Our community is passionate. Above all things I’ve learned while meeting with dozens upon dozens of people, it’s that our neighbors share common values grounded upon family and augmented by scenic views, community spirit, and a small-town atmosphere.
This atmosphere nostalgically harkens to days when we left doors unlocked, purchased candy at the penny store, and sat on porches chatting with the neighbors. Yet, I haven’t encountered one person who refuses to accept the inevitability of change either. After all, we have residents who have generations of history in Mapleton and those who move here last week to experience what we all knew already. It’s easy to say that our secret is out – this is an amazing place to live and others (including our own family) want to join us!
The struggle we’re currently encountering (and will like do so for another decade) is how to flex with the times without compromising our views and values. I’ve referenced several specific categories on my website, but want to speak to five specific topics that continuously arise in conversation:
- Property Taxes
- Open Space
There is a perception that we have easily changeable zones that cater to developers. While there have been plenty of zone changes as of late, I believe much of our challenges lie in the confusing language and outdated plans. (The interpretation of “high density” may be from three units per acre to condos!) Additionally, our current General Plan and Zoning Maps may not reflect best practices – consider the intended city center commercial zone that has limited access and low traffic. While I’d love to have a walkable downtown, it’s hard to comprehend its development in the near future and in that location. In this case, a mixed-use, residential, or public-use zone may be more prudent, each option of which would require rezoning. A timely 2019-2020 update to our plans and maps would allow us to more effectively communicate to citizens and developers our vision for Mapleton’s future – at least for the next 5-10 years!
Housing is also a controversial topic in Mapleton. As I mentioned previously, besides confusing definitions, we also have historic perceptions – what’s considered high density to one person may not be the same to their neighbor. For example, as I’ve asked many people to define what is “high density,” I’ve discovered groups of people who perceive anything less than an acre to be high density and others, especially those who have experience living a vertical lifestyle, chuckle knowing three houses per acre is considered “high density.” If only averaging provided a simple solution!
I’m supportive of housing which aligns with an updated general plan that has been vetted my the community. This may include zones of “denser” housing (1/4-1/3 acre) closer to 89 and expanding to larger lots closer to the mountain. Again, this ties back into having current plans, maps, and clear zones that require no altering to achieve the City’s vision. I’m hopeful this year’s strategic planning will establish a sense of permanence to residential zones and communicate such to prospective developers.
Next, I’d like to see us promote accessory apartments. Accessory apartments support efforts related to affordable housing, reducing any push to increase higher-density areas while simultaneously serving a community need – including bringing our families into a pricey environment without breaking their bank accounts. Unfortunately, our accessory apartment permit fees are high ($5500). However, we do not share the same concerns of other nearby cities who are working to reduce accessory apartments due to parking constraints and transient occupancy concerns – we have large lots with ample parking space and our distance from higher education institutions and limited employers reduce the likelihood of transient renters. In addition, use of accessory apartments leaves available acreage to consider open space, agriculture, and parks or other public amenities.
I support the current economic development plan that calls for small-town friendly commercial zones, such as along Highway 89. This would include, for example, a small format grocery store, bakery, florist, salon, and coffee shop; this does not support big boxes. The big box reality is that, at 2750 households, we aren’t currently populated enough to sustain such stores so the likelihood of one coming to town is slim. Besides, we are content with our convenient access to Springville and Spanish Fork. However, appropriate shops – especially those that are easily accessible through a variety of means (including walkability – notice how the trail is growing along 89!) – would be great contributors to our retail base and add conveniences for residents.
One question I’ve heard several times is this: “Can we just pay higher property taxes and avoid retail and higher density housing?” Mapleton has some of the highest property taxes in the State and, although many of our residents can afford this, we have residents who are living on fixed incomes. Increasing their burden would be an insensitive strategy when appropriate alternatives exist. For that reason alone, I would not support increasing property taxes. I would support a well-designed series of shops and offices along 89, however, that would help us diversify our revenue and off-set increases.
There is no doubt we need to cling for dear life to hold onto our open spaces. Fortunately, I’m confident the leadership and citizens are in agreement about how the open space, agriculture, and parks are the heart of our communities. I’ve heard the argument that development is good for the City due to impact fees; the reality is that when impact fees run out, the City is responsible for sustaining that infrastructure (e.g., roads, water) which may or may not be covered entirely by existing property taxes and fees. So, my devil’s advocate side would argue that are not agricultural and open spaces a better deal for the City? (In full disclosure, I haven’t seen the side-by-side comparison, but an open field requires no road or sewer maintenance!) Let’s hold on to those open spaces and always look for ways to sustain the beautiful views that brought us here.
We are at approaching an exciting crossroad and through which we have critical decisions for our City. I’m excited to be involved in that process and confident in my capacity to contribute on behalf of the citizens. I ask for your vote in this year’s City Council election.