Candidates vying for three seats on the Grantsville City Council shared their platforms and answered questions in a public forum at the Grantsville Public Library on Wednesday night.
The four candidates were incumbent Jewel Allen, Derek Dalton, Jeff K. Hutchins and Darrin K. Rowberry. The three open seats are for 4-year terms. Incumbent Krista Sparks, the 2-year term candidate, is running uncontested and did not attend.
Grantsville City is conducting a vote by mail election. All registered voters are directed to turn in their mail ballots to a polling location or drop box by 8 p.m. on Nov. 5 Election Day.
The candidates were all asked the same questions and were given two minutes to answer each question. The other candidates were not in the room while the others answered the questions.
One question asked the candidates about growth. It asked: “Managing growth” and “We need a good general plan” are great soundbites that are almost universally accepted. Specifically, how would you manage growth — How would you meet the state mandates for moderate-income housing? Where, if at all, would you place higher-density single family housing and multi-unit housing? What parts of Grantsville should be preserved as is?
Rowberry responded first and said city mandates sometimes may be more harmful than good.
“I lived in the suburbs of Denver for about five years and I’ve lived in Utah County for about seven years and I saw things that I thought worked and there were times that — because the city or county mandated a specific use of property — I thought there were times it didn’t work,” he said.
Rowberry also stated that affordable housing is important if the residents want to retain their growing families.
“If we want our children to grow up here, they have to be able to afford somewhere to live,” he said. “The need for multi-unit residences is necessary. There’s a necessity for housing that’s more affordable. I don’t think there is any one spot in Grantsville where we can say ‘that’s off limits.’ I’ve seen some fields turn into subdivisions and I think that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Allen spoke on the importance of revamping the city’s General Plan to better suit residents’ needs, citing her past and present experience as a council member.
“For the last four years, I feel like I’ve been a champion of the idea of [a good general plan],” she said.
“It’s not easy to revise a General Plan that has not been revised in nearly 20 years,” Allen said. “But I have really felt passionate about this because I’ve seen the old General Plan and it didn’t really address our needs. As I have served as a councilwoman and have seen what other communities have done, with a general plan and what it could do for a city, I realized we can do better in Grantsville.”
Allen then spoke on utilizing tools and strategies outlined in the Grantsville City General Plan for planning and zoning for future growth.
“We need to have housing that we can afford,” she said. “I know housing prices are just climbing, but we do have in our General Plan revised land-use maps that we will apply in Planning and Zoning decisions. It will give Planning and Zoning and City Council tools as they meet the developers and review concept plans. From there, the General Plan will give us good bones to plan for where that high-density housing should be located.”
Dalton said the general plan must be complete and make sense for all Grantsville residents.
“I give kudos to Grantsville for finally getting a general plan going after 15-plus years of not doing anything about it to finally bringing it to the forefront and getting it,” he said.
“What I don’t like is what they did was that as they’re building this general plan, they’re letting every developer come in and build a development, which throws off their general plan and it makes no sense to us anymore,” Dalton said. “I don’t know how you can make a general plan when you’re still letting people come in and shake up the puzzle. Right now, it’s a broken puzzle and it can’t be put together well if we’re letting people come and just build what they want, where they want. … I’m not afraid to say no to some developers. I’m not afraid at all.”
Dalton shared his stance on moderate-income housing.
“No one wants high-density housing right next to where they live. But do we need it? Yes, we do,” he said. “We need houses that are affordable, whether it’s an apartment or a condo, for people to start out with.”
Hutchins said Grantsville must carefully and methodically manage growth by overseeing the intentions and progress of developers.
“Managing growth is done one section at a time,” he said. “This general plan that we’re putting together … it still is general. There will come times where there will be a piece of property that someone wants to do something with and we’ve got to be willing to know the direction we should take with that. Yes, we should say no when it doesn’t make sense for Grantsville. We will manage growth by making sure that developers come to us before they get too far down that road. … We need to make sure that growth in this community is done through a plan that makes the best sense for us.”
Hutchins said that Grantsville already meets state mandates for moderate-income housing, but that he will support further action to implement cheaper housing in the city.
“Grantsville City has enough moderate-income housing to meet the state mandates,” he said. “What I want to hit on: higher-density, single-family [housing]. [People] have a hard time living in Grantsville because of the cost. Don’t think that multi-family housing means low-income housing. They’re two separate things. I will support multi-family housing when it looks good and is right.”
The forum was hosted by Erik Gumbrecht, a moderator of the social media group Election Central – Tooele County.
“The purpose of what we’re doing is to create a more informed voting base,” Gumbrecht said. “We want to provide materials that help you get to know the candidates and we want to elect the most effective representatives possible.”
A Facebook live video can be viewed at the Election Central – Tooele County Facebook page.