Centerville's Issues



I will regularly add new posts here.  
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Note about the ISSUES PAGE:  Each issue the city faces has many layers and much history behind it.  It is impossible to fully cover any topic in a format such as this, let alone in a few words.  That being said, I know most people want the “short answer.”  Considering this, my issues posts will start with the “short answer”.  Following that, there will be additional information for those interested.



Centerville's MAIN STREET

RUMOR CONTROL:  1.  I will NOT push for LIGHT RAIL ON MAIN if elected!  2.  I had absolutely nothing to do with the widening of the Main Street/Parrish Intersection, nor do I have desires to widen Main Street.  In fact, the exact OPPOSITE is true.  I will be a firm voice AGAINST the idea of ANY widening of our Main Street.  I want our Main to feel like the center of our "small-town", NOT a highway.  Please read on...

Did you know that we have an award-winning plan in place for our Main Street? I am proud to have been a part of the creation of this plan from its beginnings. One of my major goals as a city councilwoman will be to see the plan to its completion and encourage the positive redevelopment of this area.
Changes made to our Main Street can positively increase our sense of community and the feeling of pride and involvement we have in our town. I compare the planning of a city to the planning of a home... Different rooms with different purposes are needed for the place to be livable and complete. Our Main Street is like our family room, the space where everyone gathers and visits. We already have many traditions on our Main Street... the Pumpkin Walk, Festival of Lights, Easter egg hunt and our wonderful 4th of July festivities.  We have a historical museum that has recently seen an amazing transformation and increased activity. The popularity of Movies in the Park keeps growing, our Community Garden is bountiful, and now we even have our own Farmer’s Market!  As our Main Street is redeveloped according to the plan that is in place, this feeling of community will increase as it becomes a more inviting place for us to walk, bike, wait for a ride on the bus, eat, shop, live, grow food, and enjoy our small town together... 

Some of the Objectives in the Main Street Plan:

(disclaimer: photos included are intended to give a general idea of the 
principles the plan is based on,
 not exact models of what our ordinance would translate to)








If you'd like to know more about this plan, please contact me!  For those interested in more detail, read on…



Questions you may have about the Main Street Plan:

*Is the Main Street Plan tied to a rail system on our Main Street?   Answer:  No.  The Main Street Plan was developed independently and has no ties to or reliance on increased transit. There has been much confusion on this issue because the changes to our Main Street ordinances occurred around the same time as a separate study conducted by Utah Transit Authority (UTA) with all of South Davis County.

*Does the Main Street Plan include very tall, solid lengths of buildings, like the Village on Main (SW corner of Pages and Main) in Bountiful?  Answer:  No.  There are numerous controls in place that would prohibit anything at all like those buildings.  The ordinance is specifically written to encourage an organic, old-town-main-street feel.  In fact, the core areas of Main Street from the north side of Pages Lane to the south side of Parrish Lane are limited to 35 feet in height on the west side of the street (the same height that is allowed for any home in the city) and 25 feet on the east side of the street (lower than the height allowed for a home).   To discourage buildings with very large footprints, the number of office/residential units allowed is calculated per building instead of the traditional per acre and is very small.

*Is the Main Street Plan going to make us feel like just another city, and not be distinctively Centerville?  Answer:  No.  This planning process was months long and many layers thick, with the intent of making sure it was uniquely Centerville.  Later, it was revisited again to get additional public input on the plan.  An important element of the plan that makes it so uniquely Centerville is that it is broken up in districts that respect the framework and character we already have in place.  

*Is the purpose of the Main Street Plan to encourage “high density housing” in Centerville?  Answer:  No.   This is a plan based on “mixed use development” which through history is the way towns traditionally developed their core.  The benefits are many, and are clearly stated in our general plan’s #1 stated purpose for the Main Street Plan:  “1. Promote the South Main Street Corridor as the cultural, civic, and community heart of Centerville by providing a careful balance of land uses, which serve residents, businesses, and visitors.”

Mixed use gives greater flexibility for development of uses that will actually be desired and supported by the community.  There are many different options for how each property might look.  The primary use would be along the street and would be a commercial/retail/service use.  Additional space could be either on an additional floor, behind the street-facing space, or to the side of the primary use.  The additional use would be either residential or office space.  The number of office space or residential units allowed per building is also very small (1-4 allowed per building, 5-8 with conditional use permit), so worries about our Main Street being overrun with “high density housing” are unfounded.  These options are good for filling the needs of the community and enable the property owner’s ability to succeed in his/her redevelopment endeavor.  Also, these changes happen when the property owner feels ready to make changes... property owners are not in any way forced to change their current uses.




