Utah County Flooding, UDOT and Solution Recommendations for Subdivisions

by Robert John Stevens, March 20, 2017

This is an exceptional wet year, probably the wettest since the 1983 Utah floods, and the hard-packed dirt from laser levelling caused the water to glide over it rather than sink in.

Here is a classic example of a compounded problem resulting from government intervention. Please read it to understand the problem and proposed solutions:

For decades my 45 acres along 1/2 mile of SR-147 in Benjamin, Utah were irrigated from east to west so the water flowed downhill along the natural slope of the land.

At some point, somebody complained to Utah County that their neighbor’s water came onto their property so a regulation was created that requires each new subdivision parcel to have its own watering system.

So to comply, I had contractors build almost 1/2 mile of east-to-west cement irrigation ditch and also laser levelled parcels to slope from south to north towards SR-147.

Naturally, you’d think the water should have drained into the UDOT ditch along SR-147 from 4400 to 4700 West but the Orem UDOT branch won’t permit it and even denies it is a ditch, even though they had us build culverts where driveways crossed it.

Glen Tanner at Utah County Public Works believes once the parcels are tilled and planted, the roots will enable water to drain down.

Future parcel owners may install 2″ or 4″ pipes to pump out excess water.

What lessons can we learn?

  1. Never create regulations based upon minority complaints. In software engineering, we have an 80/20 rule: If 20% or fewer people want something, don’t build it, especially if there are unforeseen consequences and it makes things more difficult for the majority.

  2. Undue burdensome regulations.

  3. Recommend developers install a drainage pipe encased in gravel under the low end of adjacent parcels, with the grade sloping towards it, and the cement irrigation ditch on the opposite end so the water flows from high to low and the extra water is drained off the property.

  4. Permit UDOT ditches for common-sense water discharge.

  5. Schedule a charrette meeting with stakeholders including representatives from drainage districts and local excavators.

  6. We need master planning for county roads, drainage, sewer and utilities. Isn’t that one of the main reasons we form governments?

Utah County will Consider Building Roads in Phases if…

by Robert John Stevens, March 14, 2017

Yesterday I met with Brandon Larsen from Utah County Development, Glen Tanner from Utah County Public Works, and Robert Moore the Utah County Attorney.

They said they would approve paving of my 3/4-mile road in phases if I:

  1. Submit a completed UTAH COUNTY APPLICATION FOR DEDICATION OR DELETION OF ROADS1
  2. Grub the entire 3/4-mile road
  3. Lay road fill and road base and compact them according to Utah County standards
  4. Dedicate the road to Utah County (and lose control)
  5. Pave sections when able

That may sound reasonable but consider the following:

Would you personally pay to build a 3/4-mile road with all improvements except the asphalt pavement, not knowing how much damage will happen to the road fill and the powdery road base, nor the cost the damage will incur?

Because you are required to dedicate your unfinished road, you cannot stop the public from driving on it, nor unauthorized vehicles including motorcycles and four-wheelers from tearing up the road fill and road base.

Yes, it is an option and a new option is a step in the right direction but now that the old school and corrupt commissioners are gone, the real issues are:

  1. Will an appeal to the Utah County Commissioners result in plat approval without these efforts?

  2. Do Utah County Commissioners support the rights for all men to possess and protect property and do they maintain those rights to be inherent and inalienable as defined by the Utah Constitution?2

  3. Was the intent of the Founding Fathers really to uphold and protect property rights while denying men the right to live on their property?

It is time for a reversal of corrupt regulations that are stifling development and keeping men and women from living on their own farmland, and for Utah County to relinquish usurped power.

In the end, government employees, politicans and I and all their colleagues must stand before God and be judged according to whether or not we used unrighteous dominion to deny our fellow men and women of their free agency and inalienable rights.


1Article I, Section 1. [Inherent and inalienable rights.]

All men have the inherent and inalienable right to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties; to acquire, possess and protect property; to worship according to the dictates of their consciences; to assemble peaceably, protest against wrongs, and petition for redress of grievances; to communicate freely their thoughts and opinions, being responsible for the abuse of that right.

