Michelle Smith (L-R), elected replacement of Gunnison councilman Shawn Cranes; Lori Nay, newly elected Gunnison mayor; and Robert Anderson, a re-elected council member, raise their hands while newly appointed Gunnison City Justice Court Judge Mark McIff swears them into office.

 

New mayor and council members

take long view on city planning

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

Jan. 11, 2018

 

GUNNISON—The Gunnison City Council zeroed in on long-term growth and what to change about the city park at their recent council meeting.

After the winners of the 2017 Gunnison City election were sworn into office, the leadership wasted no time setting their sights on the future of the community—and not just the immediate future.

Lori Nay, the new mayor (who won a close victory against current city councilman Blake Donaldson); Michelle Smith, elected replacement of previous councilman Shawn Crane; and re-elected councilman Robert Anderson all took the oath of office on Wednesday, Jan. 3 during the first Gunnison City Council meeting of 2018.

The group was sworn in by Judge Mark McIff, whose appointment to the Gunnison City Justice Court was former mayor Bruce Blackham’s final act of office that night. McIff had previous employment with the city, once acting as the city prosecutor.

After the oaths of office, Nay, Smith and Anderson sat down and immediately began engaging with the council. A hot topic for the evening were plans for the city and its park—master plans, that is.

Nay passed out a copy of the book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” to all the members of the council, saying she thought the book had insights that might be valuable to Gunnison’s development. She added that the city needed to implement a master plan—aiming one, two, five and even 10 years into the future with economic planning.

“Ten years ago, Ephraim didn’t look like it does now,” Smith said, agreeing with the need for a master plan. “Even Manti has improved. Gunnison is going to need to do that too.”

The council and mayor turned the discussion to what some of them expressed as the biggest problem in Gunnison City: Growth.

The council said the jobs are there, but the lack of certain housing options was making it hard for some people to move into the city.

Nay said she was aware of places where housing could be built in Gunnison City. Yet some other members of the council gave their opinion that building a house from the ground up was a limiting option for some prospective transplants to Gunnison.

Councilman Blane Jensen said he had heard reports from some employees at the Central Utah Correctional Facility that the lack of pre-existing housing made it difficult to make a move to Gunnison. Many of them don’t have the money to come in and build a house fresh, and the choice of homes or duplexes suitable for a family to move into was slim.

According to Jensen, in 2017 the city made an ordinance change that would make the requirements to build duplexes on properties less strict, in the hope that more of those housing options would open up for move-ins.

Jensen asked Nay if she thought the city should be exploring low-income housing development as well, to which Nay answered, “I don’t know if that’s a conversation we’ll be heading towards.”

The council agreed to begin some of the processes required to get details of a master city plan hammered out.

Plans for the city park occupied the council also.

The council noted the upgrades to the city park in 2017—not the least of which was the addition of a splash pad.

“The park is the first thing you see when you drive into town,” Councilman Andy Hill said. “It should be a place that can really attract people to it.”

During 2017, the council had talked over possible “next phases” of the park’s development. At more than one meeting of the city council, proposals included adding new areas for seating and shade, as well as a possible amphitheater,

But the talk hadn’t just been about adding to the park.

On more than one occasion, removing the skate park was suggested in a council meeting. Voices come on both sides—some argue they never see it being used, while others say their own children use it.

Hill said he had mixed feelings on the matter of removing the skate park. He added he had recently been to Kanab, where their skate park—and its dozens of active users—had impressed him and made him reconsider if Gunnison’s skate park should be removed or renovated.

The council and Nay decided the further development of the park, and the money spent on it, should probably be best handled by forming a solid long-term plan and involving the public in the process.

Nay said she herself had received feedback from a few members of the public that the skate park should not be discarded.

She also mentioned an upcoming meeting on Jan. 24 between the city and Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) to explore funding options for city and park improvements.

A draft list of prioritized improvements to seek funding on from the CIB was passed around to the council members, and Nay asked them to take the lists home and think about where they feel any possible CIB funding would be best spent.

Expressing optimism about funding from the CIB, Nay said, “The temperature has changed there. Now it’s a little more fertile ground than in the past.”