LIGHT RAIL ON MAIN STREET

Short answer:  I am truly surprised this topic has come up as an issue in this election. There are no plans for light rail on Main Street.   I do not have personal plans or desires to "push for light rail."   There was indeed a lengthy study many years ago, exploring many different transit options for the future in South Davis County.  Studies for the future are always going on and very important.  An important part of any study is public input, which we got clearly from our residents on this topic.  While I personally was interested in exploring various transit options for our region, the fact is that the public and City Council have spoken out clearly opposing light rail.  I deeply respect this aspect of the public process and am grateful when our citizens get involved.  If elected, I will represent the voice of the residents and stand by the 2010 City Council letter to UTA opposing light rail and favoring use of bus in Centerville.

Additional Information:  There is much misunderstanding about this topic.  The city was never pushing for rail to come to our city.  Neither was UTA.  The reason a South Davis Transit study even took place was because it was required and paid for as part of the Legacy Highway Settlement in 2005.  The purpose of this study was to weigh pros and cons of different transit options in South Davis County.  An important part of the study was gathering public input.   Public input was desired through the entire process of the study (2007-2009), with numerous open houses held, but turnout at these open houses was extremely low. Towards the end of the process (2009-2010), the public input came pouring in and was overwhelmingly clear against rail.  That input was heeded and the city wrote a declaration letter to UTA (dated March 2010) stating that Centerville has not indicated we prefer rail transit, our citizens have serious concerns, and urging UTA to analyze and improve bus service.  In addition, the Planning Commission and City Council reviewed and changed our general plan and ordinances to remove any specific language referring to “light rail” as a future possibility.  THE PUBLIC’S VOICE WAS HEARD AND FOLLOWED THROUGH ON.  

There are two very important things to recognize about transportation planning that aren't being acknowledged by the other candidates:  1.  THE STUDYING OF FUTURE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS WILL ALWAYS BE TAKING PLACE.  It's one of the most important things we do.  2.  Transportation decisions get made REGIONALLY.  We must have a voice at the table so as to not have decisions made FOR us, but WITH us.  

It is important that we stay involved in all transportation planning, so that we can come to the table with ideas of what WE want for our city.  To help with this process, I would like to see a long-term transportation committee formed.  The purpose of this committee would be to have citizens involved in asking the important questions about what the future challenges may be and brainstorming possible solutions that would work in our community.


TRANSPORTATION PLANNING

Short Answer:  Transportation Planning is a crucial part of our community.  As city leaders we need to always work towards smart transportation planning in our city. One unfortunate consequence to the needlessly lingering light rail controversy is it has made it politically toxic to talk thoroughly about transportation planning and stalled us from talking about some of our important transportation issues in a healthy, robust way.  As a planner, I will be a strong voice on the council for thorough and continuous transportation planning.

The way we set up our roads defines our community.  We all use our roads daily, and this strongly affects our quality of life.  Considering this, AND  my strong  belief that the public process works best as more citizens become involved, I would like to see a long-term transportation committee formed.  A variety of citizen voices being heard in how they want to see our streets built and used will be very valuable to the process.


Additional thoughts: It could be said, and I would agree, that Centerville’s greatest feature is our unique geography. This feature, being surrounded so tightly by lake and mountains, allows us to always stay a “small town”.  This feature also creates a unique challenge. Although Centerville will stay small, we are surrounded by larger and growing cities, and residents of those cities travel through us.

I-15 is full. Legacy is filling rapidly.  There is no room in our narrow corridor for new thoroughfare roads.  Main Street is a state owned highway. Main Street is one of my greatest concerns. If we don’t get creative in our solutions, then the future of our Main Street may look something like “Redwood Road North” or “Davis County’s State Street.”  Protection against Main Street becoming another such multi-lane highway is another reason for the importance of implementing our Main Street plan.  As we actually tighten our corridor, improve our public space and property values, and make it more of a people friendly area, this will make it near impossible for the widening of our Main Street for use as another major multilane road.  These concerns may not come to fruition for many years, but the PLANNING it takes to prevent them from happening would need to start in a focused way NOW.

