Potential site for new high school moves forward with Heber City Council approval
A 45-acre site west of Heber City is a step closer to becoming Heber City’s second high school.
At its final meeting of 2021 on Tuesday, the Heber City Council moved ahead with annexing land it preliminarily approved in October.
Councilors voted 3 to 1 to continue with the process despite a protest from a neighboring property owner. Councilor and Mayor-elect Heidi Franco voted no, and Councilor Ryan Stack excused himself of the vote due to a conflict of interest as a board member of a church that owns property in the annexation area.
The property is just north of Midway Lane, across from Southfield Park. The Wasatch County School District has identified that site as a suitable location for a new high school, which it says it needs to accommodate growing enrollment numbers.
The school district owns the majority of that parcel in conjunction with a few private property owners. But by converting it to city property, the school could use city-owned utilities, including a favorable sewer system.
The complainant, Timpview Investment Holdings, said the annexation would create an island, or fragmented piece of county land inside city boundaries, smaller than state code permits. The council said it would work out details related to that issue later.
The council resolved not to deny the annexation Tuesday. That allowed the process to continue. Next, the Wasatch County Boundary Commission will review it.
At the meeting, councilors who voted in favor said they supported the school district’s goal of opening a new high school.
“I think it’s important that we distinguish with the annexation of the school site,” said Councilor Rachel Kahler, “it was for the betterment of the students in the area and to allow for a second high school site. It’s not to continue out growth in Heber City or to grow more commercial area - we’re not interested in that. We want to preserve the North Fields. The school district selected this site; I support them in this site, I don’t want to see additional commercial or residential growth around this site.”
Franco, who will take over as mayor at the next council meeting on January 4, said she wasn’t comfortable voting for a school site where there’s no guarantee a school will be built yet. She also cited traffic concerns and an agreement with the county to limit density changes as reasons she voted no.
“Wherever a school goes, that’s where homes immediately follow,” Franco said. “There’s just so much pressure. We’ve seen it all over our city and all over Utah. I understand where the school has selected this. There are other places for it to go. To me, the school district knows what a bottleneck it will cause there on Midway Lane, because their own traffic study shows. And you’re disrupting a major artery that’s in our valley. So, to me, there’s so much work that is still up in the air.”
Although he voted for the annexation to continue, Councilor Mike Johnston agreed that the city should be involved with what happens in the annexation area.
Mayor Kelleen Potter offered that if the city eventually approves the final annexation, it can include conditions that only apply if the area is used to build a school.