2UTAH COUNTY APPLICATION FOR DEDICATION OR DELETION OF ROADS

As part of the application to dedication a road, an applicant is required to submit:

  1. A map of the proposed road or county road to be deleted or vacated;
  2. A map showing the surrounding area with all abutting land parcels;
  3. Document(s) identifying the present ownership of the land (attach all maps and documents to application);
  4. An access permit from the State Department of Transportation, District Engineer’s office, if the proposed road is to access onto or cross a state highway;
  5. For a dedication, an itemized estimate made by an engineer licensed in the State of Utah of the cost of improving the road to meet county construction requirements.
  6. Letters from Utah County Public Works and the Fire Marshall

Related

Utah County Commissioners Vote Against Inalienable Property Rights and Private Party Contracts

How to Build Roads in Phases to Appease County Governments

by Robert John Stevens, February 23, 2017

Asphalt roads dedicated to and maintained by county governments at the expense of taxpaying citizens are a relatively new concept. Mankind has survived and prospered without them for thousands of years.

Utah County, Utah requires driveways in new subdivisions, which may consist of only one buildable 5-acre parcel, to connect directly to paved, dedicated state or county roads. No dead-ends or cul-de-sacs are currently permitted.1 Regulation changes or deletions are needed to remove such barriers.

To appease county government and propose a compromise, here is my solution to build roads in phases:

Road Phases

  1. Build road stubs. This should be enough to fulfill the requirement for driveway access because there is absolutely no difference between shared road stubs and shared driveway stubs for emergency vehicle access.2 A legally binding contract can be drawn up to protect all parties.
  2. Pave one or more road segments. Using fill material (not asphalt), install temporary hammerheads3 for emergency vehicle access in compliance with Appendix D of the International Fire Code. If possible, excavate the remainder of the road, remove all grub and install fill material4 so trucks can drive all the way thru.
  3. Pave the remaining road and remove the temporary hammerheads.

Notes and Issues to Discuss

  1. Because developers will not always complete future phases, county governments want to be left with something they can live with.
  2. Governments were formed to protect property rights, not keep people from building on their own property.
  3. All government-run tasks that can be done by the free market should be taken away from government and given to private businesses for better, faster and higher-quality service.
  4. Asphalt will probably not be the primary material to construct roads in the 22nd century.5
  5. Taxpayers do not want to pay for the maintenance of rural paved roads. If usage is considered, when should a road be paved, and then maintained by government? If savings accounts were created and gold and silver deposited for future maintenance, would government rob them?
  6. Governments regulations experience feature creep. Governments make the same mistake as software development firms by listening to and innovating for the minorities who complain the loudest.
  7. At what point should paved or unpaved roads be dedicated to the county government?

    • Developers should be leery of dedicating roads too early because of unforeseen changes in government regulations or tyranny that will disable their ability to complete future phases.
    • Currently, Utah County won’t approve subdivisions until entire roads are built, paved and dedicated.
    • Dedicating a completed paved road is less risky.
  8. Building entire roads with fill material only will allow trucks to enter and exit.
  9. Until a road is ready to pave, road base should not be installed because of erosion due to weather, vehicles, geological movement resulting in high maintenance. Road base is designed to be a cochin for road pavement and to enable raised center crowns for drainage.
  10. So-called protection by providing legal wording on recorded plats is not always upheld, especially if it contradicts current government regulations or wishes.
  11. Increasing populations affect land prices, making it nearly impossible for new farms to emerge. An orchard farmer recently told an inquiring BYU student that 220 acres would be required to create a profitable fruit orchard business.
  12. Whether intended or not, many regulations to halt or slow development also hinder agricultural competition.
  13. The average age of farmers is increasing and most of their posterity do not want to farm.
  14. Although government officials brag about their county agricultural production, most know if trucks stop shipping food due to an extreme cataclysmic event, local farms cannot provide enough food to sustain the local population and most citizens would die in months.
  15. Most people do want to become farmers. Many who were raised on farms just want one to 5.25-acre parcels. These are the next generation farmers to surround incorporated cities and towns.

1 Although some bureaucrats not like dead-end roads because they become party areas and places where people park cars, trucks and recreation vehicles, is that a good reason to ban them?

2 I lost this battle in September. See Utah County Commissioners Vote Against Inalienable Property Rights and Private Party Contracts but now that Nathan Ivie replaced the opposing Utah County Commissioner, it should be reconsidered.

3 Temporary asphalt hammerheads are too costly to build and remove when the next phase begins.

4 From Excavator Brian Sorensen: Engineered fill or a good bank run fill material consists of rock and dirt mixture. When installed and compacted properly it serves as the structural or stabilization layer to start building a good road. It can be used in some cases as a permanent road, but makes snow removal difficult.

