Why is Millcreek Thinking “Town Center?”
A message from the Mayor:
This week Millcreek announced planning meetings (which will take place on April 30 at 6 PM at the City’s offices at 3330 South 1300 East) to discuss a proposed new “town center.” Click here for the newsletter where the announcement was made. We want to engage our community and collect input regarding the idea of creating a “town center” in the area bounded by Highland Dr., 3300 South and 1300 East near the Brickyard.
I have received many positive reactions to our effort, which will be to create a gathering place for Millcreek residents, offering the dining and shopping options they have told us they want to see closer to home, while providing additional housing and an opportunity for transit, walking and biking in Millcreek. I have also heard from some who are not so encouraged by this effort, asking legitimate questions about what this will cost, why now, and questioning whether public input will truly be considered. I would like to respond to some of these questions and explain what your city leaders are thinking. I also again encourage everyone to participate in this planning process so that you can learn about what we are discussing and so that your views are considered as we plan our future hometown.
A Millcreek town center is something we are hearing people in Millcreek want. We have been engaged in a robust public input and engagement effort in connection with our general plan ever since we incorporated sixteen months ago, and the results are clear. Millcreek residents overwhelmingly want to see a place (like in Holladay, for example) where they can gather and have better options for shopping and dining close to home. They want a place which can support better transit options and which is walkable and bikeable. You have told us you think this is the way of the future, to reduce congestion by not having to travel to other parts of our valley, to reduce the costs of expanding our road system and to improve air quality. In addition, business owners in this area have approached the city, asking for us to invest in this area and for it to be redeveloped and improved.
At the same time, we are seeing increased development pressure in this area; a lot of it. The city has already received applications for several large, multi-family apartment projects containing hundreds of units for this area of our city. Some of these projects fit within our existing zoning and will receive permits. This growth is happening because Utah’s population is growing at a rapid rate, there is a critical shortage of housing across our valley and Millcreek is a very desirable place to live. The number of applications we have received and the discussions our planning staff is having with developers about additional proposed projects has spurred us to act now. The growth is coming whether we like it or not and it’s coming now.
If growth happens without a plan, it will be haphazard and uncoordinated. It will likely not provide us with the amenities we would like to see, including vibrant places people like to gather, walkability, mixed uses, transit options, the list could go on and on. Because we have an idea that Millcreek residents want to see this area develop into something better than the strip mall landscape common to much of our city, and because we might lose the opportunity to get that if we don’t act to plan it now given that development will continue to happen with or without a plan, the city council acted to initiate this planning process, even before our new general plan is complete. It will involve even more public engagement to refine what you want to see. That’s the point of the April 30 meeting to kick-off this effort. But if we don’t act and plan now, we will lose our ability to have something really special.
So how will we pay for all of this? Are we diverting resources from the sidewalks and other improvements we want? The answer is NO. Realizing the need, we applied to the Wasatch Front Regional Council for an additional grant to fund our town center planning and to write an ordinance to give effect to what our planning efforts produce. We will not be diverting tax money from other uses for this planning effort. The improvements the city may install in this area will be paid for either by developers or using the increased taxes we will collect, generated not from a tax increase, but from the new improvements developers will build according to our new plan. We can expect that the development of this area will increase property taxes and sales taxes from new or revitalized businesses in this area. Part of that increased tax generation will be spent on public improvements, roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, storm sewers, etc. needed by the project. After a while, the increased taxes generated by this project area will be able to be used for other new roads and sidewalks in Millcreek outside the project area. This is the benefit of tax increment financing and this is how we grow our tax base, increasing the size of the pie. The city’s resources grow without a tax increase on our existing residents and businesses, and Millcreek residents get a town center- maybe like the one everyone seems to like in Holladay (only better, right, because ours will be in Millcreek and look like YOU want it to look— if you tell us). Please come on April 30 and help us start work on this exciting opportunity.
Thank you–Mayor, Jeff Silvestrini