CACHE COUNTY – At their regular meeting on July 26, the Cache County Council approved a resolution adding an open space bond issue to the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.
If approved by county voters, that bond issue will generate $20 million in property taxes over a 10-year period to purchase land and conservation easements to preserve scenic vistas, open land near valley gateways and trails.
The goal of the proposed bond issue is also to protect agricultural land, waterways and wildlife habitat.
The council vote was 6 to 1, with only council member Gina Worthen saying “nay.”
After the vote, Worthen said she wanted to make it clear that, while she was also in favor of open spaces, she would have preferred that the resolution include more details about how the bond issue would be implemented and managed.
But council member Karl Ward was strongly in favor of the proposal.
“There has not been a single issue that came forward during my five plus years on the council where I’ve seen more overwhelming support,” Ward explained.
“I think that Jack (Draxler) and his committee have done a good job researching what other entities have done (to preserve open space).”
Council members Paul R. Borup, David Erickson, Nolan Gunnell, Gordon Zilles and Council Chair Barbara Tidwell all agreed that the voters of Cache Valley had a right to decide the issue.
“Planning for growth and preserving open space is a priority for Cache County,” according to Tidwell. “The County Council approved the open space bond on the November 2022 ballot.
“We can now leave it up to the voters to make a decision,” she added.
If the bond issue is passed by the voters in November, the council will then proceed to form a committee that will manage the bond funds, according to former North Logan mayor Jack Draxler, the co-chair of the ad hoc Open Space Advocacy Committee.
Draxler has suggested that proposed group be modeled on the citizens’ committee that manages the county’s Recreation, Arts, Parks and Zoos (RAPZ) Tax funds.
In the period between now and November, Draxler added that his committee will mount a public education campaign to convince Cache County voters of the benefits of the open space bond issue.
One immediate benefit is that the bond issue’s price tag has gone down.
Draxler explained that his committee had originally estimated that the cost of the bond issue would be $31 per year for the average homeowner. Due to Cache County’s growing tax base, however, the cost of the bond is now estimated at about $25 per year.
“I’m thankful for the support of the County Council in agreeing with the recommendations of our citizen committee,” said County Executive David Zook, speaking after the council vote on Tuesday evening.
“We’ve heard the voice of our citizens who want to preserve what makes Cache Valley great,” he added. “I hope they also make their voices heard in November.”
The bond issue is the brainchild of the ad hoc Open Space Advocacy Committee, headed by Draxler, and Cache Valley businessmen Eric Eliason and Steve Daniels.
That group has been holding weekly meetings since spring to discuss options to preserve Cache Valley’s open space in the face of rapid development. Its membership includes local residents, famers, realtors, attorneys and elected representatives.
In May, the committee surveyed 1,000 randomly selected county residents to capture their views on the preservation of open space.
The survey found surprising unanimity of opinion.
Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents felt it was important to preserve scenic lands and vistas. About 75 percent of respondents felt that it was important to preserve agricultural lands in the north and south gateways to the valley and to add to the valley’s trail network.
Most surprising, however, was that most valley residents (nearly 90 percent) said that they would be willing to pay an average of $20 per year if needed to preserve open space.
Zook said he also wants to thank the many citizens and community leaders who were involved with the ad hoc committee and worked so hard to bring this issue to the voters.
During a presentation to the council in June, Draxler explained that the bulk of bond issue funds would probably go toward the purchase of conservation easements, by which landowners are paid to remove their property from potential development.