PUBLIC HEARING AND SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 7:00 p.m.
Public Safety Building
3925 W Cedar Hills Drive, Cedar Hills, Utah
Present: Mayor McGee, Presiding
Councilmembers: James Parker, Charelle Bowman, Jim Perry, Darin Lowder, Eric Richardson
Konrad Hildebrandt, City Manager
Kim Holindrake, City Recorder
Courtney Hammond, City Meeting Transcriber
Eric Johnson, City Attorney
Others: Mark Edminster, Cliff Chandler, David Lone, Joel Wright, Jim Cheney, Zonda Perry, Rob Olsen, Larry Wood, Caleb Warnock-Daily Herald (7:15 p.m.), Audrey McGee (7:15 p.m.), Tasha Parker (7:30 p.m.)
1. This Public Hearing of the City Council of the City of Cedar Hills, having been posted throughout the City and the press notified, was called to order 7:05 p.m. by Mayor McGee.
2. Regarding an Ordinance Amending the Requirement That No City Official or Representative of the City of Cedar Hills Shall Obligate the City with a Bond of Any Type Without a Majority Vote Approval of Registered Voters Living in the City of Cedar Hills as Previously Adopted as Ordinance No. 11-17-2003B (7:05 p.m.)
Mayor McGee invited Eric Johnson to give some background on this amendment and then allowed each Councilmember to make a brief statement. Eric Johnson stated that two initiatives were adopted by the City during the October 2003 Election. One put a cap on the tax rate; the other required a vote for any bonding. The City Council has powers to amend all ordinances. The default position requires an election for all bonds, particularly for any bond that pledges property taxes. State law says that there are certain types of bonds that do not require a bond election. The City has financed the secondary irrigation water system at a variable rate. Issuing a fixed rate bond would save the City money. An amendment to Resolution 11-17-2003B would allow the City to refinance. The amendment still requires an election unless one of two conditions is met. The first condition is that the bond be paid through a revenue source so that the City can ensure that property taxes cannot be affected. The second condition is that the bond proceeds are used to provide basic public services.
C. Parker said that he feels the stated purpose of solving the Pressurized Irrigation (PI) funding arrangement is valuable and it makes sense to restructure the funding, but he believes the ordinance is too broad and sweeping. In general, with proper planning, the needs of the ordinance can be met. He feels the original ordinance, as adopted by the electorate, forces long-term planning and forces healthy and extensive public comment and discussion about long-term decisions. Although there are provisions in this amendment to protect residents from a property tax increase, this amendment would allow for fees as a revenue source, and to the resident, a fee is a tax. He said that since the citizens put the ordinance in place, those citizens should be given the opportunity to amend it. He proposed some wording suggestions that would help the Council meet the short-term needs without making the broad changes, such as changing the language to apply only to existing services not to exceed a certain amount. C. Perry pointed out that change would not allow for the upgrading of the pumps.
C. Bowman felt that the proposed ordinance was a reasonable change to the existing ordinance and a good compromise. It allows the Council to make the decisions it was elected to make and still gives give citizens input the protection they want against any unnecessary spending.
C. Perry supported this ordinance when it was an initiative in 2003. He felt that entering into debt for the golf course was a mistake. He said he respects the intent of the initiative; however, over time he has seen that the initiative has some unintended consequences. For instance, last year it was discovered that the pumping capacity in the PI system was inadequate to service residents. That is an example of why the ordinance needs to be amended. The unintended consequence of the bonding ordinance was that the Council, who needs to provide necessary services, was not able to do so. He feels that the language he proposed in the Tuesday meeting puts the necessary restrictions on the Council. He has heard positive responses in support of amending the ordinance as proposed.
C. Lowder also voted for the initiatives and now feels that the amendment is reasonable. It gives the Council discretion to act quickly in some of these areas for essential public services. If an item is not essential and will obligate the residents for years, it should be voted on. This amendment allows for that.
C. Richardson said that he feels the process, before passing legislation, is important and that he indicated he opposed the original initiatives. That is why this Public Hearing is important. Citizen input was responsible for the passing of the initiatives. On the other side of the spectrum representative government elects representatives to make these kinds of decisions. He said that he was often the only resident present during the budget meetings in 2003. Later that year, residents were asked to be experts without the background of the budget meetings. He does not like the fact that a current crisis is forcing this amendment. The tail is wagging the dog. Good planning should anticipate these issues before they become a crisis. As far as the PI system goes, he is concerned that consumption is so much higher than the statewide rate. If there were time, he would prefer working on the consumption side of the issue. He feels the proposed amendment tries to take into account the intent of the original initiatives while removing the negative externalities.
