You’ve probably noticed several postcards like these in your mailbox for the past few weeks. We want to draw your attention to a critical issue in Orem: Preserving our city’s public lands.
Since I came into office last year, our City Council’s number one priority has been preserving our neighborhoods and our city’s quality of life. That is why we went through last year’s comprehensive efforts to rezone State Street. The City Council and I are considering another significant rezone focused on preserving Orem’s limited public lands. This proposal would rezone public properties such as parks, city facilities, and school properties to a new “Public Facilities” zone.
Rezoning these public properties would be a big step towards guaranteeing Orem’s public lands STAY public.
First, Orem is largely built out. However, our population will continue to grow steadily over time due to several factors, such as infill development, neighborhood regeneration, and construction of new accessory dwelling units. As our demographics change, we must preserve existing school properties for future school needs. Over time, more school-age children will attend Orem schools following general population increases and neighborhood turnover. As a community, we need to ensure that we have adequate resources to support our future students.
Second, both city and school lands were paid for with public dollars. You paid for these. Preserving these lands is vital for the public’s continued benefit. If these lands are redeveloped for non-public purposes, they will be lost forever, for use by our residents. We must ensure that we make the most of our resources and preserve them for future generations.
Third, this zoning change requires that any proposal to redevelop these lands will require a complete public hearing process before the City Council, with an opportunity for input from residents. This process will ensure everyone, not just a few, have a say in how our public lands are used.
To this point, back in 2008, during the peak of the Great Recession, the City Council was contemplating the sale of public land just north of the cemetery to help alleviate the city’s financial woes. Fortunately, that deal fell through, and the city still owns that land. However, our new public lands zoning proposal offers added layers of public engagement, ensuring greater transparency and accountability to protect our city so this can never happen again.
Finally, you can discuss and learn more at one of our upcoming meetings. The Orem Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on April 12th at 5 pm in the City Council Chambers. The City Council will also hold a public hearing on a date to be determined. We want to hear your thoughts and ideas, how we can best preserve our city’s public lands for future generations.
One quick item on a different topic. With the historic snowfall this Winter, there is a genuine concern about flooding. For the most part, Orem is exceptionally well-positioned to avoid flooding. However, we have a few spots, especially in the 2000 North area, and preparations are underway to protect that part of the city.
Orem residents are best positioned to help those in other communities that don’t fare well during the flood season. Through our emergency alerts system, we are building a list of those willing to lend a hand in the aftermath of any flooding in Orem or nearby cities. If you would like to be part of any such effort, please sign up at orem.org/alerts. Orem residents have a long history of answering the call to help, and I have complete confidence we’ll rise to the occasion again.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to this vital message. We hope you’ll get engaged on an issue that will impact Orem for generations to come.
Have a great month!