I view streets as an integral part of our community.  They serve multiple purposes and when done right can create a valuable sense of place. We don't have to just accept the idea that “bigger is better” when it comes to our roads, but can instead explore ways to be smarter about how we move people in our city. I will be a brave voice for “complete streets” that get us where we need to go and at the same time enhance our sense of community and small town flavor. 

(An example of how much can be done with a 60' right of way.  
Our Main Street is a 67' right of way.  We have a Main Street that is already plenty wide to have many options.  We have yet to plan what we want the public space of our Main Street to look like.  I will keep you updated on how to get involved early in this planning process!  We would love to hear YOUR voice on what you would like YOUR Main Street to look like.)






UTOPIA


Short answer:   UTOPIA has been an ongoing source of difficulty for this city and it could be safely said that all those who voted “yes” on it those many years ago would not repeat that vote.

I have been asked, “Would you have voted for it if given the opportunity?” I feel strongly I would have voted no had I been there at that time. That being said, the past is the past.  The relevant question for current council members or candidates is NOT “Are you for or against UTOPIA?” As a city, we are now committed to paying the sales tax bond until our obligation is completed.  The relevant question is “Where do we go from here?”

I will continually re-evaluate the situation and be open to all reasonable approaches or solutions. At this time, my analysis tells me that our best choice is to continue to work with other member cities toward the end goal of reducing our 30-year bond debt.

Additional information:  In 2004, I was not involved in city politics, but a neighbor invited me to meetings on UTOPIA to become a supporter.  I declined that invitation because I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of the city getting involved in such an enterprise. I feel that the idea of UTOPIA oversteps the role of municipal government and I also felt that the predicted subscriber numbers were much too optimistic. Beyond those misgivings, that was too large of a debt burden to take on.  

But again, the question is now:  Where do we go from here?   The duty facing us today is to make our decisions based on firm analysis of the present situation, not out of anger for past mistakes. We currently have a much more solid plan in place, with the fiber being laid only where revenue will be produced. We are starting to see the results of that plan being implemented, with subscribers and therefore revenue increasing every month.  This plan predicts reasonably that if the member cities help bridge operating costs for two more years (with the amounts needed reducing every month over that time), then UTOPIA will start operating in the black and earning money. This money would first go to paying back the loaned operating expenses, and then could eventually go towards paying down our debt burden.

Some have talked of not giving UTOPIA another dime. That option does not make sense to me. If we do not work with the other member cities to see UTOPIA continue to implement the improved plan and bring in income, this could lead to UTOPIA “going dark”.   If we let UTOPIA “go dark” we still owe the sales tax bond commitment for thirty years with no chance of getting any of that paid back.  Also, any benefits that our citizens are now seeing would then disappear.  (If you would like more information on the benefits of UTOPIA for our citizens and/or the positive improvements in how UTOPIA is being run, please contact me.)


 I have heard some express concern that UTOPIA will bankrupt our city.  To put things in perspective, for the fiscal year 2013/2014 our debt obligation to UTOPIA is less than 3% of our total budget.  Even if all our other budget numbers stayed the same for the next 27 years, in 2040, the percentage would be less than 5%.  UTOPIA is an important issue, and one we need to learn from.  But it certainly isn’t going to make or break our fiscally-conservative, financially-well-run city.

It is easy for some to claim “I could make UTOPIA run better.  Leave it to me.”  In evaluating these claims, it is important to realize that we are only one of 11 member cities. Centerville is responsible for 4% of the bond debt and so essentially has 4% voting power on the board.  To be effective in having our voice heard in that situation, we need a representative from our city who knows how to effectively collaborate, is knowledgeable in the field, and respected by other cities.   This is one of the reasons my vote for mayor will go to Paul Cutler.  He has sat at that table and been listened to.  Largely as a result of his hard work and influence, UTOPIA has seen tangible positive improvements in their working business plan and Centerville is now built out (one of only three cities).

6 comments:

Laura Samuelson said...

Is an "enhanced pedestrian environment" code words for limited parking availability and lower traffic speed limits? I remember you being in favor of the trolley train transit on Main Street. Is this still your stance?

Tami Fillmore said...