Mayor McGee said that it is important to understand that this is not necessarily a response to a specific need. More than 18 months ago, the Council began talking about the need for a second culinary water source. That is long-term planning. Another thing being considered is the ability to maintain the City’s systems with a Public Works building. Currently, the City must borrow parts from other cities or find a supplier because the City has no place to store parts, vehicles, etc. There is also the short-term issue of refinancing the PI system. During the most recent campaign, most candidates campaigned on these issues, including the fact that these initiatives impeded the Council’s ability to act in the best interest of the City. Those candidates were elected, demonstrating that the majority of residents agreed.
The public addressed the Council:
Joel Wright: I am a citizen of Cedar Hills. I am here representing myself tonight. I appreciate the patient explanation that was given before. I also appreciate the extensive postings on the forum by Councilmembers Perry and Richardson explaining this issue. I have been thinking about this issue for about a year, when it first came up as part of the campaigns and initiatives in June 2005. What is the best public policy approach? I think it comes down to an issue of trust. How much do we trust people? If I have an eight-year-old son, I am certainly not going to let him drive the car. If I had a 16-year-old son, maybe I will let him drive the car but there are going to be a lot of restrictions on it. If I have a 20-year-old son, a 25-year-old son, once I have a 50-year-old son, it’s definitely time for me to back away. I see this as the point to which we have gotten. I appreciate different viewpoints. I can understand other people. We have some citizens of Cedar Hills who are extremely passionate, extremely involved. They are not on the Council even though maybe they want to be on the Council and think we should have a vote on everything. I guess I disagree and I think most people disagree, especially if you look at how other cities operate. Even if you go back to how our founding fathers designed our country. We are a republic, we are not a democracy. I think there is some real wisdom in that. At the risk of sounding a bit preachy, I have to read this great quote from James Madison in Federalist #10 about a republican system. He said “a republican system will refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice at the temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation it may well happen that the public voice pronounced by the representatives of the people may be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves can deem for the purpose.” I have bothered the City Council. I send them my e-mails all the time. They are probably a bit too long. I post on the forum all the time. I am almost to the 100 posting mark on the forum. I am quite proud of that although I don’t just do it to get there. I think all of our City Council members and our Mayor are good people. I am certain I disagree with them and will let them know when I disagree with them. But I do think we have reached the point where we definitely need to trust them. I’ve tried to think of a good analogy. I think the best one is a big corporation, say a Micron, for example, that has a number of shareholders. If Micron had to go out and get a shareholder vote before they hired an executive, or acquire a small company, or enter into joint venture agreements, it would be extremely difficult for them to operate. It would narrow the window of opportunity they would have. There are many things that come up--interest rates, other things that change on a daily basis, definitely a weekly basis. Having an election is extremely expensive and time consuming. I simply think it is not the best public policy. Even if I didn’t trust you all—and I mean that—even if I didn’t trust you all, I think it is poor public policy to have that. I think we got to elect each of you for four years. If you do a bad job, I am confident we will throw you out. I don’t think anything here is too permanent, though I appreciate that long-term debt can be and careful thought before we enter into that, I think is quite wise. I have said my peace. Thank you very much.
David Lone: I am representing Ken Cromar tonight--a guy I feel is of high integrity, definitely a concerned citizen of our City. Ken Cromar asked me as a friend to include his comments into the minutes of the meeting this night, just so that they would be included. I will read them, having said I would do so. “Thank you for this opportunity to have my voice heard even though I’m not able to be there this evening with you due to a prior commitment. This issue you are addressing this evening is very important. The will of the people has been heard during the election that implemented it. To the point my recommendation to our Cedar Hills Council is to only change it by the direct vote of the issue. Not having a direct vote would go directly contrary to the will of the people who resoundingly voted in favor of requiring all bonds and tax increases, including new general fees, which are like taxes, to come to a direct vote of the citizens. Citizens understand what all to many elected officials seem to forget and that is that if our elected officials have something worth asking the citizens to bear a new financial burden for, that is certainly worth selling to the community and asking their support in an open dialogue and vote. Understandably, in light of the golf course fiasco and its added burden to each and every household in this community, just trusting officials when asking to reach into our back pockets for additional resources is not considered wise. Having served for five-an-a-half years on the Cedar Hills Cedar Council, I understand that good, wise and prudent elected officials plan years in advance and will anticipate expenditures so as to include them during general elections and not incur undue and unnecessary costs through special elections. In conclusion, my recommendation is to repeal the ordinance only by a direct vote of the citizens as was done to implement the ordinances in the first place. Thank you, Ken Cromar, Former Cedar Hills City Council, July 1994–January 2000.”
