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Heber residents tell their government: We want an arts district

Representatives of the Timpanogos Valley Theatre told the Heber City Council they support the prospect of bringing a new
Ben Lasseter
Representatives of the Timpanogos Valley Theatre told the Heber City Council they support the idea of bringing a new arts district to the Heber Valley.

The Heber City Council held a public hearing Tuesday about creating tax districts to help pay for a major development project. Community members spoke in favor of an arts center they could fund.

The proposal to create five public infrastructure districts, called PIDs, in the Jordanelle Ridge development would pave the way for an array of public facilities, trails and roads. But people who spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing focused on just one item - an arts district.

A $15 million arts district would technically be more than one thing: it would include an amphitheater, park and a space with rooms for musicians, actors and other performers to rehearse.

If the PIDs are established, those districts would become new taxing entities. They’d issue bonds to fund projects like the arts district, and future property owners within the development would pay them back through property taxes.

At the meeting, people like Wasatch Dance Center owner Ciara Steele kept the focus on the arts center.

“This arts district is so exciting, and I look at it as an opportunity for us to have one place to work together and to reach out to kids,” she said. “I want to make sure - even though I have competitors in the dance business - I want to advocate for them to have their artists to have a place to be showcased.”

She said outreach could take the form of educational exhibits, such as about the history of the Nutcracker during holiday performances.

Councilors seemed favorable to the concepts of PIDS. The council will vote on whether to adopt them at the next meeting on Tuesday, February 15.

Without PIDs, the developer could still do projects like the city park and infrastructure. But by not having to take on the full debt of the costs, it would be easier to fund the projects up front and build them in early stages of development.

Timpanogos Valley Theater President Trudi Harter, who’s also served on the Wasatch County Arts Council, said it would be great to have a new space for productions. That’s in part because her actors currently share a building with six other organizations.

“Our goal is to provide a venue for the community and provide a place [for them] to express themselves and be in confidence and enjoy life,” Harter said. “It is a goal to bring more people into the valley to view our theater productions.”

She said the program has had to adapt to challenges recently, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Performances have moved outside onto lawns, and the building they use is in need of repairs. Since March, she said the theater has gotten $75,000 in grant funding for renovations and other support.

Others who spoke up were also in support of the facility for the arts, including Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Dallin Koecher. He compared the PIDs to opportunities the city of Ogden took to bring a focus on arts to its downtown scene.

Chris Bala, orchestra director and teacher at Rocky Mountain Middle School, said the venue would serve multiple musical groups he’s involved in under the umbrella of Heber City. He added that he also supported the plans for trails the PIDs would help fund.

Other proposals that PIDS could finance include a public park complete with an ice ribbon, which is similar to a skating rink but shaped like a track, a clubhouse, gym, roads, parking lots and trails. In total, the projects are estimated to cost north of $50 million.

Such projects could have been funded at least in part by money from a RAP tax, which is a recreation, arts and parks tax. Wasatch County tried to pass a RAP tax last November that would have levied a penny tax for every $10 spent. The initiative was defeated by eight votes, and supporters hope to bring it back in a future election.

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