WEST HAVEN — Eight candidates are running for three seats on the West Haven City Council and growth in the rapidly expanding city and how to manage it are two key focuses.
Two incumbents are among the candidates, Lacy Richards and Stephanie Carlson. The other hopefuls are Nina Morse, Carrie Call, Rob Higginson, David Smith, Russell Erickson and Kim Dixon.
Primary voting via mail is underway while in-person voting is set for Aug. 13. That balloting will narrow the list of candidates to the top six vote getters. Then they, like the primary winners in the other city council and mayoral races around Weber County, face off in the Nov. 5 general election.
Meantime, here's some info on the West Haven candidates, pulling from statements they supplied to the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office and the Standard-Examiner as well as their own campaign material.
Lacy Richards: Given continuing growth, making sure the city's general plan, which guides growth, is up to date is a key issue, she thinks.
"We have the responsibility to make sure that we have a current, well-considered plan that complies with state statutes, and then to carefully follow through on its implementation with the goal of achieving well-balanced business, residential and recreational areas," said Lacy, a registered nurse.
She vows to be fiscally responsible and puts a focus on maintaining a sense of cohesion in West Haven. "I look forward to nurturing and protecting that unity so that it can continue to be a source of strength for us for many years to come," she said.
She offers an upbeat vision. "My favorite parts of serving include finding win-win solutions, using critical thinking skills to problem solve and celebrating the heart of West Haven — its people! I'm committed to our community and to our shared future," she said.
Nina Morse: Growth will happen, said Morse, but she thinks it can be handled better. The city's mixed-use ordinance, which sets certain parameters for development, should be scrapped.
"The beauty of West Haven city is starting to get lost in over-development and rezoning," she said. "Haven is defined as 'a place of safety or refuge.' With the increase in development we are losing that feeling of safety and refuge."
In light of growth, the city should consider assigning city council members to districts to improve representation. As is, all council members are elected at large, by voters across the city.
Morse, a communications specialist, also touts continued economic growth, in part to forestall implementation of a city property tax in West Haven. "Responsible development comes from bringing in more businesses, not more homes and apartments," she said.
Maintaining public safety is also a concern and the city should "look more seriously at our own police force."
Carrie Call: Rapid development is one of Call's big concerns and she calls for revising and updating the city's general plan and zoning ordinances. "I want to represent you in planning responsible land use and zoning that reflects what our community desires to be," she said.
The city's mixed-use ordinance, too, is a concern. "I want to rewrite this ordinance with a focus on commercial development, not residential development. Our city has some great locations for commercial opportunities and we need to utilize those areas," said Call, a homemaker.
She also put an emphasis on communication with constituents. "I promise to be proactive instead of reactive by anticipating needs before they become citizen concerns. I am committed to creating a community where residents are informed and involved in all that happens in West Haven," she said.
Stephanie Carlson: Carlson cites her 17 years of service to the city, variously on the City Council and the West Haven Planning Commission, and the various initiatives she's promoted. She's the city's emergency manager and has helped bring $670,000 in grant money to the city.
"She is a natural collaborator, listens to others and values diversity," her statement reads.
Priorities for Carlson include maintaining a balanced city budget, maintaining and creating parks, supporting economic development, protecting citizens' rights and developing "safe, attractive, pleasant neighborhoods."
She sees "great potential" in West Haven. "I love West Haven and care about its residents. I have a unique skill set that benefits our city and feel I make a positive difference. I am passionate about serving you," she said.
David Smith: Smith cites his involvement as a volunteer in the city, through scouting groups and the Weber Mosquito Abatement District, among other things. He's also a regular at City Council and Planning Commission meetings, both to keep him and his neighbors up to speed on city matters.
"Hard work, organization and the ability to adapt are tools that I have used while volunteering my time and resources. I will utilize these same skills and resources as your next city council member," he said.
Some of the key issues facing West Haven are:
- The difficulty in attracting businesses to the city,
- Growing high-density housing development, and
- Stabilizing the revenue sources funding the city and keeping financially solvent in coming years.
Russell Erickson: West Haven is at "a critical point" in its development, says Erickson, an information technology manager.
"As a leader who has experience with negotiating and navigating difficult issues, I know I can help rebuild our sense of community to continue that hometown feel in West Haven we all love," he said.
Indeed, maintaining what he sees as West Haven's character seems to be a big focus, particularly with expected growth.
"As one of Utah's newest municipalities, West Haven has the opportunity to find the balance (between) the country rural feel of our more westward areas, while providing country heart for a changing demographic's diverse housing needs in the east," he said. He wants to extend "our amazing community feel" to newcomers to West Haven and make sure they have a voice.
He also calls for fiscally responsible budgeting "to keep taxes and services balanced and optimized," he said.
Rob Higginson: Guiding growth is a big concern for Higginson, a consultant.
"West Haven is the fastest-growing city in Weber County, this type of explosive growth needs to be carefully controlled," he said. "I would love to see a forward-thinking growth pattern that would protect our current city residences and maintain the type of country lifestyle we currently enjoy."
He would push for expanded commercial development along 1900 West to help increase the city's tax base. But he expressed opposition to raising taxes and implementing a property tax in the city, a focus of on-and-off discussion in West Haven.
Listening to the public, too, would be a priority and serving "for the greater good of all citizens of West Haven."
Kim Dixon: Dixon worries that current city leadership is "putting real estate development ahead of West Haven residents." New leaders are needed to change that focus.
As is, she maintains, the 19 developments approved in 2018 by the West Haven City Council will potentially result in 2,300 new apartments, townhomes and homes. Compounded with additional development this year, that will result in thousands of new residents in the next two years.
"It's time to slow down and take a look at what we've become and, more importantly, what we want to be. I will work to reopen our general plan, redefine our zoning ordinances to better fit our way of life and create transparency between city government and residents," said Dixon, a retired federal employee.
The current slate of leaders, she says, isn't addressing the "challenges" the expected growth will bring.