Heber City government candidates debate economic strategy

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Speaking to the business community yesterday, Heber’s mayoral and city council candidates all said they would support small businesses, but with different approaches.

The two mayoral candidates, incumbent Kelleen Potter and city councilor Heidi Franco, took the stage from the Zermatt boardroom in Midway, addressing the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce and guests.

Three of the four candidates vying for two board seats were also present. Yvonne Barney, Friends of Heber Valley, medical scientist Bryce Hoover and financial advisor Scott Phillips were in attendance. The incumbent Wayne Hardman was on a trip to California.

After Hoover told the venue he would focus on increasing foot traffic on Main Street, Barney said she would represent community voices opposed to the downtown’s large-scale growth.

“I think the thing that we have seen the most since the post COVID, and we are still there, is the fact that a lot of companies who have lost their income, who have lost their business,” she said. declared. “So I think it’s important that we stay away from large format developments. I think it’s important that we develop and maintain our infrastructure in the city center, allowing small businesses to be in buildings that would thrive.

Barney and Hoover have expressed skepticism about the current council’s plans for the downtown economic development project, known as the Community Reinvestment Zone, or CRA.

City officials have described the ARC as the key to funding a “revitalized” downtown Heber over the next two decades. By restoring old buildings, constructing parking lots and upgrading infrastructure, he hopes to attract tourists and buyers and broaden the city’s sales tax base.

Phillips said bringing a large national company to the Reinvestment Zone is the best way to generate tax revenue to fund projects downtown.

“Small business is the community, and we need to be a business friendly community. If we look to the future, the CRA will produce millions of dollars in benefits, not just for the city, not just for the county, not just for the school district. Imagine a complete redevelopment of Main Street. This is the only way it will ever happen. Where will the money come from to redevelop Main Street without the CRA? Phillips said.

Using an ARC is a financial strategy the city adopted in July to use tax revenue to reinvest in downtown Heber. With an ARC, only new tax revenues are used to fund downtown reinvestment projects.

For example, a city study predicts that a new Smith’s Marketplace could generate up to $ 16 million in taxes over 20 years. Based on that estimate, city council on Tuesday approved a deal to help build a new Smith’s in the future.

Hoover said he preferred to look for ways to achieve this economic development by investing in small businesses and revitalizing existing buildings.

“In my mind, the CRA is helping small businesses, not big businesses,” he said. “If we pour money into a new Smith store, for example, to do a new development, what will happen to the old Smith store? I’m concerned about Main Street and the money pouring into people’s small businesses – so the city comes in and gives them money to improve their businesses, but then we just doubled their taxes. I don’t want to tax the small businesses in the valley.

The mayoral candidates have both said they will listen to the voices of experts and their constituents in making decisions.

Franco, the only councilor to vote against the Smith’s deal on Tuesday night, said the city should be cautious about committing significant CRA revenue to big business.

She told the forum audience, “For me, initially, the ARC we originally discussed in city council was going to focus on local businesses. The city council discussed its use for local parking, for commercial facades and downtown revitalization, but also for essential worker grants, which we as a city, county or school district must also secure. as much as you fight to get essential workers.

Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Potter has suggested implementing the strategy on a case-by-case basis.

“What this ARC should do is create a development that would not happen without this investment from the ARC. There are places that somebody could put storage units, and we could say, “Well, we didn’t really want storage units there. Well, maybe with an investment from the CRA, they could do something a little better that would help create more sales tax revenue, do something better for this industry. city; that’s the kind of thing, ”Potter said.

Candidates for Heber’s city council will reconvene on Friday at KPCW local news time from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. To listen live, tune to 91.9 FM in Wasatch County or 91.7 in Summit County, or visit kpcw.org to stream the conversation during or after the broadcast.

The town hall sent the ballots to voters last week. Election day is Tuesday, November 2.


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