My name is David Lone. I ran for the previous election to this Council and was voted down. I do have a couple of issues that I would like to bring to this. The reason why I read this statement is because what I would like to see develop further, as this Council is already doing and I would hope to promote continue doing, is to allow every voice to be heard with respect for the considerations to dialogue and in a sincere tone with concerned voices. And just let that be heard respectfully so that all ideas could be included on the top of the table. And then go forth from there in an orderly and respectful manner. That is my main point. Secondly, to the point of this meeting, I was the only one that continued in this meeting last Tuesday night at the wee hours of the night when the discussion was made with regards to how you would be promoting this to the public. A flyer was mentioned, different e-mails sending out, posts on the website. I went to the website this evening. I strove with my best—I am not a techie, computer wise – but I strove to actually locate the post on the City web site. I didn’t find it. Maybe it is there, but I didn’t find it. I also went to the forum trying to find something specific to a meeting time here tonight. I didn’t find it. There was a discussion going on a thread with regards to taxation and everything, but I didn’t see a specific post with regards to a time and place that this meeting was held. I went down to the school thinking that it was down there this evening. I also note that there are no signs at this location nor anywhere else in the City that I saw. The only other time I saw that happening in a little bit better way was in the last primary when two signs were placed saying there was going to be a Primary Election vote that day. Then when the General Election vote came up, there was a sign that—I have pictures of them. I have a sign of a picture of each sign at every location around the City. And there were at least eight to ten to twelve signs up. If your sincere interest was to promote this, then why weren’t those things accomplished. Respectfully, I submit this to the Council tonight.
Mayor McGee: Didn’t you have that on the City website the very next day?
Kim Holindrake: The very next day. It is under the Council agendas. It has the Public Hearing notice and right next to it is the ordinance itself. And this agenda for tonight’s meeting is there.
Mayor McGee: Just as a further point, I know Councilman Perry actually had a specific thread--actually it wasn’t you, it was someone else—but you responded to it in detail.
C. Perry: Steven started the thread specifically addressing—I have it right here with me on the web—amending Ordinance number 11-17-2003B. He discusses in detail his opinion on it, which I responded to, Eric responded too.
Mayor McGee: And it was in the newspaper.
C. Perry: I also send out emails to a huge number of people. Many more than were here. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed, although the many people I spoke to almost without exception said, “I understand. Thank you for explaining it. I’m okay with it. And I don’t feel the need to actually come to the meeting because I have already spoken to you.”
Mayor McGee: The same thing happened with me. I had many people who I spoke to about it. They all said, “Look, I am confident in this Council. I know they will do the right thing. I don’t feel an obligation to show up.”
C. Perry: Can I address two things that were mentioned? It is my interpretation of the proposed amendments that Mr. Lone expressed concern about new fees and new financial burdens for things that we don’t have today. Obviously it is very clear right here in the language about basic public services—water, sewer, irrigation, sanitation, parks, streets, transportation, infrastructure, public safety needs, utilities or physical facilities or equipment. I think this pretty much covers the essential items versus the nonessential items and the opportunities for orderly and respectful input. Many, many people have given their respectful input even prior to this meeting. I appreciate all those people and those that showed up tonight.
C. Parker: We ought to be careful because the original version of this required both conditions to be met. First, to have an identified revenue source and the City had to have control over that revenue source. The second condition that it had to be for a basic public service. It was a twofold requirement. The new language is one or more of the following conditions. Comments have been made—I think unintentionally—that this would only apply to basic public services, which is not really correct. The Council could choose to bond for a non-basic public service so long as there is an identified revenue source that is controlled by the City.
C. Perry: We cannot impose a fee—say hypothetically, for a rec. center.
Mayor McGee: Let’s save this for the discussion.
Jim Cheney: I missed the meeting last week because my daughter was in a car accident. I would have been here otherwise. There are a couple of issues I have with what you are trying to do. I won’t go into the golf course. It has already been addressed that that was a gross error on the City’s part. The one thing that I would like to point out is that the pressurized irrigation system, for those of us that are somewhat newer, when we bought our houses we paid to have that pressurized irrigation system brought to our house. Somebody in the system through some wise decision decided that for those that did have that, the City would pay to have that and they would have the rest of us pay for it. I don’t call that long-term planning; I call that sticking it to the people who had already paid for it once.
