Election Preview: Wasatch Open Space Bond Proponents
Should Wasatch County approve $10 million open space bond? That is the question that has been posed before voters. As time winds down on election season KPCW spoke with a proponent for the Open Space Bond. KPCW also spoke with an opponent to the bond, you can find that story here.
Heidi Franco is the Chair of the Wasatch Open Lands Committee. She says the Committee doesn’t have any specific properties targeted but they’d like to use the bond to help preserve land in the valley floor.
“We’re not actually buying land, that’s the most expensive way to use the bond money. We want to be as thrifty as possible with the bond money. Our goal is to leverage the bond money two to three times and we can do that if we only purchase conservation easements. Conservation easements means that the private property owner would sell their development rights and receive the bond money and the matching grant monies for selling their development rights. They as private property owners keep control of the land and keep it in its current agricultural use or open space use. This is the way we can leverage the monies the most. So, we don’t have specific lands yet, but we know the push would be to work with private property owners especially in the North Fields or other historic agricultural areas in the valley.”
If the bond passes, the Wasatch Open Lands Committee will work with interested applicants to make sure the lands are in compliance with requirements for the easement including requirements from organizations that would provide grants. Once willing applicants are ready and approved by the committee; they would then be brought before Wasatch County Council for final approval.
Those in favor of the Open Space Bond also say that not developing the land saves taxpayer’s money. Claiming as subdivisions are built the need for roads, sewers, schools, public safety and other public amenities cost significantly more than purchasing conservation easements.
Franco outlines just how much the bond would cost residents.
If you have an average primary home of $300,000 and that’s our average residential home in the valley right now. $300,000 property tax valuation. It will cost you almost $20 a year for the 30 years. If you have a secondary home or a commercial business valued again at that average value $300,000 then it would be double that to $38 a year.”
Opponents to the bond have noted the plentiful public lands within a few minutes’ drive of the Heber Valley. Opponents ask why should the county spend money on more open space? Franco responds:
“This is going to be up to the voters. Do the voters want to directly preserve open space on the valley floor or around existing cities? Yes, we have beautiful open space in our mountains, we love that this is why we live here. I think another reason we live here is because we want open space on the valley floor. We love the fields, we love our historical agricultural, our historical open space. In the North Fields, the South Fields, in Wallsburg, up the Jordanelle. Do the voters want to directly preserve open space on the valley floor or just expect farmers to continue to do it without any help? This bond gives the farmers another option besides selling to developers. If voters realize the thousands of homes that have been approved in our valley, that aren’t built yet but have been approved to be built. I know they’ll seriously consider how to preserve the open space in the valley.”
That’s Heidi Franco, she’s the chair of the Wasatch Open Lands Committee, and a member of Heber City Council. You can find our convesation with those against the open space bondhere.