On Wednesday, Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter gave a brief State of the City address covering a handful of the most pressing issues such as housing, traffic, financial health, and the Heber Valley's development.
Potter began her address with a brief history lesson underscoring the "locals' versus move-ins" social media chatter. She introduced a descendant of some of the first Heber Valley locals: Chief Tabby, a member of the Timpanogas Tribe.
"He was one of the Native Americans who lived here originally,” Potter said. “Like most of the places in Utah, they were here for a long time before 1857 when some workers who were in the Big Cottonwood Canyon hiked up to the summit and looked down into our valley. The reputation was out that there was a paradise land out here in Heber Valley."
Potter said that as the city has faced many challenges, the COVID-19 crisis presented the city staff with possibilities to adapt and ultimately save time and money in some areas.
"We have found more efficient ways of doing things,” she said. “Some of these things save people trips to City Hall, some of them save employees trips to City Hall. And I believe over time we will see a lot of cost savings from these efforts."
She said growth is the leading force behind many of the City's core challenges. When a property owner complies with the code and wants to develop, she said the city couldn't prevent it.
"There are people wanting to invest here, invest in business and real estate,” Potter said. “We have growing families, people whose children are getting older and want to find a place to live here. And I meet people from all over this state and country moving here wanting to move here. And the demand continues. People have discovered our valley, our paradise land."
Potter acknowledged the growing struggle to find affordable housing in Heber City.
"This is a significant challenge as housing prices continue to increase faster than salaries,” Potter said. “We have to consider what happens in the future when our workforce can't afford to live here."
The North Village Zone has been the topic of four public hearings over the past year.
"If this were unentitled land, we would be having a totally different conversation,” Potter said. “But the principles of Envision Heber are incorporated into the North Village Zone, cluster development, more open space, dark Sky requirements, parks, and trails. There's even a requirement for developers to donate a preservation fee that the city hopes will go toward preserving the North Fields that we all love."
Potter said the city has shown the importance of planning and using public input to create a future roadmap for the city. She highlighted the general support of Parks and Trails through the regional commitment to a Trails Director position. The Airport Master Plan completion was stalled due to COVID but is now moving ahead.
Heber City is starting a leadership program encouraging citizens to learn more about the city's management and operations, hoping it will inspire more participation.
Heber's population has grown explosively, from more than 11,000 in 2010 to almost 19,000 in 2020. In just a few years, they've increased in area from 6,000 acres adding 8,000 acres in 2020. There are potentially four more land annexations in the works. Heber City employs 107 full-time employees working with an operational budget of $31 million.