Great questions Laura! Thanks for reading and asking!

What does “enhanced pedestrian environment” really mean?:
It means that the area is safe and convenient to walk along the street and to the front door of businesses. This can be accomplished while still maintaining good auto access and adequate parking. Even for people that don’t walk the area, these environments look better, feel more neighborly, and have positive impacts on nearby property values.
To the parking question:
In past decades, parking numbers have been based on once-a-year maximum needs. The present trend is to be more reasonable on required #s. Shared parking is a great solution (ie: MTC shares their parking with Centerpoint theater as their use times are opposite one another). This idea works especially well in a mixed-use situation, but would be evaluated case-by-case.
To the speed limit question:
In my opinion a slightly lower speed limit is desirable for this small section of Main Street. It is lined with residential, a school that services our entire city, and businesses that would like to be noticed and accessible as people drive by. Can Centerville change this? No, not as things are now. This is a state owned road and right now the UDOT studies conclude to keep it at 40. As we alter our physical environment on Main Street, that may change. If we don’t alter our environment on Main, I believe we are at risk for our section of Main Street becoming a wider, more heavily used state highway. I will be speaking to this in much more detail in my next post.
To the transit question:
The UTA transit study was just that, a study. Its purpose was to further explore what all the pros/cons, benefits/challenges might be for such an option. Public input was an essential and desired part of the study, and we got it. The message was clear and the issue is a dead one.
These questions lead perfectly into what my next few posts will cover:
1-The principles I use in my decision-making (the overriding one being my respect for the public process and public input) and 2-The importance of continued transportation planning to Centerville. Please come back and read those! On the right side of this site you can subscribe to this website so you won’t ever miss a new post! Thanks for your interest and involvement.

Connie Davies said...

I am unclear as to what issues UTA transit study includes. My concern that I believe falls under this category is when Centerville City Council approved the plans to widen main street just north of Parrish Lane. This area is very close to my home and I know that those individuals who were losing personal property to the project were very upset. And yet in my understanding the approval was given to widen the street. It felt to me that our desires of a community were ignored. Can you please help me understand your perspective on this issue?

Second question, on your website it seems clear that beautification and improvements to the business grounds are solely paid for by the business owners, and I understand that Centerville Walmart is beautiful because they paid for it. But I am unclear as to if Walmart is beautiful because our city required them to do it, or if they just chose to do that on their own. I am wondering what standards other businesses are going to be held to when they decide to locate on main street or in Centerville in general.

Tami Fillmore said...

Connie,

Thank you so much for your questions!

Your two questions actually come together in a cohesive whole. Let me try to explain the different parts and how they can come together:

UTA’s job is to study and decide how to move people with transit. The transit study you are referring to was completed by early 2010. That was focusing solely on looking to future options for transit in South Davis County, asking what might be best for our communities here… ie: bus, enhanced bus, rail, etc. In Centerville, the answer came back clearly that we prefer bus, so in the future, that is what Centerville will push to be studied further.

The issue of moving cars is primarily overseen by UDOT and our public works department, which is what your intersection concern falls under. We do have very real difficulties with traffic in some spots that need to be dealt with. This intersection was one of those areas of concern. Whenever roads get full and changes need to be made, these are very sensitive and difficult decisions.

There are also other areas of concern for the city, such as how to be friendly to people who want to get around using other modes such as walking and bicycling and also how to set up our physical space so that it defines us as a high-quality, friendly, small-town area and not just a highway to get to and from on. This is where the land-use ordinances and beautification standards you referred to come in. And this is where I have the most hands-on involvement in the city as a member of the planning commission.

The tendency is to look at all these issues separately. MY SKILL on the council would be to bring them together into one great whole. An example of how this approach could make a quality difference is the Main Street and Parrish intersection, There is indeed traffic difficulties there that need to be dealt with, but I would have brought a strong voice to the discussion that we must look at that not only as an intersection for cars, but as a gateway to the “small-town, people-friendly” area of our city… our Main Street District. We have an award-winning plan in place for our Main Street district, and ALL of the elements (sidewalks, beautification, where buildings are placed, where trees are planted, how wide roads are, etc) affect the success of the desired outcome. When we make a decision for our roads that doesn’t consider those other elements, we miss a great opportunity. That is what happened with the decision made to widen that intersection, and I feel it was a missed opportunity for the city. There are creative solutions out there available for intersections that handle high levels of traffic that can also be more pedestrian and property friendly. If given the chance and elected to the council, I will be a strong voice for studying those alternatives.

