Oakley discusses new city center
Oakley’s new city center should attract visitors year round and retain the unique character of the city. That was the sentiment at a city planning commission meeting Tuesday night.
The meeting featured a 2.5-hour work session on city center development.
Kamas Valley native and millionaire financial technologist Steve Smith owns most of the land there.
Smith attended via Zoom, and he had a six-person team at city hall to present maps and mockups. It was the first time city officials formally saw the extent of Smith’s plans for the area.
The land he has or plans to buy or lease in the city center amounts to about 10 acres.
Attendance peaked at about 25 people, an amount architect and former Lehi city planner Abram Nielsen said he thought was pretty big.
He said it was a good thing too, because public input is more helpful before plans take shape.
“This is really an opportune time for you guys to voice your opinions and be heard, and make sure that this becomes something that's a valuable benefit to Oakley long term,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen is one of the six people Smith employs to help design the city center. Another one is David Giles; he and Nielsen are principals at the FFKR Architects firm.
The rest of the team includes development consultant Kris Longson, urban planner Jason Boal, realtor and lawyer Scott Bates and Trevor Norris, the president of real estate and franchise operations at the Stena Foundation.
Stena is a 501(c)(3), or tax-exempt nonprofit, Smith founded with his wife Jana with the goal of making college education more accessible in rural communities to promote social mobility. Norris works in the real estate wing of that company and is running point on the renovation of Oakley Diner.
Kris Longson started the discussion by asking the planning commission what it wants.
Common themes emerged, such as making sure new businesses can survive year round. Commissioner Jan Manning cautioned against designing the city center around transient traffic.
“We do get seasonal traffic in summer and some in winter, but it has to be workable for the people who live here,” she said. “And it has to be businesses that the people who live here will like to frequent and use.”
Commissioner Doug Evans agreed that businesses should cater to the local community.
“We will always be bombarded with seasonal traffic here, but you can’t survive on that,” Evans said. “And the quality of life in the community. How, and what's the vision of this, to provide 365 days?”
Another theme was preserving the character and history of businesses and buildings that form the core of Oakley. Those are Ken’s Kash, Dutch’s Service, City Hall and the post office.
The maps the team brought show Smith has purchased Ken’s Kash and is under contract to acquire Dutch’s Service and the post office.
The post office is currently owned by Mayor Zane Woolstenhulme and his two sisters, Kena Rydalch and Jeanina Rose, having inherited it from their father.
The mayor said he has recused himself from decision-making regarding the property and Smith’s business, and Kena confirmed that. Kena said she was the acting trustee working with Smith on the property.
She said both parties have entered into a nondisclosure agreement and wish to keep the details of the agreement confidential. Kelly Edwards, who owns Dutch’s Service, also said his negotiations with Smith are confidential.
Smith spoke about his memories of Oakley Tuesday night, including pedal-biking around town and stopping at Ken’s, Dutch’s and the post office.
“If you wanted to talk for an hour, you talked for an hour,” Smith said. “That was very much a part of the experience, something that I treasure in my memory, something that I’m absolutely dedicated to doing everything that I can to ensure we preserve it.”
“So there’s the mission statement,” Commissioner Cliff Goldthrope said right afterward.
The maps also highlight city land as up for development. As of Tuesday, Oakley has not sold any land to Smith. He is leasing the land behind Oakley Diner from the city.
Smith said he plans to develop only on the parcels presented to the planning commission Tuesday. He and Longson said their application won’t include a lot of the area south of Center St. originally included in Oakley’s 2009 master plan.
“This could be the catalyst that starts your overall bigger master plan that is included in your zone,” Longson said. “And you may change that over time.”
After talking about big picture wants and needs with the planning commission, Smith’s team broke out a map and some model buildings to visualize different ways to organize the city center. The two groups circled up and discussion was friendly.
They also brought photos of buildings to give commissioners a chance to weigh in on what buildings should look like aesthetically.
Many ideas bounced around Tuesday night—like a brewery in the barn on Millrace Road—but nothing is final. Smith’s team said they want feedback from the planning commission and the public before writing a formal Master Plan Development application.
Toward the end of the meeting, Longson said Smith’s team will begin drafting plans based on the planning commission’s feedback.
He said they would tentatively like to meet in a couple of weeks for another work session to keep refining things before a formal application.
The public cannot give comments in person at work sessions, but the coming MPD application will be reviewed at public hearings, which do allow in-person comment.
In addition, Oakley City Council hopes to conduct a community survey later this year that could include questions about city center development.
Members of the public can weigh in before the next planning commission meeting by emailing the city planner. Comments submitted before 5 p.m. on the prior day are entered into the official record for that meeting.