West Weber sign (copy)

The proposal to turn unincorporated western Weber County into a city is the focus of a question on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot. The new city would tentatively be named West Weber.

It’s not just about candidates this election cycle.

Voters in a handful of Northern Utah locales will be asked to sound off on a range of ballot questions bearing largely on growth and development in the respective areas.

Residents of western Weber County will be asked if they want to convert the large swath of unincorporated land in the zone into a city, making it the county’s 16th locale. It’s a controversial proposal, pitting those who tout the change as a way of asserting local control against others worried creating a new city would result in a property tax bump for residents of the new locale.

Voters in Kaysville are to sound off on a proposal calling for a bond issue of up to $22 million to build a municipal fiber network, which private-sector providers would use to offer high-speed internet service.

Syracuse voters will vote on a proposed bond issue of up to $26 million to develop a new 50-acre park and to restructure and refinance other existing bonds.

Bountiful voters will weigh in on a proposed bond issue of up to $8 million to buy a former school site and develop it into a park.

Mail-in ballots go to voters in October and voting culminates on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Incorporation: Efforts to put the incorporation question on the ballot date to last year, pushed by a contingent of western Weber County residents who argue that creating a new locale would give them more say in managing it. As is, Weber County Commissioners govern the unincorporated area, some 57 square miles of land in the Warren, West Warren, Taylor and West Weber areas.

The proposal has sparked backlash from some, leery about a rise in property taxes if the new city is formed and skeptical about creating a city from scratch. It’s prompted some living in the area to seek annexation into Plain City instead. Still, questions linger about whether Plain City has legal authority to carve out a portion of the proposed city while the annexation question remains on the table and the issue hasn’t yet been completely settled.

Indeed, a map of the proposed annexation area on an election website managed by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office indicates that the area of the proposed city is in flux in light of the Plain City annexation proposal, even now, less than six weeks to Election Day. “The areas indicated as ‘Pending Annexations’ on the map could be annexed into neighboring cities prior to Election Day. If an annexation occurs, then the map below will be updated,” it reads.

Some 4,700 people live in the area, a mix of agricultural land, farms and small subdivisions west of Plain City, Marriott-Slaterville and West Haven. The new city would tentatively be called West Weber.

Fiber network: The proposal for the Kaysville network sprang from installation of a fiber network by the city connecting its electrical substations, according to Mayor Katie Witt. The plan calls for adding to that existing network, thus creating a city-owned system residents could tap into for high-speed internet service via private-sector internet service providers.

The cost of up to $22 million would be paid off by subscribers getting service via the new network, according to Witt. As is, she said, some areas of Kaysville don’t have access to higher-speed fiber connections and the new system would help alleviate that shortcoming. Residents wouldn’t be required to get service via the new network and, if they don’t, they wouldn’t be on the hook to help pay off the bond.

The estimated price for subscribers for a 1 gigabyte service plan if the system is developed would be around $70. Witt said that’s cheaper than what’s charged by UTOPIA, the community-owned fiber-optic network serving numerous Utah communities.

The proposal has its backers, notably a group called Citizens for Kaysville Fiber. “Municipal fiber is the most efficient way to get fiber to homes and businesses. Smart cities are the future!” reads its website.

But it’s generated opposition from some, notably a group called the Coalition for Responsible Kaysville Fiber. The coalition worries about the notion of bonding for $30 million, especially given the uncertain economy, and argues that other things should be the focus of city leaders’ attention, like roads and firefighting.

Presentations for and against the bond question are to be made at the Kaysville City Council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1.

Syracuse park: The Syracuse park proposal, on land at 2000 West and Gentile Street, calls for a facility featuring several fields for softball, baseball, soccer, football and lacrosse. It would also house 16 pickleball courts, two full-sized basketball courts, a playground area, a plaza, pavilions for parties and a trail.

“The 50-acre park will be a great benefit that will help accommodate the growth of citizens and recreational programs,” reads a description of the plans prepared by the City of Syracuse. By 2024, the city warns, some recreational programs may not have enough space to operate given growing interest in activities like soccer, flag football and more.

Syracuse Park

This rendering shows the proposed Syracuse park that would be funded by a bond that's the focus of a ballot question on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot.

Part of the bond of up to $26 million would also be used to refinance other, existing city bonds. The proposal doesn’t break down what portion of the bond would be used for the park and what would be used for refinancing. However, the proposal itself notes that the bond restructuring would save the city around $597,000 a year. Factoring the cost of the park and savings from refinancing, the city estimates that property taxes on a $347,000 home would rise by about $53 per year to pay off the bond, if approved.

Bountiful park: The bond of up to $8 million in Bountiful would be used to acquire the site of the former Washington Elementary at 340 S. 560 West so it could be turned into a park. Sports fields would be build on the 10-acre site and it would also be used to expand the city’s trail system.

“Open space in the city is in high-demand, but is becoming harder to find and more important to retain. Securing this property will preserve valuable green space in lieu of more houses or apartments,” reads a flier prepared by the city on the matter. Moreover, the city has few other flat, open areas that could accommodate new sports fields.

Arguments against the proposal outlined in the flier note the higher property taxes that would result and the potential disruption to area residents caused by traffic to the new park. Moreover, if used to develop commercial or residential property instead, the land in question would potentially bring in new tax revenue to Bountiful.

Estimated property taxes on a home valued at $371,000 would go up by $32.57 a year to pay off the Bountiful bond, if approved.

Aside from the local ballot questions, there are also seven proposed state constitutional amendments for voters across the state to consider.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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