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Draper Journal

Mayor delivers State of the City, touts lowest property tax in Salt Lake County

Feb 29, 2024 02:06PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Mayor Troy Walker spoke with people following the conclusion of his State of the City address. Walker works as an attorney and is a part-time mayor for Draper. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

Mayor Troy Walker delivered his State of the City speech, touching on subjects ranging from increased property values coupled with low property taxes, the water crisis and the city’s flooding issues, his participation in boards to advocate for the city’s interests, and The Point development within Draper. He strongly warned the city could lose zoning rights because of legislative actions.

“If you’re electing somebody to the legislature, you need to elect people that have a local government mindset. The super majority lends itself to legislation that I don’t think gets thought out,” Walker said. 

District 4 Congressman/Draper resident Burgess Owens made brief remarks. The Point is within his district but the majority of Draper is in John Curtis’s District 3. Owens spoke about a business-ownership mindset in the state, values passed down from parents, and Utahns sending their children on missions “to get out of their comfort zones.” Owens went on to say, “Our president hates our country and hates our culture. We have an ideology of people that love power more than patriotism, more than the American people.” 

Mary Squire walked out of the room in response. “My husband and I went to this event because we wanted to hear the mayor give an update on what was going on in our city. We were really disappointed when Congressman Owens took the opportunity to make divisive comments at what was supposed to be a nonpartisan event. Even though he lives in Draper, I don’t think he understands who we are. I’ve lived here for 17 years and the Draper I know is welcoming and inclusive,” she said. Squire returned to listen to the mayor’s presentation.

Walker started by saying he continues to work as a lawyer because his role with the city is part time.  As mayor, he serves on boards including the Utah League of Cities and Towns which lobbies the legislature on behalf of cities. “I’m at every legislative meeting. It’s time consuming but worth it for our community.” He also serves on the Wasatch Front Regional Council to help plan all forms of transportation, and he continues his role on The Point of the Mountain State Land Authority to represent Draper in decisions about development of The Point. 

Walker painted a strong economic picture of the city. He said the median single family home value rose from $589,800 in 2022 to $764,400 in 2023. “I don’t know if there’s another city other than Park City where the value is higher.” 

According to Walker, the city has 310 employees. “We try our best to keep government efficient and small.” He touted the pursuit of sales tax through commerce to reduce property taxes for Draper residents. “It cuts down how much we have to tax you. We’re the lowest property tax in Salt Lake County and we’ve kept it there for a long time.”

Walker addressed the housing crisis, noting that Draper’s median home price is beyond the reach of many in the next generation. “Our kids don’t have a place to live…the gap in housing comes down to a lot of things.” He explained that the legislature approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in recent years to try to alleviate that problem and the city has since compromised by planning for a percentage of Draper where ADU’s would be allowed. Walker said changes at the state-level to city’s zoning rights started in 2018 with 17 different pieces of legislation, some of which are just getting implemented. “One of our messages to the legislature is give us time to show that we’ve facilitated it. Draper is mostly built out.” The mayor explained that if the city isn’t in compliance, it would result in fines from the state.

Walker warned of the city potentially losing zoning rights. “Right now, zoning is done at the city. We do studies, have a General Plan and try to layout the community. But big developers decided, rather than lobby city council members, they’d lobby legislators. They’ve convinced the governor and legislators it’s (the housing crisis) because the cities won’t zone for smaller units. The ultimate goal of the development community is to take away our authority. We can’t hate developers, they build houses….but the housing crisis is most acute where the builder has three acres, I say.” 

The mayor also warned about water conservation, “We’ve got to do better, and if you don’t, we’re going to get the heavy hand of government because there’s no new water.” He addressed last year’s flooding which resulted in millions of dollars in damages for the city and its residents. “You have a stormwater system built for a 100-year storm and get a 500-year water flow.” 

Wrapping up his remarks, Walker discussed development progress at The Point, indicating buildout will likely take 25 years, but vertical buildings will begin to go up in 2026. “The goal is to create a job-making entity so our kids can stay here and have a place to live and work. The state built a couple billion-dollar prison…with the concept of this is going to pay for it over time.” The current plan is for Draper to provide police, fire and garbage services at The Point. 

The Point garnered the most questions with people concerned about increased population and traffic congestion problems, the Smart City concept, and the impact on schools. Walker said The Point will be car-centric to begin but developers will do traffic studies, mass transit will be available, and the school district is involved in the planning. “I don’t know how you stop people from coming. I hear you,” he said. “It’s better than a prison that generates zero tax dollars.”

Draper resident Dan Portwood appreciates the efforts of the mayor and council but has concerns about congestion and overbuilding as well as payroll of city employees compared to the average Utah income. “When you have a small-town city government with a massive payroll, we as taxpayers want to know what are these people doing with our money?” Portwood would like to see more frequent Town Halls for city officials to engage with the public in Q&A regarding spending, finances and budgets. He’d also like to see term limits for city and state employees “so they don’t get stale.” He appreciated the information on the legislature trying to take away local control and he’s particularly concerned about The Point. “I’m very disappointed in the state legislature. The good old boy network is really enforced here. A lot of powerful people in Utah are trying to make money off The Point…it’s more than just a wonderful thing going on. But how will you deal with traffic adding 25,000 people? Public transportation isn’t a fit for Utah,” he said. 

Chad Smith and his wife have lived in Draper for two decades but he hadn’t attended a State of the City before. “It was more informative than what I expected,” he said. He found the statistics and pie charts especially helpful and he appreciates that the mayor thinks decades out “for long- term health rather than short-term popularity.” 

But Smith was bothered by Owens’s statements. 

“He took a meeting about Draper and tried to pull the divisive national politics scene down to our local level,” Smith said. “I wanted to say to him ‘You should know that our city is about finding commonalities, unity, and reasons for working together. What you said was inflammatory on any level, especially for Draper. That was offensive.’” λ