Mayor McGee: Do you, by chance, remember who the most vocal opponent of that thing was?
Jim Cheney: I don’t remember who the most vocal person was. I do remember talking to a number of people in the City about it. Why should I be paying for something again?
Mayor McGee: I agree wholeheartedly. I think I was the most vocal about that very issue. This is no new obligation, no new debt.
Jim Cheney: You are telling me that what you set up was inadequate.
Mayor McGee: No, we are financing old debt under better conditions.
C. Perry: Well, with the exception of the upgrades.
Jim Cheney: That means that we went into debt to do something, when you probably should have said, “We can only pay for this amount.” A building that is a million-dollar building. I don’t consider that an infrastructure thing. That sounds like a major expense to me. The business I’m in, a million dollars is a major expense and you go through a lot of hoops to get that kind of money. I don’t think that should be something we should just allow you to write a check for. It sounds like what you are doing here is changing the ordinance so that you basically have an unlimited credit card you can use. For that reason I oppose the changes to the ordinance. Thank you.
Rob Olsen: I didn’t come with a prepared speech. I wasn’t coming until one hour before and I happened to find the post on the website. This isn’t a life or death issue for me. It seems it is that way for the entire City. As I have listened to the dialogue tonight, the word that is coming to my mind is reasonable. What you are proposing is reasonable. It is prudent. I too voted for the original initiatives in 2003. But coming to meetings on a fairly regular basis, I don’t stay all the time, but I try to come and stay informed. I talk to Mayor McGee quite a bit. I go on the forum. What I understand from this is that the initial purpose of the ordinance or the initiative back in 2003 is still intact. Our interests will still be looked after. That we will still have the opportunity to vote when we need to vote on things. In listening to Eric Richardson, he said a couple of things —I agree with part or all of what each of you said – but he said that we have to balance the needs of the citizens with the thought that we are a representative government. Or, you are our representatives. There is a reason you sit here today. It is because you are capable, smart, I believe, reasonable people. And you were elected. I put my trust in you. I have sat in enough of these meetings. I have heard your dialogue. I heard the issues that are brought forward and how you discuss them and how you discuss them reasonably and how you come to conclusions. I put my trust in you on these basic services, on the basic issues that will come forth that we need to bond for. When there comes a time when we need to have a General Election for certain bonds, then it will go to the City and we will vote on them. That is what is reasonable. We are a representative government. You are here for a purpose. I put my trust in you. I know you will do what is in my interest. I truly believe that. I am in favor of this amendment. We are not repealing what happened in 2003. It is being amended and it is being amended for a positive purpose. Thank you.
3. This Public Hearing was adjourned at 8:02 by Mayor McGee.
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING
1. This meeting of the City Council of the City of Cedar Hills, having been posted throughout the City and the press notified, was called to order at 8:03 p.m. by Mayor McGee.
Invocation given by C. Parker
Pledge of Allegiance
2. Review/Action on Ordinance Amending the Requirement That No City Official or Representative of the City of Cedar Hills Shall Obligate the City with a Bond of Any Type Without a Majority Vote Approval of Registered Voters Living in the City of Cedar Hills as Previously Adopted as Ordinance No. 11-17-2003B (8:05 p.m.)
