Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Top Ten Things Learned at Land-Use Seminar

10. The Tahitian Noni headquarters in Provo is an excellent place to host an event. It's a superb facility, offering "a place for a variety of community events, including recitals, free Friday night concerts and talent shows, Monday night movies in the 300-seat auditorium (also free) and one of only eight competitively priced Tahitian Noni restaurants. " Read more here.

9. Laws have an order of precedence. In land-use issues, we work from the bottom up. Local laws have precedence over federal laws -- except for certain carve-outs where large quantities of money or votes are at stake (disabilities, cell towers, billboards). Then the feds take over.

8. Signs may be regulated for time, place, and manner, but not for content. Regulating content would violate the First Amendment.

7. Signs may not be regulated for grammar.

6. Utah was the first state in the nation to ban the use of eminent domain to cure blight.

5. Neither does Utah allow the use of eminent domain to acquire right-of-ways for trails.

4. Where roads, parks, trails, and other public dedications are required of a developer, the rule for remuneration boils down to this: If the public benefits, the public pays. If the private owner benefits, the owner pays. But because there is usually public and private benefit to infrastructure improvements, there is usually a proportionate sharing of cost. This is where things get dicey.

3. Courts give local governments broad discretion to set land-use goals and regulations, but narrow discretion to interpret and execute those laws.

2. The companion book to the seminar, "A Utah Citizen's Guide to Land Use Regulation," is invaluable, and should be available to every citizen. Note to self: Must place a copy of this in our library.

1. In the twelve years Kevin Bennett has served as our city attorney, he has attended this seminar every time it was offered. Today was the first time he was joined by others from American Fork. Kudos to Mayor Thompson for encouraging attendance. Now that we have been properly trained, Kevin's looking forward to a day when no more lawsuits are brought against the city. Well, Kevin, I hope you have at least one good night's sleep over this.

The First Hundred Days

"Arbitrary and capricious" is the last quality we want for our law. But I've decided it's a fine standard for my blog. That's why I'm declaring today (May 31) to be the official end of my First Hundred Days in office.

Why, you ask, did it take me 151 days to complete my First Hundred Days? Here are my top three reasons:

1. The need for self-orientation. It may not be fair to compare the experience of a lowly City Councilmember to that of the Chief Executive. But I did find myself wondering, once, whether, after ten days, President Bush had to break down and ask somebody at the White House to produce such things as a key, a contact list, and a clue as to where his inbox was located.

Thankfully, the bit of orientation I needed most came this morning in the form of "Planning and Zoning and You," a land-use regulation seminar offered by the capable Craig Call, Utah State land-use ombudsman and brother of American Fork police chief Lance Call. More on what I learned later. For now, suffice it to say that when I left the training, I heaved a big sigh of relief and said to myself, "NOW my Hundred Days are up."

2. The creation of a plan. I was pleased and proud, at 12:11 this morning, to hit the final save key on my four-year plan. From this moment on, I can start ACTing and stop REACTing. Essentially, this plan is the blow-by-blow timeline of what I hope to help the city accomplish in four years. Councilmembers will share their plans during Thursday's work session under Item 1, "Discussion by Council Prime Movers of goals and objectives of their respective Prioritized Planning Items."

I have every expectation that my plan will be torn to pieces. Then I'll share it with all y'all -- after I've had a chance to pick up the pieces, that is.

3. I decided it was time to come out of hiding under pressure from certain other bloggers, to whom I will simply observe: The music cabinet in the living room still needs to be fixed.

Yes, "arbitrary and capricious" is a fine standard for my blog, which, with the help of my in-house PR staff (thanks for fixing the kitchen chair, by the way), I have entitled "Personally Speaking." I will blog when the spirit moves me AND when there is spare time to do so. I will try to cover some of American Fork's significant issues, when it is appropriate, but I hope also to have fun with some of the minutia that goes on in American Fork.

I welcome all comments and will post them whether I agree or not -- so long as you're commenting on the issues, and not trying to sell textbook insurance.