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Heber City Council green-lights Smith’s Marketplace, new school, 4-story buildings

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The price to bring a Smith’s Marketplace to Heber could be less than previously believed.

Rather than $7 million, the city could pull off the deal for less than $2 million, the Heber City Council learned Tuesday.

On October 5, the council learned Smith’s required an incentive to open a store in northern Heber City.

A Smith’s representative said out of a total road cost of $11 million, the city had to cover $7 million - and the council had until this Friday to agree to the terms.

A review by city staff painted a different picture of the city’s obligation.

“The 7 million that came out two weeks ago was an initial stab at what the developer thought was our portion,” Councilman Mike Johnston said. “We have gone through and looked at that with our staff, and they have determined that that portion that we are liable for is really only about $1.2 million. So, somewhere between 1.2 and 7; we feel it’s going to be closer to the 1.2.”

The city voted 3 to 1 to approve a memorandum of understanding to do the deal. The MOU formally states the city will reach a development agreement in the future but comes with no legal obligation. Councilwoman Heidi Franco was the dissenting vote, and Councilman Wayne Hardman was away on vacation.

The MOU also specifies the city has to be ready to build the road at the same time Smith’s is building the store. That could begin as early as next spring.

“The MOU says that we commit, that we will work with Smith’s to do our portion of the road, and how we finance that is up to us, whether it’s a public infrastructure bond, or whether it’s of cash, in impact fees or whether we do some other financing. An MOU is non-binding. It’s not a legal contract, but it shows our good faith that we will comply with what Smith’s is asking,” Johnston said.

The store would be the first major component of an economic development project to build up the downtown and generate new tax dollars. By creating a community reinvestment area financial strategy, the city could use a big chunk of new tax revenue from the Smith’s to reinvest in other projects downtown.

Also at the Tuesday meeting, the council approved a final change to the Sawmill development. Located east of the Heber Valley Hospital, the site will now include an elementary school.

Johnston said of how the development came to add the school site, “There’s going to be about 1,000 residential units in this area, which in our county means about 1,000 school kids or 600 elementary school kids, which is an elementary school. So, the school district realized this was a really important place to get an elementary school.”

The amendment makes a few other changes. It eliminates senior housing, offers reduced rent for police officers and lets the commercial buildings be built up to four stories.

That amendment was opposed by residents who came to a public hearing on August 3. Several neighbors to the Sawmill development complained the multi-level buildings would eliminate their views of Mount Timpanogos. Some called the amendment process rushed and unfair.

The next Heber City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2.

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