Why Does Utah Have a Housing Crisis?

August 26, 2018, By Robert John Stevens

Written in response to Utah has a ‘housing crisis’ in a lack of affordable homes:

Utah governments and their hundreds of pages of regulations are responsible for Utah’s housing crisis by making it financially impossible to settle.

When 19th-century pioneers were asked to settle lands, they moved onto them and went to work.

Today you can’t move onto your land and build. You must ask for government permission every step of the way.

You will be required to pay for 1) a government-mandated perk test, 2) soil test, 3) soil exploratory pits for underground water level tests, 4) piezometers and a year of government water-level monitoring, 4) well-water quality tests, 5) an environmental impact study, 6) plat drawings, 7) multiple title reports as requested, 8) a subdivision feasibility letter, 9) noxious weed certification, 10) water rights, 11) a well, 12) a waste-water treatment system and drain field, 12) power brought to your property and connected to your home, 13) gas or propane, and 14) And to build, pave and dedicate a road.

Utah County’s annual budget is $85 million. How many miles of new sewer and municipal waste-water treatment systems do they build? None.

Because of government regulations, 96% of Utahans compete for 4% of the land in towns.

Governments Won’t Allow Building Roads in Phases?

Utah County where I live does not want new settlement unless they are done by cities. In my case, I have two lots that were finished 19 months ago and but denied subdivision approval because the county requires their driveways to connect directly to a state or county road and must not pass through twelve feet of my interior, private paved road.

What can be done? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Allow private roads, especially those that will have low traffic. The public doesn’t want to pay for the maintenance of low-traffic roads.
  • Allow roads to be completed in phases as cities do. This makes the most sense.
  • Bond for temporary cul-de-sacs but don’t build them
  • Grant subdivision approval but deny a building permit.
    That will enable a seller to sell a lot. Escrow the funds to pave and dedicate the road.
    Once dedicated, allow a building permit. It would be difficult to convince a buyer of this.

Price Hikes for Government-Run Monopolies in Utah County

Prices for many of the services performed by the Utah County Health Department rose significantly in 2018, especially by their Environmental Health Department that oversees services for new subdivisions, as I was told at their front desk and by employee Jason Garrett.

These are monopoly services. Do you think licensed, free-market professionals could perform these services as they already do title work? Of course, they could.

Surely the taxpayers are subsidizing these services. I sent Commissioner Bill Lee an email today urging him to dismantle their monopoly. The government needs to get out of the business of monopolizing services.

I suspect knowing this would anger most taxpayers:
HealthDeptFeeSchedule

Is water in a hole after precipitation the underground water table?

Commissioner Bill Lee of Utah County asked me for one question he can ask the Utah County Health Department. Here it is:

If you dig a hole on a property where the soil immediately below the surface is wet from snowmelt, and the hole partially fills with water, are you absolutely certain it is the underground water table level or just a draining puddle?

How can science provide the answer?

Dig a 6′ to 10′ hole next to the shallow hole, install a piezometer encased in gravel and monitor the underground water table level.

Why is this important to me? Because Craig Bostock at the Utah County Health Department wrote in his subdivision feasibility letter for one of my parcels that water was observed 18″ below the surface on my 5.25-acre lot #8 in Benjamin, Utah.

Given 2016 was the wettest year in decades, the snowmelt was rapid and even though the surface was dry enough to walk on, can he be absolutely certain that the water observed at 18″ below the surface in a shallow hole was the underground water table or could it have been snowmelt water slowly sinking?

The answer is obvious to me–he can’t be certain and to make such a claim is fraudulent and phoney science; therefore, to mention that on my subdivision feasibility was abusive and an act of tyranny.

Already one buyer who submitted an offer has backed out after reading Craig’s letter. Would you want to buy a lot and build your dream house on land where someone said the water depth is 18″ below the surface?

If they really think water draining in a shallow hole is the underground water table then they should all be fired. If they don’t believe that but uphold it then they still should be fired.

No taxpayer-subsidized service monopolized by a government that can be performed as well or better by qualified citizens in the marketplace should be permitted in a free society. I’ll write more on this subject later.

by Robert John Stevens, February 22, 2018

Governments Must Never Perform Services That Free Markets Can Do

It was never my intention to be a land developer. I thought people could buy farmland and move onto it. Utah County has so many utility requirements that I had to develop and sell off lots to pay for them. For example, I could have used geothermal, solar and/or wind energy instead of having more than a half mile of trench dug and cable installed for Rocky Mountain Power.

Most people can only imagine there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.

The difficulty is fighting tyrannical governments and their hundreds of pages of stale, corrupted, inflexible laws, and dealing with their employee’s unrighteous dominion and animosity towards We the People.

If you’ve ever had to buy a service from the government or get their permission to do something, you know that they are usually awful to deal with. No service that private markets can render should be monopolized by governments.

