Midway Open Space Committee Brings Recommendations For Next Steps Regarding $5 Million Bond

Jan 16, 2019

Credit Midway

After Midway voters passed a five-million-dollar bond last November land owners in Midway can expect a letter in the mail from the city soon. That’s one item the Midway Open Space Committee recommended to the Midway City Council on Tuesday.

Open Space Committee Chair Courtland Nelson recommended sending out letters to all land owners in Midway to alert them of the opportunity to preserve land. The bond money is limited within the annexation boundaries of Midway, with priority given to lots within city limits.

 “The benefits of notifying everybody outweigh the work to go in to seeing to who might fit into a category of qualifications.” Nelson said, “Most of these will not be acted on at all but at least everybody will have been notified about that.”

 The committee asked the council to review three documents they had prepared to be sent out to citizens. One document is a notice of interest. Land owners can fill out that notice to alert the city that they are possibly interested in preserving their land. Although the notice will be sent out to all the land owners; the council and committee say as a general rule, they prefer larger parcels be preserved.

 “The partners that we have many times that’s what really drives this.” Nelson continued, “For instance, a simple example, the IRS may determine if your making a donation of conservation easements that a parcel is so small that it doesn’t really qualify for that conservation standard. The nature of the process drives some of those smaller parcels out if I can say it that way. Just because the range of benefits aren’t as great as you’d get with a bigger piece.”

 The committee also came to the council with two different letters to be sent along with the notice of interest. Both letters are meant to give an outline of the process for land owners. One letter was described as more bureaucratic while the other letter was more concise. Council member Ken Van Wagoner urged the committee to make their letter inviting.

 “I want this to be a success.” Van Wagoner said, “I feel like this particular letter is probably going to be the one thing that is going to try to draw the people in. I think something of the effect that would grab my interest, we are very excited. We’re excited about the fact that the bond election passed and there is now money available that we can help keep Midway a rural area and with this money we are able to three or four times it or whatever that is through grants. Through different things and we are hoping that you as property owners would be interested in helping participate in this. Just something to get the excitement going.”

 The volunteer committee also gave a recommendation that the city hire a consultant to assist in the open space process.

 “We need to have that third party.” Nelson explained, “Somebody that is carrying out some of the responsibilities of our committee and to a lesser degree the city council to inform, to educate, to link to send documents, to consult. My simple example would be in a land transaction you’re always wise to have a third party between the two land owners. There’s just stuff that comes up, we all know that and that’s a simple example of why this is important.”

 The committee will bring a request for proposal to the council at their next meeting, possibly using a Park City RFP as a template. Nelson noted that the money from the $5 million bond could legally be used to pay for the consultant along with other costs related to the bond such as the letters that will be sent out to Midway land owners. He also noted the cost of hiring a consultant would be relatively inexpensive. Nelson says they hope to leverage the bond money.

 “We very much want to stretch our money.” Nelson continued, “Our money meaning the money from the bond that would go to a particular project. It is our hope that we would at least have a two to one or three to one match. This might be from third parties it might be from certain legal activities involving conservation easements or the like. It may be outside donations that come in. There’s lots of experience, lots of knowledge with this. The bottom line we can stretch that five million at the end of the day to $10 or $15 million. That’s our goal.”

 The council also discussed clearing up some misinformation circulating in the public. One proposed idea is to have Mayor Celeste Johnson film a short video with the Wasatch High School CAPS program to inform the public about the next steps for the bond. The council also emphasized that land owners were not selling their land just the development rights on their property. Mayor Johnson further noted that once the easement was in place it could not later be reversed.

 The Open Space Committee plans to re-work the letter to be sent out to land owners and bring it back to the council at their February 5th meeting, they’ll also bring a copy of an RFP for the council to look at and possibly issue at the meeting.