Barney was the lone no vote. That followed a proposal by Franco to add an amendment to encourage UDOT not to select two routes that extend much farther through the Heber Valley North Fields than the other three options. The amendment failed.
Franco also questioned the council’s decision to make a decision without taking public comment.
“It’s interesting that there’s many people that have attended here online,” Franco said. “There’s comments that we’ve received one after another. I really think that UDOT should listen to the majority rule that’s been done over and over again.”
The council held a public hearing on the resolution at its most recent meeting on March 7 but delayed the vote to Tuesday. On March 7, some residents opposed the longer routes through the north fields for environmental reasons, while one supported them because he believed they fixed traffic congestion better than the alternatives.
Barney also said most of the comments she received opposed the options that had bigger impacts on the North Fields.
Councilwoman Rachel Kahler suggested Barney had a conflict of interest because Barney has a family member whose property would be affected by the bypass if it’s built.
“I’m just concerned that there is a conflict of interest with your daughter’s property,” Kahler said.
“How is there a conflict of interest, Rachel, with my daughter’s property when all of the routes go through my daughter’s property? So, how can it be a conflict of interest?” Barney said.
Franco denounced that accusation before she quickly called for a vote and moved the meeting to the next item.
“She is not controlling UDOT,” Franco said. “There is no conflict of interest that she has. You’ve made a wrongful accusation; it’s very inaccurate, it’s very misleading.”
The mayor also pointed out under city code, officials may only bring up conflict of interest concerns about themselves, not others.
Later, Kahler apologized to Barney for bringing a family member into the discussion. Barney thanked her and reiterated that she only opposed the two potential bypass routes that would most impact the North Fields.
Councilman Scott Phillips attended the meeting via video conference but did not vote. He said he had undergone surgery earlier that day.
A full video recording of the meeting is available at heberut.gov.