I’ve attended dozens of county and planning meetings and have never heard the word liberty used outside of the Pledge of Allegiance. Some employees feel it is the proper role of government to provide for the safety, welfare and health of the people; they forget that Founding Fathers knew the property role of government was to protect liberty–your right to do whatever you please without government intervention as long as you don’t hurt your neighbors. There is a huge difference.

— Robert John Stevens, February 6, 2018

Utah County Commissioners Create Earth Extraction Pit Monopolies

At today’s Utah County Commissioners’ January 23, 2018 Meeting, Commissioners Lee and Ivie voted to rezone many sections of land on West Mountain to a new grazing zone where no new mining or earth extraction operations are permitted to commence.

By doing so, they literally elevated the operations there to monopoly status. Pits are now free to raise their prices without fear of newcomers. The BLM and federal landowners were all excluded from the change because they asked to be. The small landowner probably didn’t have time to respond.

Although packaged and presented under the guise of protecting West Mountain for its beauty and natural resources, proof that this move was always intended to create monopolies is found in the UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT November 21, 2017 specifically says, “This new zone would maintain the grazing of livestock on the open range and the location of activities and land uses not appropriate near urban centers in the dry mountain and desert areas of the county, while preventing any new earth extraction operations and other potentially incompatible uses with residential and agricultural uses from commencing operation.”

By preventing new earth extraction options to commence, Utah County created cooperating monopolies. As Commissioner Greg Graves said in last Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting, “Expect prices to go up.” Commissioner Graves today cast the only dissenting vote.

Under Utah’s Anti-Trust Laws, anticompetitive activities are illegal.

I’ve heard of government-created monopolies but until today I never witnessed their creation. Truly, today was a sad day for Utah County, liberty and free markets.

by Robert John Stevens, January 23, 2018

Utah County Commissioners Vote Against Privatizing Government Services

January 17, 2018

At the Utah County Commissioner Meeting yesterday, Commissioner Greg Graves revealed he had pushed towards the privatization of government services and that he and the other commissioners had visited a government who had privatized its services but he was voted down by the other two commissioners Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie.

I was shocked because months ago Commissioner Bill Lee told me he was all for privatization and they were going to visit a county government that had gone private–I think he said it was in Georgia.

Some government employees such as Brandon Larsen in Utah County Planning & Zoning provide excellent customer service. Brandon answers all of my questions, cites county regulations to support his answers and explain my options, and whenever he doesn’t immediately have answers he says he must talk to staff and then follows up by email with detailed answers.

Although I don’t always agree with the county planning and zoning regulations, I respect Brandon Larsen because he reads the regulations, tries wherever he can to improve them, and abides by them.

In contrast, Utah County Environmental Health provides the worst-quality customer service imaginable. They refuse to answer my questions or reveal the laws to which they must adhere. They ignore all my requests to explain their processes and scientific methods before, during or after performing services for which I pay. Whatever they rule is mandatory even when they make a mistake.

To make matters worse, they sick their lawyers on me—the same lawyers who instruct Environmental Health employees to not answer my questions and to route all correspondence with me through them.

Last week, Jason Garrett emailed me and said they would answer my questions if I cancel the underground water monitoring for which I paid. Can you imagine being treated with such contempt by a company who wants to stay in business?

When a business treats you well, you are happy and motivated to employ them or shop at their store. You are happy to return regularly or whenever necessity requires. Costco employees are great examples of excellent, friendly service—they always smile and talk to us and whenever we must return anything, they are always pleasant and willing. Over the years at least three Costco female employees good became friends.

Doug’s Auto in Orem is another excellent example of outstanding, personable service. Doug and his two sons Jake and Kirk always save us money and sometimes don’t charge us because of our loyalty. Even more importantly, they know our names, our vehicle history, explain problems and solutions clearly and treat us as friends.

I would be thrilled if Doug, Jake and Kirk come to my funeral.

When you are not treated well by a business, you may demand to speak to a manager who is usually anxious to help and ensure your satisfaction.If you are still upset, to prevent others from experiencing similar, awful service, you may file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or submit a bad review online on Yelp or Google Reviews.

Many employees outside of government have been fired for treating customers poorly but how often are government employees fired?

What recourse do you have when the government monopolizes their services and treats you with hostility? None.

by Robert John Stevens

Utah County Commissioners Delay a Clever Scheme to Fool Citizens to Eliminate Competition for West Mountain Gravel Pit and Mines

by Robert John Stevens, January 9, 2018

Summary

A scheme was devised to eliminate competition for the Kilgore Gravel Pit and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain.

The failed attempt influenced the Planning Commission to recommend to the County Commissioners a friendly new zoning designation named the Grazing (G-1) Zone. Citizens took the bait and passionately supported it at the meeting.

