I have heard from a number of residents who are having difficulty choosing who to vote for in the upcoming city council election. We have a large field, and it is difficult to know where everyone stands. To help better understand each candidate, I have drafted the following questions. Below are the questions and their answers, along with links to their blogs.
If you are a candidate who would like your answers posted here, please let me know and I will be happy to add them.
Answers are listed in the order given on the ballot, which is randomized by the state.
What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
Brian Miller: I would like to protect and strengthen the qualities of Cedar Hills that lead our residents to make the decision to live here. We live in a safe, family-oriented community with a small town feel. I would also like to increase trust between the residents and the city through honesty and transparency. The city has been heading in a positive direction recently and I want to ensure that trend. Furthermore, I want to make sure that our residents are heard. We have a small vocal group but there are many that don’t feel they have time for local politics or don’t have an interest because they don’t know how the issues affect them. We need to involve their voice.
Angela Johnson: A top priority would be to help increase resident involvement in discussing issues. It is difficult for residents to attend meetings so we need to reach out in different ways to gain their insight.
Jenney Rees: I would continue working to improve communication and transparency and would like to see the city utilize technology to get information to residents. I would also encourage more resident involvement with issues we face as a community. I have enjoyed working with resident-driven committees and feel they are a great resource as we make decisions on city issues.
Chris Fowler: I have no agenda and I love where I live. In terms of accomplishment I hope to lend a stronger voice for young families. Cedar Hills is a young city: 11.6% of our population is under 5, 45.1% of our population is under 18. I have 4 boys under the age of 8. I want to be a stronger voice for the majority of our residents.
Ben Bailey: I would like to continue growing the city in a positive direction. We have great citizens that are highly active throughout the community. My goal is to work along side these individuals and engage with them.
How have you already been volunteering or serving in the city?
Brian Miller: Yes. Shortly after moving to Cedar Hills, I looked for an opportunity to serve our city. I serve on the city’s General Plan Advisory Committee. We have been charged with the duty of providing specific input to be used to update our city’s general plan, which is extremely outdated. This has afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with some of our city’s staff, elected officials and other residents with a strong desire to serve our city. Before moving to Cedar Hills, I served in Pleasant Grove as a precinct chair and state delegate.
Angela Johnson: I have enjoyed serving as a precinct chair for a few years, serving as the volunteer coordinator for the family festival, been on the emergency preparedness committee and attending or listening to meetings and giving feedback regarding city issues for a few years.
Jenney Rees: I have been serving on the City Council since 2012. During that time I have served with the Planning Commission, Family Festival Committee, Parks & Trails Committee, Finance Committee, and the Cultural Arts Committee. During Family Festival I volunteer at most of the events.
Chris Fowler: I have coached Cedar Hills tot soccer for 4 years. I am a watch dog at Cedar Ridge Elementary. I have also had the opportunity to be a Scout Master for nearly 4 years.
Ben Bailey: I have served the city as a volunteer firefighter beginning in 2000. Over the years I have been asked to find outside funding options that will help alleviate the costs of public safety. To date I have brought in $1.2 million to the fire department of which $0 needs to be repaid. I currently serve as a Battalion Chief and the Fire Marshal. My main responsibilities are to keep our citizens safe and to quickly & efficiently mitigate fire and medical emergencies.
Over the past years, development of a congregate care (senior living) facility with 300 units has been proposed and is currently pending with the planning commission. What is your opinion on this proposed development?
Brian Miller: I believe that the current proposal does not conform to the general plan and design guideline requirements. Adjustments should be made prior to presentation to the planning commission and/or city council. The development should fit within what our city permits and restricts. I do support property rights and recognize that once a proposal conforms to the city restrictions and requirements, the city cannot prevent the sale and development of the property at issue, whether residents are in favor or not. I do believe resident concerns should be voiced and heard. Personally, I would prefer to see viable retail options that would be supported by surrounding residents in place of the senior living facility. Our commercial area should be promoted by the city and incentives should be offered to secure business that would benefit our community.
Angela Johnson: I do not support high density housing in the commercial zone. It does not meet the general guidelines and ordinances regarding density, helping balance our city's tax base or providing retail development.
Jenney Rees: I believe that the City Council should hold the developer to the intent of our General Plan, zoning laws, and Design Guidelines. While some parts may be ambiguous, I believe that overall they are very clear as to what type of development was intended when that area was zoned as part of our commercial area. There are several areas where I feel the current proposal does not meet our city ordinances and have outlined that on this blog, which can be found here.
