Friday, April 18, 2008

Green Infrastructure

Last month, Mayor Thompson received this letter announcing American Fork's recognition as a Tree City USA. My heartfelt thanks to all who have worked to make this a reality, including the members of the Beautification and Shade Tree Committee, the hard-working staff of the Parks department, and the City administration.

Dear Mayor Thompson:

Congratulations on achieving Tree City USA status within your City. Your support of the Tree City USA program demonstrates a desire to continually improve the quality of life within American Fork. I would like to personally thank you for your participation in this program.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized American Fork as a Tree City USA for the 1st time. Citizens can take pride in this designation and know that efforts are being made to grow a healthy tree resource in their community which will benefit generations to come. The influence of a healthy community forest to the environment and citizens of your community is significant.

By achieving this goal, your City has developed the base level for an urban forestry program. The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands would like to help you continue building your programs and become an even better steward of your city trees. Please contact [us] for more information on grant opportunities and ideas for future projects.

This year the State is celebrating 50 Tree City USA communities! For a listing of all Utah Tree Cities visit our website at and go to the Urban & Community Forestry link. Thank you for your commitment to urban and community forestry in American Fork and congratulations on your success.


Richard J. Buehler
State Forester

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Building in American Fork

American Fork has come under fire for its allegedly cumbersome permitting processes.

In February, the Utah Valley Home Builders Association released a (nonscientific, by their admission) report which placed American Fork near the bottom of the list for plat and project approval, permit approval and inspections. (See Caleb Warnock's article here.)

In March, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties released results from a (scientific, by their assertion) report which awarded American Fork an 'F' for industrial development and a 'D' for office development. (See Jasen Lee's article here.)

Technically, this is not my department -- administration falls under the mayor's purview -- but I do keep tabs on the situation. Frustratingly, I have not been able to form a conclusion.

On the one hand, I hear a lot of complaints. I even heard of a developer who will not develop in American Fork unless his clients pony up an extra $5K.

On the other hand, I've been told by some developers that AF is no better and no worse than any other city. I've been told by others that American Fork does a superlative job, and by still others that AF has made a positive turn-around in recent years.

For their part, staff insists that delays only happen when developers fail to submit complete information. They're doing their job, they say, to protect the City's residents from poor development.

Given the situation, you can imagine my anxiety when I was invited last week to the first annual Utah Valley Economic Summit, presented by the Utah Valley Home Builders Association.

I sat down to lunch wearing a name tag which, I felt sure, must have been emblazoned with a Scarlet AF.

"Where are you from?" my table mates asked.

"I can't say," I said. When pressed, however, I let it all spill. "I'm Heidi from American Fork where we have planning and approving dysfunction and we're at the bottom of your list.

"Home builders are friends, not food," I added.

"That's okay," said the home builder across the table, consolingly. "You're not at the bottom of our list any more," he said. "You're below the bottom."

But then he felt compelled to say one more thing.

"I'll say this for American Fork," he said. "When your building inspectors have signed off on one my homes, I never lose a minute's sleep over it.

"I know without question," he said, "that building is sound."

With that I leave you, gentle reader, to draw your own conclusions.

Welcoming Lone Peak Dialysis

I attended the grand opening earlier this month of DaVita Lone Peak Dialysis, located in the new Central Utah Clinic at 1175 East 50 South. On a personal level -- kidney disease touches my family -- I was pleased to see such a quality program open in American Fork. But it was pleasing on an official level as well. Two reasons:

1. Two patients told me about their relief at having dialysis available in American Fork. Residents of Eagle Mountain and Pleasant Grove, they had been making thrice-weekly trips to Provo for treatment, braving a commute which can easily cost an hour each way. Lone Peak Dialysis just gave them back six hours of their week. I'm pleased to watch the local economy step up to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population.

2. Darren Stutz, facility administrator, gave me some shocking news about American Fork. "We had a great experience with your City," he said. The planners, the licensers, the permitters, the Planning Commission, the water department (these folks process upwards of 120,000 gallons each month) -- just everybody, he said, was helpful, timely, reasonable and easy to work with. Having developed in Orem, Payson, and Provo, he said, he felt qualified to say American Fork was the best around.

All right, let's tell that to the homebuilders.