To answer your second question more directly: We do have ordinances in place that require certain quality standards. This is in fact the reason we got the quality we did from our Wal-mart. The standards that applied there are called the “Parrish Lane Design Guidelines” and apply to all new development along our Parrish Lane Corridor. For our Main Street area, the “public space strategic plan” part of our Main Street Plan is yet to be completed and that will help determine what is required of new development on Main Street to guarantee beautiful and people-friendly public spaces. One of my goals is to get that done as soon as possible. I do believe without this plan and redevelopment according to the plan, our Main Street is at risk of being viewed simply as a highway, and treated and expanded as such.

Thank you so much for your questions. Feel free to call me anytime for further clarification or to also give your opinion and input on these ideas!

Sincerely,
Tami

Connie Davies said...

Tami,

Thank you for your response. I have Utopia question. I really like what I perceive your perspective on UTOPIA in that it was probably a poor decision on the part of the city but that we as a city made a commitment to pay UTOPIA and should honor our debts. That fits very well with my personal standards and feel that this type of honoring ones actions should be included at a city level as well. I was discussing this with a friend and she said that a new issue has happened with UTOPIA in that other cities are foreclosing on their debts to UTOPIA and other cities, like Centerville, are now being required to cover their debts. Can you explain this to me?

Tami Fillmore said...

UTOPIA answers are always complicated. I will try to be very concise and you can contact me for further clarification needed:

1. This is incorrect information. All of the 11 original UTOPIA cities are paying their share of the bond debt.

2. Further explanation: After being formed, UTOPIA had a very rough start (poor mgmt. that decided to first build in cities that had low subscriber rates, a federal loan illegally pulled which stalled builds--and therefore income generated--for years, etc.) After this rough start, a new entity was formed called UIA to set a new direction. 8 out of the 11 original UTOPIA cities agreed to bond for some additional UIA money that would go to building fiber in places that would be successful so that income could start being generated. This plan has worked (ie: why Centerville is now built-out and generating income for UTOPIA). So, UIA is making enough money that they are able to cover their bond payments used for the building of the network and also generating additional income that is sent over to UTOPIA to help cover its operating expenses. As this more successful plan hasn’t been in place too long yet, there is still a shortfall in operating expenses of UTOPIA, so the member cities are asked to pay a percentage of the remaining operating expenses of UTOPIA that aren’t being covered by UIA income. Centerville’s stake in UIA is 3.5% and this is the percentage we agreed to pay for the few months operating expenses we were asked to help cover last year. This fiscal year we agreed to 7% because we are one of the only cities built out and receiving the benefits of the system. Five of the cities that should be helping pay for this operating expense shortfall have refused to do so. They are mostly the smaller cities. Perry (1.4%), Brigham City (3.7%), Tremonton (3.9%), Payson (5.3%), and Murray (15%). It is currently being discussed what the consequences will be to these cities that have refused to pay. But again, this is their percentage of the OPERATING EXPENSES they were asked to cover which is a small amount compared to the BOND COMMITMENT. All cities are paying their bond commitment. Right now, the UIA is doing well enough that even with these cities refusing to contribute to its success by helping cover this short-term shortfall in operating expenses, the expenses are still adequately covered.

3. Future outlook: It is projected that UIA will continue to increase income enough that it will fully cover UTOPIA operating costs within two years time. Then, the hope of course is that income will continue to increase for years after that and that increased income will go to paying down our BOND COMMITMENT as well. Also, the issue of the illegally pulled loan that stalled the building of the fiber network (back in 2007, I believe) has been in court and it is hoped that a settlement will be moving forward in the next few months. This should be an influx of tens of millions of dollars back into UTOPIA’s coffers. Things are looking up! In addition, we are one of only three cities built out and those who I have talked to who have subscribed are very pleased with their increased speeds for less money. And fiber is becoming more valuable every day as our society is becoming more and more dependent on fast internet speeds for so many parts of our lives…work, education, entertainment, etc. One last reminder: our UTOPIA bond commitment is less than 4% of our total budget. It certainly deserves our close attention and continued scrutiny, but is not going to make or break the health of our city.