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The City Journals

Four issues affecting SSL residents discussed at state conference

Oct 03, 2019 02:24PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Utah local leaders meet in small workshops to discuss shared issues and possible solutions. (Courtesy of Utah League of Cities and Towns)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) held their annual conference in Salt Lake City Sept. 11-13. It gives elected officials and staff an opportunity to discuss common issues and share successful solutions.

ULCT was established in 1907. As the name implies, cities and towns, including South Salt Lake, throughout Utah are members of this nonpartisan inter-local cooperative. It provides a unified voice at the state and federal levels. ULCT provides information, training, and technical assistance to local officials. For example, helping local officials understand the impact on their town or city of recent legislative action.

"We look to the federal government too much. Sometimes, we look to the state too much. Cities and counties are on the front line," said Governor Gary Herbert in his opening remarks. He also said, "Most citizen's interaction with government is done at the local level."

Medical marijuana is a good example. Even though the state approves the distribution and sale, a person's ability to obtain the product is affected by the zoning and conditional use permits that are done at the local level.

This article will look at four issues and how they affect life in SSL.

City-based suicide prevention

It is widely reported that suicide is a leading cause of death for youth ages 10-17. Among the elderly, the rate is also high. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, "While older adults only account for 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 18% of suicide deaths." 

The Utah suicide rate has increased 141% between 2010-2015. Recently, the numbers have taken a downturn, the rates are still high. In fact, the states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are called the suicide belt because all their numbers are high.

The city of Spanish Fork decided to something about it. Starting with a grass-roots request, they have developed a city-based suicide prevention program.

"It doesn't take an extraordinary person, but someone who sees the signs," said Susan Chapman, the founder of the program.

Using the expertise of community members and professionals, they developed training that is presented at churches, schools and workplaces. 

Chapman shared this thoughtful quote from Greg Hudnall of Hope4 Utah, "It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to save one."

Utah’s water future

Water, both culinary and secondary, is a valuable resource in Utah and will become more valuable as the state's population continues to grow. The state's population is projected to double to almost 6 million by 2065. Most of the growth is internal. Our children are staying in the state and having families. SSL is experiencing such growth.

Prepare60 is an educational center created by the four major conservatory districts, including the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, which provides water to SSL. SSL also uses the Central Valley Reclamation for sewer needs. The purpose of the center is to protect what we have, use it wisely, and provide for the future.

An interesting fact is that water travels an average of 100 miles to Utah homes. However, an alarming fact is that the average age of a failing water main is 47 years old. Most of Utah's water infrastructure, including some in SSL, is more than 50 years old. So, besides planning for growth, much of the infrastructure needs to be replaced. Prepare60 estimates that $33 billion is needed — $15 billion for new growth and $18 billion for repair and replacement. This estimate is based on the notion that Utah will achieve significant water conservation goals.

Water and water infrastructure funds come from three sources — water rates, water impact fees and property tax. Water rates are charged to users. Larger users pay a larger share. But, when a resource becomes more valuable, the cost of that resource increases. A water impact fee is a one-time assessment paid by new users. These funds are earmarked for the infrastructure for new development. The final source is property tax. Jordan Valley's statutory tax rate limit is 0.0004. These funds help build capital and provide a stable funding source. Another way to say that is that property tax is always under attack for an increase.

Jordan Valley is undergoing significant infrastructure improvements and like any wholesaler/retailer, they pass the cost onto cities and customers. Central Valley is doing the same actions as they improve the reclamation facility. On Sept. 18, the city council passed a resolution with the intent to issue a sewer revenue bond to pay for their assessment. In other words, they took out a no-interest loan so they can make payments in the coming years, most likely 2024.

Regarding water conservation, the Regional Water Conservation goals are out for public comment. One goal is to reduce water consumption by 18-20% by 2030. Some state and water officials are suggesting one way to do this is raise water rates to the point that people will start to conserve. Of course, this strategy would also hurt those already conserving because they are still paying more for water. Another goal is to have aggressive landscape conversions efforts. In other words, less grass and more desert landscaping.

Downtown

Another area researched by the Wasatch Front Regional Council is polycentric development. A simpler way to say that is to build a downtown and smaller neighbor-centered area around churches or schools or community centers.

With the 14 Promise SSL community centers and the building of the Riverfront Elementary school, SSL is showing the city’s commitment to develop neighborhoods within the greater city. 

In a variety of studies, residents have rated having a city downtown as a key to developing a city image. For a few years, SSL has been working on building a downtown between I-15 and State Street and from 2100 South to I-80. How does the development within this area stack up against the WFRC criteria for a downtown?

Criteria

SSL

External and Internal Connectivity

Within the SSL downtown zone, there are the S-Line, TRAX, State Street, I-80 and I-15. Along with proposed redesign roads like Main Street.

Incorporate Housing and Employment

Two examples — Liberty Crossing Townhomes along the S-line and the recently announced Mill project with offices, retail and housing.


Non-Big Box Shopping

The opening of WinCo south of 2100 South along with small retail such as a coffee house and credit union. 


Design for Pedestrians

The zoning code for this area calls for larger sidewalks, bike paths and urban landscaping.


Wasatch Choice 2050

"The Wasatch Front Regional Council builds consensus and enhances quality of life by developing and implementing visions and plans for a well-functioning multi-modal transportation system, livable communities, a strong economy, and a healthy environment," according to their mission statement.

Wasatch Choice 2050 is about sustaining the quality of life as the population continues to grow. They focus on four strategies: provide transportation choices; support housing choices; preserve open space; and link economic development with transportation and housing decisions. 

Working with community partners, local governments and the general public, they have created a vision of what the Wasatch Front should look like by 2050. As an information tool, they created an interactive Wasatch Choice Map at wfrc.org/vision-plans/wasatch-choice-2050/. As you click through the tabs on the left, you can see the plan for transportation, land use, economic development and recreation in SSL. 

These ideas should be coupled with the SSL general plan. It was written in 2009, which makes it outdated. The general plan is found on the SSLC website at www.southsaltlakecity.com/uploads/documents/General_Plan.pdf