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It Snowed In the Grandview Multipurpose Room, By Bruce Parker

February 6, 2024 by Nicole Masson
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The Grandview Multipurpose Room (Millcreek City Hall) experienced heavy snowfall in 90 minutes on Tuesday (1/30/2024). Whether it was snowing or a whitewash, Millcreek City’s Sales Department’s abilities were on display. Much can be said, but I will be brief. The following are my thoughts and mine only. They are offered in the spirit of generating thought, and that those attending the Brownbag do not consider Millcreek Common a planning model. It is not.

Utah-APA cosponsored the Brownbag Luncheon. Eight panelists followed the “Sell the Millcreek Common” script. A moderator from Wasatch Front Regional Council, unrecognizable by me, facilitated the pitch. The Brownbag was fully orchestrated and managed, allowing the 8 Millcreek Common boosters to take all the time, responding to the moderator’s softball questions. No questions were permitted from luncheon attendees.

I was expecting something more than a Greatest Showman routine. Critical thinking should be a planner’s standard, including identifying and understanding when being whitewashed. A planning brownbag luncheon should be more than listening to 90 minutes of boosterism and delusional thinking.

Who Pays? From the scarcity of the information provided, I gathered the Millcreek City Hall cost $40M. Millcreek City needed a City Hall, but at what cost? The Mayor commented that Millcreek City residents are not paying for City Hall. Sales tax revenues are paying for City Hall. What confused reasoning. Millcreek City residents are paying. If not for principal and interest payments for City Hall, additional sales tax revenues could be applied to other places and services. In 2022, Millcreek City raised property taxes by 4.6%, and sales and use taxes were added to gas and electric bills. A stormwater utility fee was imposed on residents earlier.

Tax Increment Financing. From the panelists’ comments, the private projects around Millcreek Common benefit from tax increment financing. This comes at a cost. While tax increment financing benefits the developer/landowner over a lengthy period, someone does pay. A significant amount of research says those paying the most are the students in the local school district. For a generation, sometimes longer, students are deprived of the funds to support educational opportunities and services because the school district, like the other participating taxing authorities, hopes a pot of gold lies at the end of the rainbow. A dream, perhaps and likely.

Let’s make a Deal. One may have come away with the impression that everything in Millcreek City was achieved through dealmaking. I did. Do Millcreek City’s planning codes have any value? A look at how many development agreements have been made by Millcreek City officials would lead one to say, no.

A Champs-Élysées. Mentioned during the event was that Millcreek Common’s Woonerf street is modeled after Paris’ Champs-Élysées (images were provided). A delusion. Millcreek Common’s Woonerf street never will be the Champs-Élysées, and Millcreek City is not Paris. The Champs-Élysées is over one mile long and 230 feet wide, lined by theatres, cafés, and shops. I may be wrong, but not likely. If I am, I look forward to the time when the Tour de Millcreek cycling race ends on the Millcreek Common after completing 21 stages and over 2,000 miles.

Agree or disagree. I hope this piece generates thought. To facilitate such, a complete unveiling of all Millcreek Common financing information should be provided, including all Millcreek Common operational costs and user fees. Some may suggest, my thoughts are sour grapes. They are not and are far from it. I ran for a position on the Millcreek City Council. In retrospect, I am glad I lost. I could not see myself lasting too long on a diet of what I experienced at the Brownbag Dog and Pony Show Luncheon.

Bruce Parker, AICP

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