Chris Fowler: Some commercially zoned areas are on private property. If they have a developer that conforms to city codes. We have to respect those rights. The big issue that Cedar Hills is facing is the proposed development of 55+ high density housing on the field south of Walmart. While it is on private property the developers proposal does not quite fit the city plans. Residents that would be most affected have largely spoken against this development. High density housing by its very name seems intense when it is clear in the city codes and plans that much of the land was planned for less intense. This is why I am not for the current proposal.
Ben Bailey: High density housing does not meet the spirit or guidelines of our current commercial zone ordinance. I believe in property owners rights, but they ne to comply with the city ordnances.
Recently, several alternative options for the future of the golf course have been discussed. What is your position on these options and the discussion?
Brian Miller: None of the options that have been discussed make financial sense for the city. Our course adds so much unquantifiable value to this city. It performs better than the majority of municipal golf courses in Utah. The management and staff are excellent. Options have been explored previously and nothing being proposed is new. Our course has outperformed recent projections. While I am always open to listening and considering alternatives, I believe that spending a lot time and resources toward exploring alternatives that have previously been discussed would be better invested in other areas of the city. We need to continue to support the course and appreciate the value and benefit it provides to our city, for golfers and non-golfers alike.
Angela Johnson: I am interested to hear the options discussed by the golf course committee. I don't support getting rid of the golf course unless there is an option that saves substantial tax dollars and allows residents to vote on any new proposal.
Jenney Rees: First, I think it is important to note that the data which has recently been provided on Facebook is the perspective of one person and doesn’t give the complete picture. While I agree that it is good for the city to explore options on anything that impacts the city, I think that the data that is presented should be complete and accurate. I am pleased to see the Golf Course Finance Committee working on this as I have seen that our resident-driven committees consistently do a great job analyzing data and making recommendations based on what is best for the city. I believe the option presented of turning the golf course into parks is not feasible. It ignores that fact that we still have a bond to pay, that it would cost a considerable amount of money to convert the course into usable park space, and it opens the city to lawsuits for not adhering to agreements it entered in to. The lawsuits alone could take years to settle before any of the land could be sold or developed, and at a tremendous cost to the city. I’m sure the Golf Course Committee will look at these issues and many others as they do a complete analysis.
Chris Fowler: I have gone through the proposed alternatives. I am appreciative of this diversity of opinion. I have not seen one that makes sense for Cedar Hills. Many are complex in nature and my experience in business tells me that the more complex the alternative is, the more risk it incurs. I firmly believe the best option is to embrace what we have and make it the best golf course in Utah County…it certainly has the potential to be!
Ben Bailey: These options are in a rough draft form. Currently there is a golf course committee that is evaluating this issue. I feel that it represents both sides of the argument and will stand by the decision that they recommend.
The city's general plan and design guidelines need to be updated regarding zoning in the commercial area. What would you suggest?
Brian Miller: I currently serve on the General Plan Advisory Committee. Generally speaking, the values that were put in place in the original general plan are still held by Cedar Hills residents today. There are many elements that need to be updated regarding the growth of the city, commercial development and zoning. Additionally, while the plan is by its very name “general,” there are certain elements that are currently vague and ambiguous. This puts the planning commission and the city council in a precarious position at times without specific guidance. These vague and ambiguous terms should be specific and directive.
Angela Johnson: I feel the guidelines need and zoning need to clearly state what is allowed. There are many vague statements that need to be updated.
Jenney Rees: The process that is currently in progress is a good start. A resident-driven committee was formed (General Plan Committee) to review the current General Plan, solicit feedback from residents, and make a recommendation to the Council. The Planning Commission is in the process of reviewing the Design Guidelines to make recommendations for changes. I believe the intent of our General Plan already reflects the desires of the community when it states “This zone [SC-1] provides for commercial and retail uses within the community...The zone allows the community to better balance the tax base, and provides residents with employment opportunities, retail goods, and office space...Cedar Hills will encourage commercial development which will directly benefit the residents of the community.” I believe our Design Guidelines could be more specific to remove any ambiguity. I appreciate that both the General Plan Committee and the Planning Commission are soliciting feedback from residents throughout this process.
Chris Fowler: We do need to take a detailed look. Have we lost business development options because of this? It is certainly time to revisit this with major input coming from residents.
Ben Bailey: I suggest that the language be clear as to what exactly is allowed within the different zoning areas.