5 Like asphalt, cement has a short lifespan so roads, driveways and buildings built today will need to be torn down and rebuilt, probably at far greater prices.

The Romans’ concrete has lasted 2,000 years. It was used in the Pantheon building in Rome which still stands today. Their cement formula included volcanic rock which is abundant in Utah.

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation tried to recreate Roman cement. If their formula works, it could literally save taxpayers trillions of dollars in the future. See Understanding and using the properties that allow Roman concrete to last over 2,000 years.

Utah County Monument Markers for New Subdivisions: More Regulations to Cut

by Robert John Stevens, February 1, 2017

In Utah County, Utah, two monument markers are required for each subdivision whether the subdivision consists of one or more parcels.

To restate, if a subdivision is comprised of just one parcel, two monument markers are required. If a subdivision is comprised of one hundred parcels, still only two monument markers are required.

But according to Barry Prettyman at Cole’s Surveying and Engineering in Salem, Utah, surveyors don’t use the monument markers—instead, they survey from the section corners.

So why does the Utah County Land Use Regulations require two monument markers per subdivision, especially if others are nearby and surveyors don’t use them?

Monument markers are not easy to install. They require 6″ PVP pipe filled with cement and a brass monument placed on one end so its top is flush with the top of the PVP pipe, information etched into the brass and then buried in the ground. Installing them in asphalt is particularly difficult.

Monument markers are another reason to footnote the Utah County Land Use Regulations and cut the ones that don’t make logical sense.

The Utah County Public Works monument marker inspection fee is $390, which is required before the county engineer will sign my mylar plat. That is in addition to the $500 bond I already paid them. Since the bond didn’t allow us to get subdivision approval while we delayed the monument marker installation, there was no reason for bonding.

Barry Prettyman at Cole’s Surveying only charges $250 to build and install a monument marker. Since my wife and I bought the materials and had the bronze cap stamped, I hope he’ll charge less. 🙂

Is There No End to Government Cash Warranty Bonds?

by Robert John Stevens, January 12, 2017

Let’s discuss the legality and practicality of Utah County cash warranty bonds. Should the developer realistically pay a cash warranty bond to Utah County for work completed by non-government, private contractors? Where is the constitutional justification for that and where does it end?

If Utah County can justify a cash warranty bond for a private-party tasks, then why not require a cash warranty bond for the tasks performed by the Utah County Health Department for the water depth and perk tests, or the review of the subdivision application by Planning and Zoning and the County Attorney or the reviews performed by Public Works Department?

Or should we trust government but not private contractors?

Which jobs should and should not be bonded for the work done on my 5.25-acre parcel #2 where I had private contractors install power, cable, and natural gas, laser level and furrow the land, pave a shared driveway stub, dig a well, escrow water rights, provide engineering and title work, dig a trench for the water depth test, test the well water quality, and build a dirt pad and cement irrigation ditch (which wasn’t required for subdivision approval) with a gate and outlets, and install monument markers.

I also had private contractors install manholes to the south, pipe the Benjamin drainage ditch and backfill.

Warranty bonds are expensive and push the limits for developers. Loans often require interest payments. They also strain government resources by usurping responsibilities such as inspections, punch-card enforcement, and collections.

If the proper role of Utah County government is to perform tasks that private parties can’t provide, and therefore delegate to government, then stick to big tasks such as highways and sewerage processing plants which we desperately need and can’t build ourselves.

Appeal to Utah County Health Department for their Unfair Practice

by Robert Stevens, December 8, 2016

Letter to the Utah County Health Department:

Dear … (names removed),

Because the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) claims the below-surface water depth of my 5.25-acre parcel measured 32 inches vs 34 inches, the future homeowner must pay an additional $5k for his sewage system according to excavator Brian Sorensen’s estimate.

This policy is not consistent with fairness. Please consider my appeal:

1. Would a better policy be to take the average of all four measurements?

Notice the attached UCHD measurements were 54″ in October, 44″ in March, 32″ in July, 59″ in September and 51″in December. UCHD chose the 32″ measurement that penalizes.

2. Should measurements be avoided during flood irrigation months?

In July Strawberry Water discharged tens of thousands of gallons of water onto that parcel. Suppose UCHD purposely measured ground-water levels the same or next day after parcels are flood irrigated, wouldn’t they all fail?

