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Friends of Heber Valley seeks to grow, obtain 501(c)(4) nonprofit status

Members of a group called Friends of Heber Valley put out information about government actions and encourage involvement in local issues and elections. The group is expanding and seeking 501(c)(4) nonprofit status.

Friends of Heber Valley describes itself as a group of citizens that wants to preserve the area’s beauty, community, heritage and quality of life. Group leaders say the objective is to promote transparency, amplify citizen voices and encourage people to get involved with government.

The group formed in late 2020 to publicize information from city and county meetings.

“We kept hearing things that were happening and being approved, and it felt like the citizens had no idea what the council was doing,” says Christi Judd, a manager for the group. “They need to know what’s happening before they can have a voice. So, we just wanted to get information out there so that people could make informed choices.”

Last week, the group established committees for research on the Heber Valley Airport upgrades, the proposed Main Street bypass road, local water use, development, and community and arts plans.

Friends of Heber Valley primarily shares its research in a private Facebook group with 1,300 members. Some recent posts detailed how many homes and businesses and how much population growth pending development projects could accommodate.

Judd says one way the values of Friends of Heber Valley and Heber City government are aligned is in the Envision Heber 2050 general plan, which the city created with public input. Specifically, the plan identifies rural and open space preservation as a top citizen priority.

Besides sharing information, the group has been politically active.

In the spring of 2021, it led a voter referendum. The intent was to let voters weigh in on a zoning strategy to cluster developments north of the downtown along Highway 40. The referendum petition failed when it didn’t have enough signatures by the deadline.

The group was also a major contributor to three campaigns in the 2021 Heber City mayoral and council elections. Those contributions amounted to $3,600 mostly in the form of advertising.

The group donated to three candidates: Heidi Franco, who was elected mayor; Yvonne Barney, who was elected to city council and Bryce Hoover, who lost his bid for city council.

The group also held a meet-the-candidates event for those three. Judd says Friends of Heber Valley chooses to support and promote candidates based on their campaign platforms.

“The methodology is basically who is supporting the valley and supporting the mission of believing in open space and preservation, responsible development and preserving the quality of life,” she says.

Now, the group’s working on attaining 501(c)(4) nonprofit status. Donations to 501(c)(4) organizations aren’t tax deductible, but can be written off as business expenses for corporations.

Judd says that’s a formality for now, but it’s also a step toward ensuring it meets requirements by the IRS if it continues to grow and be politically involved in the future.

“We have had some questions as to our nonprofit status, and we’ve had some accusations from people in the city, and we just want to make sure we’re being fully transparent,” she says.

Since the group's inception in December of 2020, it has had official nonprofit status with the state of Utah.

Right now, the group’s areas of focus include a proposal by the city council to limit public comment in meetings and another by the Utah Department of Transportation to build a bypass road through the North Fields farm lands.

Judd says, “We want the citizens of Heber Valley to be informed, to have a voice, and that hopefully, the council, city and county, will listen to their voices, and that the citizens can feel that their elected officials work for them, and that they have their best interests at heart.”

Judd invites people to join the Friends of Heber Valley Facebook page, and its website is friendsofhebervalley.com.

Updated: March 25, 2022 at 12:10 PM MDT
A previous version of this article stated that according to campaign contribution disclosure, the Friends of Heber Valley group donated $5,000 to candidates in the 2021 election. One of those disclosures overreported a donation. The updated amount donated by the group is about $3,600.
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