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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The Utah Election and an American Fork Vote

It's Ellis, Chaffetz, and a big NO to rezoning the Carson property in American Fork.

The Republican Primary

I haven't seen a voter turnout percentage in the media yet, but it looks like less than 10 percent of those eligible to vote in yesterday's Republican primary actually did so. In the only statewide race, less than 90,000 voters cast a ballot for State Treasurer. About 59 percent of those who voted chose Richard Ellis, making this a rare election in which everyone I voted for (Ellis) actually won. (See my pre-election comments on the race for Treasurer.)

Meanwhile, Jason Chaffetz defied the pre-election polls that had incumbent Chris Cannon winning by a few percentage points. Chaffetz won the Third Congressional District's Republican nomination by a landslide, by almost exactly the same margin he enjoyed at the state convention, about 60-40. In view of the very low turnout, the fact that the two margins are nearly identical -- a rarity in Utah Republican politics -- suggests that most ordinary Republican voters stayed home, leaving the victory to be determined by the energized, somewhat radicalized, mostly anti-incumbent Republicans of the sort that tends to show up at the state convention as delegates. (See my pre-election comments on this race and on Chaffetz, the Nextel Candidate.)

During the campaign Cannon could have sliced and diced Chaffetz simply on the basis of the challenger's own claims and promises, but he didn't. The Democratic opponent may try to do it, but Chaffetz is not likely to lose in November. I expect he will fit right in on Capitol Hill -- don't mistake my saying so for high praise -- but any rookie in the House is ineffective, and a shallow rookie who has made all the outlandish promises Chaffetz has will be lucky if in two years he can advocate his own re-election with a straight face.

The 900 West Vote

I noted yesterday that I expected a vote last evening by the American Fork City Council on the latest effort by the Carson family to turn their property on 900 West into a gold mine -- that is, a mostly-commercial development. (It's zoned residential now.) I wasn't at the meeting last night, but reportedly the neighborhood showed up in force to oppose the necessary changes to zoning and the general plan, as before. This time, however, the Carsons themselves had few supporters present.

This proposal was a considerable improvement and a pretty good compromise, as I said yesterday, and it came without the bullying and theatrics which accompanied the last one. For all that, the Council vote was the same: three-to-one against. (Councilman Rick Storrs was absent, or it presumably would have been three-to-two.) The Council sent the proposal back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration as an all-professional, single-story development with a long, narrow park for a buffer instead of a row of homes and a trail. If that idea is ever heard from again, I will let you know.

Sherry Kramer comments (6/25/08):

Just read your blog and noticed that you said we sent back the proposal for reconsideration as an all-commercial, single-story development. It was actually sent back to Planning to consider an all-professional office, single story (with basements) development, with the potential to turn the southwestern corner into a restaurant pad, if they have a signed letter of intent from a quality restaurant.

Doing away with the residential component and adding more of a landscape buffer would actually increase the available land to develop for professional office. The idea behind this was to enable the developer to build more offices in exchange for the lower-impact professional office zone.

The professional office zone was the preferred choice for the reasons stated below:

  1. New trips per day for an office development is half the amount that a retail development would bring. In an area that already is in traffic failure, over 2000 less trips per day to the area is a huge plus.
  2. Hours of operation for an office complex are much more compatible with a residential zone.
  3. Zoning the area professional office allows for a true buffer to commercial instead of adding more commercial to buffer the neighborhood.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify these points.

David Rodeback comments (6/25/08):

Councilmember Kramer, thanks for correcting my careless wording and for the additional explanation. I changed "commercial" to "professional" above.

Karen Schaack comments (6/26/08):

I appreciate the council's vote to send it back to the Planning Commission with a recommendation for a Professional Office zone.It is a message that should have been given more clearly a long time ago. With a commercial zone approval, even with high hopes and verbal agreements of a mostly professional look, there is no guarantee of what we would actually see in that complex, because it leaves the door wide open for any commercial use. Money does the talking in filling vacant spaces. I also guarantee you that neighboring property owners and potential property owners are watching this closely, and if the property had been approved for commercial use -- no matter how enticing the design -- the battle for additional commercial zoning on 900 West would be just beginning. Just look at the signs already across the street on 700 North.

The city needs to have a vision and plan of where their commercial district will be, draw the line, and then have the courage to stick to it without giving in to pressure from commercial developers, and without encroaching into residential neighborhoods. We can not control what Lehi has placed upon us, but we can control and minimize the effects of its impact on our American Fork residential boundaries.

I also have heard from potential residential property owners looking at properties to the north and east of 900 West who are feeling alittle skittish about investing in a home in an area where there is no commitment as to how far the commercial properties will go. Good families are taking their investments to our neighboring cities, where they feel quality residential living is more protected and valued. By allowing further commercial zoning on 900 West, we are jeopardizing the success of some very nice residential deveopments that the city has already approved, and we are losing some wonderful families who could be great contributors to the community.

I appreciate the traffic study that was done. Major road improvement is greatly needed on 900 West, and professional offices will have significantly less impact on surrounding residential properties as well as on an already congested road, as stated by Councilwoman Sherry Kramer. I believe that road improvements must be part of any development approval .

I hope the city council and planners will be consistent and committed to a plan of protecting our quality of living while approving commercial growth and development. I hope they will not panic and give up vision and values because of fear of losing a developer.

I have said this before and I will say it again: American Fork has to be more than a good place to shop. It also has to be a good place to live! It is the residents who are truly the heart and soul of what makes American Fork great.

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