3. Notice in September, near the end of the previous irrigation season, the water level dropped to 59″ — What can we conclude from that steep drop?

4. Because the PVC test pipe was not encased in gravel, its holes eventually became clogged–perhaps with mud, debris, dead animals and/or by a youth prank. We then dug a trench next to it and confirmed the water level was far below the surface as expected.

5. At the time of these measurements, UCHD measured underground water levels four times a year. Now they measure monthly, increased fees by $250 and increased their odds of penalizing the landowner.

6. To re-test and monitor for another year puts landowners another year closer to their water rights expiring.

7. Human waste on farms and gardens is desirable. In fact, neighbor Bill Robinson fertilizes his entire 35-acre farm with human waste from Orem.

8. There is no evidence that sewage will contaminate the underground water that is 145-feet below the surface and constantly flowing.

9. UCHD’s measurements did not match my measurements. As much as we trust and admire Brian who took the measurement, we have no proof it was done correctly.

10. Government-run tasks are not accountable. UCHD has nothing to lose by decreeing their verdict. Since there were no checks in place to verify the accuracy of the measurements, should we accept UCHD’s policy or give the landowner the benefit of the doubt?

11. Governments want to protect us from ourselves and everything but most religions teach that God wants us to suffer and address pains or needs—perhaps so we think and create solutions of value.

12. UCHD regulations and Utah County’s 270 pages of land-use ordinances have resulted in almost no new farms in decades. They do successfully use the force of government to shut out new, emerging farm competitors.

Please average your water depth measurements, lower your fees, return to measuring less frequently, and establish fair checks and balances.

A better approach is to get out entirely of the business of policing the lives of landowners with ever-increasing regulations and honor inalienable rights and free markets.

Let us remember the golden rule and hope God doesn’t embrace UCHD’s approach for Judgment Day or he may damn us all according to the worst thing we do in our lives.

Thank you again for visiting with me yesterday. We had a good discussion.

Best Regards,

Robert Stevens

Should Regulations be Gradually Mandated Only as the Population per Square Mile Increases?

by Robert John Stevens, December 1, 2016

Utah County, where I live, needs more sophisticated scrutiny of subdivision regulations so farmers can build on their own land without incurring huge expenses and years of kicking against the pricks.

Ezra Taft Benson said it best—If an individual citizen requests something of his neighbor and his neighbor refuses, is he justified to use the force of government to make his neighbor comply?

If we started government over again and Utah County was only populated by a few families, at what point would we mandate Utah County’s current 270-pages of land-use ordinances upon each other?

Here’s an idea—if regulations are to exist, what if they are gradually mandated only as the population per square mile increases?

See Report: Utah needs more sophisticated scrutiny of business regulations

Big-Guns Matt Gephardt Needed to Free Utah County Landowners from Tyranny

by Robert John Stevens, September 20, 2016. Letter emailed today to Matt Gephardt at KUTV:

Dear Matt Gephardt,

We desperately need your help.

Utah County refuses to allow most landowners to build on their own land unless they first build, pave and dedicate a road to Utah County—an undertaking which is financially impossible for most.

For example, I spent almost $200k improving two 5.25-acre parcels with water rights, power, natural gas, cable, laser leveling, a paved driveway and wells but Utah County refuses to grant subdivision approval because my driveways must pass thru 24-feet of my paved interior road to connect to the UDOT-approved road segment I had built.

As Utah County Attorney Robert Moore told me and Utah County employee Brandon Larsen, “We don’t like people building in Utah County.”

Please take this case and alert the public to take action and free Utah County landowners from government tyranny.

—Robert Stevens
CC: Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee who fights daily to protect constitutional rights

Utah County Denies Landowners the Right to Build

Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee on Compromising

by Robert John Stevens, September 15, 2016

I had lunch today with Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee after showing him my and my neighbors’ property in Utah County to clarify certain issues for him regarding subdivision improvements. He’s a great person and believes in limited, constitutional government.

He told me as a kid he operated a tractor over thousands of acres to remove weeds away from corn plants to give the corn a better chance at survival. As a BYU college student he installed swamp coolers on hundreds of people’s homes, innovated, built and up-sold conduits to channel the water off customer roofs. He also successfully managed the ground organization for Senator Mike Lee’s campaign.

Regarding government, Bill said, “I try and compromise without being compromised.” What a great quote!