Recently the council has had a discussion on making the recreation center more of a community center that residents can use regularly. Currently the city has been using the Vista Room as a revenue source, bringing in approximately $80,000 in revenue this year, above expenses. Would you prefer to have more community or resident events in this space, even if this meant less revenue for the city? How would you use the basement areas? What ideas do you have for making the community center a better resource for our community?
Brian Miller: I think that we should continue maximizing revenue for the great asset that is the Vista Room. What a gem! I believe that days that go unbooked after a certain deadline may be offered for a deeper discount for resident activities. More activities put on by the city should be held there for little or no cost to the residents so that everyone feels that it is “theirs.” These could be holiday or theme related events for families. A date night put on by the city would be neat as well, with dinner and dancing, for a reasonable fee. The basement is sterile and unattractive. The lack of decorations on the walls creates an echo. It serves well as a meeting space and should be available only for a cleaning fee. Scheduled community activities could take place there with classes for kids and adults, a babysitting night to allow parents to go out, scouting events, etc.
Angela Johnson: We need to continue to bring in revenue at the community center. If there are days that it isn't being utilized, residents could be allowed to use the community center at a discounted rate possibly.
Jenney Rees: I would prefer to have more community and/or resident events in this space. The building was paid for with recreation impact fees that were collected to build a recreation facility. We should honor that and have recreation and/or community events often, and allow residents to utilize the building at reasonable rates. I also understand that the intent of those who approved the current building was to bring in revenue to offset some of the golf course losses. I think we can find a middle ground. During the last Council meeting I suggested that we not book any receptions on Monday and Tuesday nights and leave these open for residents to use at a highly discounted rate (I’m thinking $10/hour). Our residents pay for this building with property taxes and it should be a building that is open for residents to use. We could continue to have paid bookings for Wednesday-Saturday nights, which is when most events are currently scheduled, and the revenues do help offset golf course losses. I would also like to see a minimum of four community events held each year. We already have the Santa night and the summer breakfast, I would like to see at least two more each year that are sponsored by the city. I would also like to see the basement utilized for more youth activities, whether that be additional classes, merit badge classes, game nights, etc. I would like to hear from residents on what types of events they feel could be held there that would be successful. We’ve tried some adult classes (gardening, IFA), but nobody showed up so I feel youth activities would be better attended. I am fine adjusting our revenue budget for events to accommodate more community or resident use of the building.
Chris Fowler: We should embrace the Vista room as the premier place for weddings. My brother-in-law got married there. It is a great source of revenue and brings people into our beautiful city. I certainly think we can do a better job in making use of the community center. I am an idea guy. I love coming up with ways we can maximize our resources. Two ideas I have would be: (1) Create year round programs tied to the most popular youth recreation program (soccer, baseball, etc) These programs could include things like arts and crafts, karate, computers, golf lessons, etc. I believe parents would love the idea at having a 1 time a year registration that puts their kids in year round activities. (2) Instead of thinking city wide activities we should look at neighborhood wide activities. If we designed activities specific to a certain neighborhood, turn out would be better, involvement would be better. Activities could include ice cream socials, bingo nights, bunko book clubs, emergency preparedness classes, youth activities, etc.
Ben Bailey: The basement of the community center is rarely used. The Vista Room however sees a lot of venues which bring in $80,000 to our coffers. Prior to limiting the rental of our Vista Room I would like to see the basement utilized to its capacity. I would like to see children's activities brought into the basement. An area that provides a communal library (leave a book, take a book), art classes, boys & girls center, etc. would be awesome to see.
The grill at the community center has struggled to be a viable business, with several outside vendors not succeeding. The city has issued an RFP for a new vendor, recently, to try again. The city has tried running the grill itself, but lost money as well. Do you have suggestions for using this space more effectively?
Brian Miller: This is a difficult situation with no clear answer. It baffles me that a grill at a well-attended golf course does not succeed. I believe that if a new vendor runs a grill, it should be promoted to the community as a restaurant, unassociated with the golf course. A destination for local families. I am not sure that is how they have been presented in the past. But for Cedar Hills, a community of large families and fiscally minded people, it would certainly have to be a good value; reasonable cost for good food. Grill hours should be reduced to peak hours only, on the busiest days, and rent may need to be reduced. I am also open to converting space to a general community space; art center, library space, etc.
Angela Johnson: I think discussing what could go where the grill was would be a great discussion for residents. With an approximately $1400/month cost to any business, it doesn't appear a restaurant could succeed in that location.
