Both are seeking city council seats for the first time in Tuesday’s elections in their respective cities. Both are worried about the specter of overdevelopment in their hometowns as growth booms all along the Wasatch Front.
“I finally decided I needed to step up, do the things that I would like to see done,” said Dixon, one of five vying for three at-large seats on the West Haven City Council.
Motivated by her mom’s involvement, which coalesced after plans emerged last year of a massive housing development in a field adjacent to her West Haven home, Alberts, similarly, finds herself running for a seat on the South Weber City Council. Seeing, through her mom, the sort of development occurring in West Haven and drawing parallels to fast development in South Weber, Alberts decided she, too, needed to get involved.
As a series of development proposals in South Weber came to light over the summer, Alberts got up to speed on the issues. She joined South Weber Citizens United, a grassroots group formed in response to a controversial mixed-used development plan. She also reached out to her mom, getting pointers on how to navigate municipal bureaucracy, and, ultimately, decided to launch a write-in bid for the South Weber City Council.
“I wasn’t seeing us represented (on the council) and I wanted to make sure we were,” said Alberts, speaking, with her mother, from her mom’s West Haven home. “I just could not not do it.”
Because the formal filing period had already passed, Alberts’ only option was to run as a write-in candidate, arguably a much tougher way to win office. The odds didn’t daunt her, though, and she’s one of five candidates running for three spots on the South Weber City Council.
“I WAS, ‘WHOA, WHOA, WHOA’”
Before last year, Kim Dixon voted, but otherwise didn’t pay too much attention to local politics. “I am retired and I am currently writing books,” she said.
Alberts, similarly, was only minimally involved in local issues. The mother of four homeschooled kids, she would read the monthly newsletter the city sends to residents, but not much else. “As a mom with young kids at home, making it to a City Council meeting was very difficult,” Alberts said.
For both, that changed as they learned, firsthand, of the impacts and potential impacts of rapid development in their communities. Suddenly the issue that has prompted debate and handwringing all along the Wasatch Front as Utah’s population booms — rapid growth and development — became real for them.
In Dixon’s case, it all started when she learned of a housing proposal on a 32-acre parcel of farmland behind her home. She figured development would eventually come to the field, but the 256-unit proposal, a mix of homes and townhomes, seemed excessive. She got up to speed on the city’s zoning laws, started clamoring against what she viewed as overdevelopment and ultimately the developer, Salt Lake City-based Ivory Homes, agreed to scale the plans back to 205 units.
Call it a partial victory, but Dixon had already come to the conclusion that more was needed — more representatives on the council attuned to residents’ concerns about rapid development. West Haven was the third-fastest growing city in Utah as of 2018, and new developments are sprouting all around the city, a standing concern for many who fear the western Weber County city is losing its country feel.
In Alberts’ case, it started when she learned over the summer that the general plan for South Weber, located in northern Davis County just south of Uintah, was to be reworked. The general plan outlines how a city is to grow, and a preliminary update that started circulating in the city showed what in Alberts’ view was an excessive number of zones where high-density housing and commercial development would be allowed.
“There’s a lot in the plan,” Alberts said, recalling her sentiments as she learned of its details. “I was, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’”
About the same time, news emerged of a new proposed roadway cutting through South Weber to Hill Air Force Base, a proposed property tax hike of just under 100% and a mixed-use development that some feared would result in excessive traffic along 2700 East. The varied initiatives had Alberts and many others worried the city was transforming into something they didn’t recognize or like.
Both acknowledge that growth is inevitable, but they call for more controls and guidelines specifically spelling out the sort of development that’s permissible. In West Haven, leaders are already taking another look at the city’s development ordinance with an eye to reducing what some see as provisions that are too generous to developers. In South Weber, clamoring by Alberts and others has prompted revisions to the earlier general plan update proposal, Alberts said, and stymied the roadway plans.
‘GET INVOLVED NOW’
But things don’t stop there.
Both Dixon and Alberts say if they’re elected, they aim to voice concerns of residents in each city that they say aren’t getting enough attention. Dixon finished second in primary balloting last August for the three West Haven City Council seats coming open and Alberts said though she’s a write-in candidate, she’s sensing a lot of support for her bid.
“We’re changing the tide. Things are changing and it’s because we’re getting involved,” Alberts said.
If not for the development plan abutting her property, which spurred her activism, Dixon doubts she ever would’ve gotten more involved, done anything more political than voting each election cycle. Now she sees the importance of more closely scrutinizing local leaders.
“Get involved now. Get on the (city) website. Understand what the city is doing. Look at the general plan,” she said.
Aside from Dixon, the other hopefuls for the three West Haven City Council posts up for grabs are incumbents Stephanie Carlson and Lacy Richards and Nina Morse and Carrie Call.
In South Weber, the other candidates for the three City Council spots aside from Alberts are incumbent Blair Halverson, Landy Ukena, Quin Soderquist and Tamara Long.