Developmental Center board looks at annexation
At the heart of the matter is a proposed development on some of the USDC's property which would bring in revenues to the facility.
A USDC master plan, developed in 2013, for more than 750 acres of the state-owned property includes residential and commercial components. The development center is currently in discussions with Hamilton Partners, a commercial real estate developer, to help develop 175 acres of its property. A USDC master plan for more than 450 acres of the state-owned property includes residential and commercial components. However, USDC officials and the developer are concerned that a Highland City ordinance that does not allow retail businesses within its boundaries to operate on Sundays would hinder their progress.
On July 13, USDC Project Manager Bill Exeter told the USDC board that this is a major issue since retailers are less likely to see the development as attractive if they cannot be open on Sunday.
Another less compelling concern is access to a culinary water source. Exeter said they are exploring the option of utilizing a well which is located in American Fork adjacent to the USDC.
While they have not formally approached Highland officials, USDC board member said they think it is unlikely that Highland's current city council would vote to rescind the ordinance.
Board member Scott Smith who lives in Highland and is running for a seat on the city council urged his colleagues to wait until after the election before taking action on the annexation.
"It's not a good idea to have the two communities fight over this property. Wait until you see what team you're working with," he said, referring to a possible change in the makeup of the city council and council member's willingness to readdress the ordinance or grant the developmental center an exemption.
But the other board members expressed concern that this would mean an additional six-month-minimum delay to get the project off the ground.
"Our responsibility is to the developmental center," DHS Deputy Director Lana Stohl said.
In the end, the board voted to authorize Exeter to continue discussions with Highland and American Fork officials about possible annexation and to see which city would come back with the proposal most favorable to the developmental center.
While the state would collect the tax revenues from the development, significant impact fees would go to the city where it would be located.
Highland City Councilmember Ed Dennis and Scott Smith brought the issue to the Highland City Council on July 18.
Dennis estimated that impact fees from the projects that could be developed in the area could be more than $9 million. "This is potentially a very profitable section of Highland. It would be a very significant loss to the city in terms of general revenues, sales tax and road fees," he said.
Smith urged the council to fight to keep the property in Highland.
"You need to be competitive and not just let the other city take it," he said. "They're being quite aggressive about this."
Mayor Mark Thompson told the council he had asked for information regarding what kind of revenue Highland City could expect from this development by August 10 (after press deadline). This would give Highland City officials a better idea of what they were dealing with, he said.
However, that information may not be available anytime soon, Smith said.
"No one is going to know what that project is going to look like until it goes through the legislature," he said.
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