See handouts. C. Perry said that it was his understanding that the City Council cannot just add a fee. Eric Johnson clarified that the Council cannot do that. It can impose a usage fee. C. Perry feels confident that this amendment protects the people. He said that he appreciates the confidence and trust that some have voiced tonight, but he is uncomfortable just trusting officials. C. Parker noted three examples given tonight for the need for this amendment: to create a redundant culinary water supply, refinance and upgrade the Pressurized Irrigation (PI) system, and the Public Works facility. Regarding the redundant water source, C. Parker said that is the type of expenditure and cost that the process is appropriate for. He feels that there is plenty of time for it to go to a public vote. The PI problem caught everyone by surprise. Some believe the short-term solution is to bond to upgrade the pumps. C. Parker said that the restrictions put in place this year for the PI system is common in many cities. He fears that passing the amendment could lead to some knee jerk reactions, almost a credit card mentality. C. Perry said that in the upper zone the restrictions did not work. On days when watering was allowed, there was no water. It did catch the Council by surprise, but following the process would take an additional year and he feels that is handcuffing the Council. He proposed language changes because the previous proposed amendment required a revenue source or a $2 million cap on bonding. He felt that was giving the Council a credit card with a limit of $2 million. C. Richardson asked for examples of where an item would satisfy one condition and not another. C. Perry gave the example of roads where the City has no control over the road revenue source but it is a necessary public service. He could foresee many examples of emergencies where the only option would be for the City Council to throw out the entire ordinance. That tells him that something is wrong with the law and it should be amended. C. Parker said the examples are legitimate but in those emergency situations, the ordinance would not be invoked. C. Perry said that as someone that does not necessarily trust the next Council, he would feel comfortable passing this amendment for future Councils to use. C. Richardson said that he recognizes that future Councils could change, repeal or do whatever they want with the ordinance. He sees it as a guide for this Council. C. Bowman said that she feels that this amendment is reasonable. It will allow residents to trust the Council and will allow the City to become what it can become. Mayor McGee said that he thinks the ordinance allows the residents the ability to distrust the Council but also reason to trust it. C. Parker said that part of the problem is a difference of vision for the future of Cedar Hills or a difference of opinion on what is a basic public service. He feels that the original ordinance was not a statement of distrust. Mark Edminster said that he appreciated the opinions expressed and said that even in the financial world, there is a difference of opinion of what qualifies as an essential public service.
MOTION: C. Richardson - To adopt Ordinance 1-24-2006A, An Ordinance Amending the Requirement That No Representative of the City of Cedar Hills Shall Obligate the City with a Bond of Any Type Without a Majority Vote Approval of the Registered Voters Living in the City of Cedar Hills as Previously Adopted an Ordinance No. 11-17-2003B. Seconded by C. Perry. Vote taken by roll call.
C. Perry said that the original ordinance received criticism because it didn’t say “approval of registered voters.” Eric Johnson said that he took the language from the previous ordinance.
Nay - C. Parker Motion passes.
C. Parker’s Resignation - C. Richardson thanked C. Parker for his service. The rest of the Council concurred. C. Lowder added that C. Parker represents a portion of the residents that need to be heard represented. C. Parker requested that the Council consider appointing someone who represents views similar to his own the extremist views.
Eric Johnson put together a parameters resolution to help finance the Public Works building. Sales tax revenue bonds may impair the ability of the legislature to repeal sales tax on grocery items. A moratorium has been placed on sales tax revenue bonds. The primary excise tax revenue bond coming to communities is sales tax, although it is not the only one. The franchise tax is a tax up to 6% that is allowed under Title 10. It is a tax on utility services that is not addressed in the moratorium. This will be on the agenda for February 21. C. Parker said that the parameters solution starts things rolling and he would prefer to talk about the location, sizing, etc. before moving on the parameters solution.
Eric Johnson also expressed appreciation to C. Parker. C. Parker said that one of the best votes he made was to appoint Eric Johnson as City counsel.
3. Motion to go into Executive Session, Pursuant to Utah State Code 52-4-5 (8:56 p.m.)
MOTION: C. Lowder - To go into Executive Session, Pursuant to Utah State Code 52-4-5. Seconded by C. Bowman.
C. Richardson Motion passes
*** EXECUTIVE SESSION ***
Utah State Code 52-4-5 designates specific parameters for which a Closed Meeting/Executive Session may be held. This Executive Session was held to discuss the following: Strategy session to discuss pending or reasonably imminent litigation.
4. Motion to Adjourn Executive Session and Reconvene City Council Meeting (9:35 p.m.)
MOTION: C. Lowder - To adjourn Executive Session and Reconvene City Council Meeting. Seconded by C. Parker.
C. Richardson Motion passes.
Mayor McGee talked to Reed Swenson about the change to the PRD plan in Canyon Heights. He said that the cut was approved over a year ago. He said that Lot 13 was bought just two months ago. Mr. Swenson does not want to go and get a signature. He is requesting that he not be required to get the signature. Mayor McGee contacted each member of the Council to find out if they were okay with the idea that if the cut is beautified, the signature is not required. C. Parker said that to change the position, it needs to be an agenda item. The Council would like to ask the developer to bring a different proposal if he is unhappy with the motion that was made in the last meeting.
5. The meeting was adjourned at 9:46 p.m. on a motion by C. Richardson, seconded by C. Perry and unanimously approved.
/s/ Kim E. Holindrake
Kim E. Holindrake, City Recorder
Approved by Council:
February 21, 2006