Election Preview: Wasatch Open Space Bond Opponent
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 an opponent for the Open Space Bond. KPCW previously spoke with a proponent of the bond, you can find that story here.
Wasatch County council voted in March to place the open space bond on county residents’ ballots. The vote was 4-3 in favor of placing it on the ballot. One of the three who voted against the bond being placed on the ballot was the County Council Chair Greg McPhie. He explains why he voted against the $10 million open space bond.
“In my idea, the council putting this on the ballot endorsed that this was our very highest priority for $10 million of general obligation tax dollars." McPhie explained, "That’s contrary to my opinion and a lot of the folks who I represent who have talked to me about it. I love and know and have served with folks on the other side of this issue and so to disagree is to respectfully disagree. But in order to general obligate $10 million bond for open space without having a look at any of the other needs of the county in my opinion, was not appropriate.”
Mcphie argues that 80% of the county is already open space.
“So, we’re really talking about 20% of the property in Wasatch County that is privately owned." Mcphie continued, "To use general obligation tax dollars to bond for other people’s property rights is a lesser priority in my mind than law enforcement, EMS, fire, public works. We know we’ve got other tax increases coming down the line from our school district. We’ve sat in meetings for years now talking about how our essential employees: county, sheriff’s deputies, teachers, can’t afford to live in Wasatch County. Yet we want to increase their taxes to pay for a view corridor rather than look at their wages, affordable housing needs, different things like that.”
One argument proponents of the bond have espoused is that for every $1 of revenue from development communities pay between $1.19 and $1.35 whereas open space cost communities between 35 and 65 cents on the dollar. Mcphie questions those numbers.
“I’m sure there are high density, multi-unit per acre examples where that is the case but if you live in Deer Crest or if you live on a five-acre lot with very little services required that is not the case." McPhie said, "I’m sure while those folks have got that propaganda figured out in their favor there are several people that would argue that it does pay its own way. The impacts that we see in Wasatch County are not just from growth. We are the Wasatch Front’s playground. We see impacts from residents that come and stay and put impacts on our people, that don’t live here. We have to pay for that. In my mind, those are the priorities and if we’re going to do a $10 million bond we ought to look at some of the others. I’m not saying that we don’t like open space because we all love it but we need to look more carefully.”
McPhie says that rapid development is a concern but that they have other ways to deal with growth.
“You have to balance that with property rights." McPhie explained, "We control that with zoning, we currently have zones of one, five and 20 and P160 and Mountain Zones in the county. Heber City, Midway City big concerns. They’re about out of their boundaries they have big concerns with open space. Wasatch County, they keep talking about the North Field area. If it were built out tomorrow it would be 98-99% open space in agricultural production because of the zoning. We hold zoning anything five acres and above remains quite open and a lot of it in agricultural production. Growth is definitely a concern, I think we’ve managed it well.”
That’s Wasatch County Chair Greg McPhie who is opposed to the Wasatch Open Space Bond. You can find our conversation with those in favor of the Wasatch open space bond here.