For several weeks, an increasing amount of time in my visits with Mapleton residents has been occupied by discussions regarding the state of water in our City. Conversation topics included the following: pressurized irrigation (PI), ditch irrigation, culinary water, water rights, adequacy of water, water pressure, water sources, ponds, wells, Hobble Creek usage, recreational water, water conservation, water equity, cost of water, water regulations, water metering, water mapping, certificated water, Strawberry water, water deeding, Mapleton Water District ownership versus Mapleton City ownership, investing in water, independent pressurized systems, water zones, and the list goes on. (Seriously. This was just off the top of my head. Hang in there, there is a bullet list coming up!)
I’m pretty sure you get my point on this one.
Realizing my C+ understanding of our complex water issues was inadequate, I sought City Engineer Steven Lord. Now, if you haven’t met Steven Lord, you’re missing out. Like the other City employees with whom I’ve spoken, he is a delightful mix of approachability and expertise. A quick wit and underlying humility quickly endeared me to him and, as such, he has been the unfortunate recipient of likely far-too-many emails (honorable mentions also go to Camille Brown, Cory Branch, and Sean Conroy).
Like Drinking from a Fire Hose
After organizing my thoughts, I spent another hour with Steven this week for a crash course in Mapleton water. The most important thing I’d share with citizens is that the City completed in October 2018 and externally-contracted Water Resources Master Plan. Basically, this is a 74 page document that tells us the history, current state, and future needs to ensure water adequacy through build-out (estimated at about 29,000 residents in 2016). The report is found on the Mapleton City Public Works website or, directly, here. However, after meeting with Steven and reviewing the report, I’m going to translate some highlights into a Cliffs Notes version that will hopefully provide some education and direct questions to existing resources.
20 Things I Learned About Water This Week
- We have a current Water Master Plan. The Plan provides recommendations to correct deficiencies, improve connectivity, and expand the systems to accommodate growth. There are great long-term strategies reaching six years, 10 years, and through total buildout (anticipated 2061).
- Mapleton Water District and Mapleton City are not the same. The District gets the PI water, the City delivers it to citizens.
- Our culinary system is good. It is “…in good condition and provides adequate pressures in accordance with the requirements of UAC R309-510.” (Bonus: Fire suppression flows and pressures also meet requirements.)
- Recent changes on water rights distribution = good for some people. Historically, water rights have been tied to an exact geographic pinpoint; new regulations give water rights to a broader area. This can be good for people who want to develop their own land by providing more flexibility to the development at a cost savings.
- Dry pipe – it’s in there. Dry pipe for pressurized irrigation has been required of developers since 1998.
- Bye, bye canals. To improve water conservation and in conjunction with planned development, the Plan recommends elimination of the canal/ditch system and flood irrigation over time.
- Minimum requirements cover big houses. The minimum requirement for residential fire flow and residential development is 2000 gpm, which covers up to a 6200 square foot home.
- We meet PSI requirements. Subdivisions developed after January 1, 2007 are required to have at least 40 psi during peak day demand; we meet and exceed that.
- Changing to PI may require updated sprinkler systems. Not enough pressure to your sprinklers? Try updating your sprinkler system to heads appropriate for PI.
- PI and gravity aren’t friends. We have a lot of hillsides we can’t develop and 355 developable acres on the east bench that are too high for the City’s pressurized irrigation; they’ll have to stay on culinary water. (There are about 230 acres elsewhere that can’t connect to the City’s PI either.)
- Get the PI done, but it might take a decade. The master plan repeatedly emphasizes the importance of completing the pressurized irrigation project – “If the pressurized irrigation system is not fully developed according to the recommendations of this report, the culinary system will need to provide additional water for outdoor uses. For this reason, timely and full development of the proposed pressurized irrigation system is critical to the success of the culinary water system as analyzed in this master plan.”
- Developers must bring water to the table. Mapleton City Code (17.24.080) is where the City requires developers to dedicate water rights to the City adequate to satisfy anticipated water needs of a proposed development. This MUST be sustained to ensure sufficient water.
- More sources, please. New sources of water are needed to increase reliability and address growth, including wells, which should begin the approvals processes immediately (approvals take a while). A storage reservoir and a new water source to supply the reservoir were recommended for Harmony Ridge/Mapleton Village/Twin Hollow/Preserve.
- Emergency storage is good… for now. If PI isn’t built-out, additional storage will be required to provide emergency storage (even if the emergency storage isn’t mandated by the State, it’s our goal to have it for at least a day; the pond holds two days of peak storage requirements already). Keep the bond full for a storage buffer!
- Bigger, better pipes. There are lots of specific recommendations to increase existing pipe sizes and increase future size requirements.
- Salamanders suck. Salamanders and algae are messing up the PI pumps and plugging filters. Fixing the issues is difficult, but would save on maintenance and increase stability. Large-month bass, aeration, and chemical algaecides are potential considerations. (Maybe we should rethink that old hatchery initiative!)
- PI priorities are trunk lines. The “trunks” include priority buildouts by 2024 of Maple, Slant, 800 S, 1600 S, 800 W and by 2018 of 1600 W, 800 W, Main, 1200 N, Dogwood/1200 E/800 E/1100 S, and 1600 S. (The lack of adequate trunk lines is why we can’t get over to Harvest Park – there isn’t enough pressure or flow in what we currently have in our narrow pipes.)
- Details, details, details. Priorities, timelines, and costs are provided on pages 61-66.
- Priorities may change. The plan gives priority recommendations, but also cautions us to consider the priorities as the situations change.
- Show me the money. None of this will happen without funding. We’re currently maintaining our systems adequately – our rates cover our expenses – but we can’t grow services without additional capital (even existing matching grants would require we have skin in the game – we don’t have it). Bonding and fees are the quickest way to cash, both are common practices, but are highly controversial. (Perhaps if we can diversify our funding sources with additional commercial development in appropriate areas, statewide tax reform, and reallocating funds from high property taxes to water investments, the citizens can end up with a net zero without bonding or fees. A girl can dream, right?)
After meetings and research, I’d like to think my Mapleton Water 101 grade is now at least a B+. I hope this information has been helpful for you as well – don’t forget to check out the awesome maps below, too (click to get to the larger files)!
Disclaimer: Please refer to the Plan itself and consult with your personal engineer to validate accuracy of these statements. Better yet, give Steven a visit. (You’ll definitely learn something – and enjoy it!)
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.