Jenney Rees: We’ve tried running a grill for three years and it has not worked. I think the message being received is this is not an amenity people will use. It may be the location, lack of advertising, menu, or a combination of many things, but I feel it’s time to recognize that it will always struggle as a grill. I would like to look at other options for that space. CM Zappala made a suggestion at Council meeting that we look at changing it into a community spot where residents can utilize it at any time. Something like a volunteer library or gathering spot. If this isn’t feasible and we need to keep it as a grill, I think it makes sense to reduce the hours to only be open when the majority of the customers were coming in. It doesn’t make sense to have a grill open for 12 hours a day if it is empty many of those hours.
Chris Fowler: This is a challenging situation. I would study the numbers compare to other restaurants in the area/similar situation and go from there. Ideas include a small drink and snack shop (food preparation minimal) to a more formal sit down restaurant that we can all be proud of. At the end of the day the city needs to look at all options including lowering cost for the space, revenue sharing, etc.
Ben Bailey: The grill has the opportunity to attract different types of customers. There are residents, golfers, reception parties, etc. that all could contribute the success of the grill. The key is to find a business plan that will work within our community. I feel that we can find an entrepreneur that would be able to maximize the potential of this area.
The city has struggled with overuse of pressurized irrigation water. As a result we are now using our backup water supply for irrigation during busy months, meaning we no longer have an adequate backup for irrigation water should a component fail. During summer months, we are pumping water into the PI system at its maximum capacity, which causes wear and tear on the components leading to a higher probability of component failure. Basically, our system was never designed to carry the volume of water residents are using, which is twice the rate it was designed for resulting in our system not having the capacity. Some have suggested voluntary water restrictions are the right solution to this problem, others have said we need metering to ensure everyone pays for what they use, like other utilities. What would be your recommendation to move forward on this issue?
Brian Miller: I believe that we should stay the course with community education and encouragement (less use, less lawns, more responsible watering practices, etc). Let’s wait and see what happens with the state in regards to metering. I do not support the city spending any additional funds on this issue at this time.
Angela Johnson: I do not support implementing a $2 million water metering system. The state may well mandate this at some point but would likely pay for part if not all. We need to not only encourage every other day usage but recommend an amount of time and keep promoting conservation.
Jenney Rees: This is an issue the entire state is facing, not just our city. I believe that the State will mandate PI metering at some point. They are already having discussions on this topic and acknowledged that they would have an obligation to help fund it if it was mandated. I agree with the concerns expressed, and I worry about the amount of culinary water we push in to our PI system each year. We tried an aggressive education campaign last year and watering restrictions this year. I look forward to seeing the numbers at the end of the season to see if either has had much of an impact on water usage. I do believe we should hold off installing meters on our own until we see what direction the State is going. It doesn’t make sense for us to shoulder all of the financial burden if we can receive help from the State.
Chris Fowler: I think this is a larger problem then just Cedar Hills. It is a Utah problem. I think that there first needs to be continued education on water conservation, applied effort to voluntarily restrict water use, etc. Metering would be very expensive to put in. It also may be required at some future point by the state (which would mean state funding) I think at this time we continue our current efforts. Metering will ultimately be the solution but let’s wait to see where the state goes.
Ben Bailey: $2 million for meters is a lot of money. Let's continue with our current program of educating the citizens and having set watering days.
- If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?*
Brian Miller: I will continue to serve on the General Plan Advisory Committee, participate in city dialogue and attend city council meetings.
Angela Johnson: I will always be involved in following issues. I love cedar hills and have a true desire to help our community be as successful as possible.
Jenney Rees: I would continue to stay in touch with my elected officials and share my thoughts or concerns in a constructive manner. I have already told one resident-driven committee chair that I would like to become a permanent volunteer on that committee if I am not re-elected. I have enjoyed working with other volunteers in our city and am impressed with what is accomplished through those efforts. While I hope I can continue serving on the Council, I will continue serving as a volunteer if I’m not re-elected.
Chris Fowler: Running for City Council has sure been like jumping into a mountain lake. It is uncomfortable but exhilarating. I will continue to be involved with Cedar Hills sports teams, be part of this great community and be a connection between city government and residents.
Ben Bailey: I will continue serving the citizens in my current capacity. Public safety is in my heart and I will always be a volunteer.
If you are elected, how will you solicit input from areas of the city outside of where you live?
Brian Miller: Aside from continued participation on social media, I believe having regular neighborhood cottage meetings would be productive. These would be social meet-and-greet meetings held in specific neighborhoods. A small budget or donations could be used to make it a fun atmosphere with food, refreshments, balloons, etc. Let’s bring the elected councilmembers TO the community. Regular no/low cost surveys can also be valuable.
Angela Johnson: I would like to see us solicit input with a city wide Facebook page and through other social media. I would also encourage the use of inexpensive surveys that are statistically correct on important issues.
Jenney Rees: I have worked to stay engaged with residents throughout the community through my blog, social media, the About Cedar Hills forum, email, phone, and face-to-face meetings. I would continue with these avenues as I’ve found them effective.
Chris Fowler: I would continue to use technology as a platform to communicate and seek feedback. I would also not be afraid to pick up the phone and make calls to residents (we do a good job getting candidates names out there during campaign season, I don’t see why it would be impossible to get the issues out there as well)
Ben Bailey: Word of mouth and social media are great mediums for communication. I feel that a city sponsored FB page could be a great way to get information out.
When the council is faced with a decision, it often wants resident feedback. Some have suggested we could poll residents on every major issue, but others worry this could be tiring for residents (leading to low response rates) and would rather trust those who represent them to study the issue and make a good decision. How would you handle these concerns?
Brian Miller: As a councilmember, you are elected to a position of trust. Simply put, I believe that large issues that do not have a consensus among residents should be presented for input or put out in a survey. Residents expect the council to use its judgment on smaller, less impactful issues. This judgment should be based on facts, analysis, rationale and sound reason.
Angela Johnson: There will be times to do statistically correct surveys that will hopefully provide in depth information as to the pros and cons of the issue. I think there is ample opportunity to reach out to residents through social media and see how they are feeling about issues, also. Certainly not everything needs a vote or a survey but it is great to get resident input in other ways as often as possible.
Jenney Rees: I think it needs to be a combination of both. The city hires a firm to do a rather large survey every other year, and this has always provided very good feedback as we discuss the long-term goals of the city. I would like to do an online survey each January as the Council puts together the goals for that year so that we know that they align with what residents want. I think staying in touch with residents through a variety of channels helps elected officials know the will of the residents. But I also feel that residents elect officials to do the research, attend the meetings, meet with staff and residents, receive legal counsel, etc. and make decisions based on findings from these efforts. We are elected to do the work and should be doing it, not passing the buck by putting out a sentence or two in a survey and expecting the decisions to be made for us.
Chris Fowler: I would pick up the phone and call people and ask them. That’s what you do in business if you want something done. Also technology has changed the game, can we create an app that facilitates resident feedback? It also can keep people informed of city events, decisions, emergency preparedness, activities, etc.
Ben Bailey: I believe that #10 is a great way to address this. Through interacting with the citizens on a regular basis, the council can get a good feel on what the citizens are wanting.
When you hear about something that concerns you in the city, what steps would you take to see that this concern is resolved?
Brian Miller: I would first try to figure out what the actual issue is (not the perceived issue), and what is the basis or motivation behind it. I would then research all I can to find actual facts for clarity. If it is a day-to-day or a functional problem, I would call the city staff to speak with the appropriate person. If it is policy related, then I would speak with a city council member, giving an explanation that includes specific facts, examples, proposed resolutions, and a request for action.
Angela Johnson: If I hear of a concern, I would hope we could discuss it during work sessions. We can then assess if there is something that needs to be done moving forward.
Jenney Rees: I’m a big believer in following through. When issues have come to my attention, I work with other officials and/or staff to see what resolutions can be found and then make sure that the information is being communicated back to those who had the concern. While it will never be possible to make a decision that everyone in the city agrees with, I think most appreciate receiving communication about how their concerns were discussed and addressed, even if the outcome wasn’t the one they were hoping for. Residents should expect elected officials to research their concerns and report back in detail.
Chris Fowler: (1) Seek to understand the issue, (2) Communicate the issue to City Council members, (3) Follow up on possible solutions, (4) Work to implement solution, (5) Express gratitude for those who helped.
Ben Bailey: First of all is take it to the source. Many concerns are simply miscommunication. Find out the facts from the source and move from there. If there is still an issue, then work through the process. Find out the facts, discuss, vote, and move on.
For more information, on each candidate, see their sites:
Brian Miller: Facebook
Angela Johnson: Facebook
Paul Sorensen: Facebook
Ben Bailey: Facebook