Once the new zone was approved, the next item was to approve regulation for the entire mountain be protected under the new grazing zone except for the Kilgore Gravel Pit, adjacent lands to expand their operation, and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain and to disallow future competitors.

The Article

Passionate public comments made at today’s Utah County Commissioner’s Meeting delayed the approval of new regulations that will eliminate future competition for the Kilgore Benjamin Gravel Pit and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain, at least for another week.

The diabolical scheme was cleverly disguised as desirable by first establishing West Mountain as a new grazing zone which has great appeal to county residents who adamantly oppose the Kilgore Gravel Pit and then eliminating future competition.

To understand, imagine you acquire a permit to establish an operation to extract and sell gravel from a beautiful mountainside. Neighbors who live in the area become infuriated. They hate the large trucks travelling to and from the pit, the noise, air pollution, dust, crop damage due to the dust, and the permanent scarring of the mountainside.

You know the road has no shoulders and wasn’t built to accommodate large trucks. Although you can command your drivers to be careful and obey traffic laws, you know other truckers are paid by the load and are therefore motivated to drive faster because if they carry more loads they earn more money.

Additionally, the speed limit is 50 mph through a four-mile equestrian/residential area and in many places along the road the adjacent land is three to five feet lower — definitely hazardous for pedestrians, bicyclists and smaller vehicles to compete with large, heavy trucks. You certainly don’t want to bear the enormous expense required to widen the road.

Angry citizens demand the county government require you to cease operations, perhaps by denying renewal of your permit.

Now just suppose you could create a scheme to fool the public, disallow future competitors and expand your operation all at the same time. Here’s how:

Influence the Planning Commission to recommend to the County Commissioners a friendly new zoning designation named the Grazing (G-1) Zone. Citizens will easily take the bait and passionately support it. Once approved, you then request the entire mountain be protected under the new grazing zone except for your gravel pit, adjacent lands to expand your operation, and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations.

Once approved, you’ve eliminated future competitors. No new mining or earth excavation operations may be formed on your mountain. Your operation is now an established monopoly.

I didn’t make these things up. Read the evidence:

The Utah County Commission has asked the Planning Commission to review a proposed new zoning designation, the Grazing (G-1) Zone, which is part of a separate application. This new zone would maintain the grazing of livestock on the open range and the location of activities and land uses not appropriate near urban centers in the dry mountain and desert areas of the county, while preventing any new earth extraction operations and other potentially incompatible uses with residential and agricultural uses from commencing operation.UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT for November 21, 2017

The meeting this morning was packed with angry citizens. When the public hearing began, I stood up first and opposed approval of the new zoning designation. I explained that a new zoning designation for grazing would create monopolies; however, knowing the population growth forecasts and that the commissioners want the Kilgore Benjamin Gravel Pit to remain in operation, I argued that in a free society, anyone should be allowed to sell excess dirt off their property and that the proper role of government is not to create monopolies.

A lady stood up immediately after I concluded my comments and said that was the stupidest thing she ever heard.

Later in the meeting, Robert Moore the Utah County Attorney explained to the commissioners that nothing they could do at today’s meeting would change the status of the Kilgore Gravel Pit and that the existing operations could expand within their boundaries.

Did the Planning Commission Staff work in collusion with the applicant? Why does the Planning Commission Staff Report designate the applicant as the Utah County Commission?

Although clever, this scheme follows a well-established pattern of deception by first getting a law passed to authorize illegal activities, and then to authorize otherwise illegal operation under the new laws.

When I discovered the scheme, I was amazed it had gone so far as to be recommended by the Planning Commission Staff for county commissioner approval.

Well-polished Commissioner Bill Lee, who graduated in Political Science from BYU, was wise enough to delay the commissioner vote until next week after being told by Attorney Moore that he had no authority at today’s meeting to appease the angry citizens and shut down the Kilgore Gravel Pit. He must have realized he couldn’t approve the regulations and create monopolies without immediate consequences. Commissioner Nathan Ivie seconded the motion.

Delayed political decisions are usually done to avoid public outcry. Some are pre-decided and just put off to be later passed unnoticed.

If there was no collusion, how can the Planning Commission Staff be so stupid to not recognize the scheme? Will citizens demand an independent investigation?

What will already angry citizens do when they realize they were fooled and led like sheep to support the opposite of what they want?


Supporting Documents

Pop and Dwelling Unit Forcast for Gravel Study West Mtn – Final

UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT November 21, 2017

County commission pushes back decision on rezone of more than 10,000 acresby Katie England, Provo Daily Herald, January 10, 2018

Governments Should Cease Monopolizing Services?

by Robert John Stevens, January 8, 2018

My experience with the Utah County Health Department is that I don’t think their employees like when citizens question their rulings or regulations. To me, that’s another reason for them to stop monopolizing services and permit businesses to take over. When free-market businesses are asked questions, they usually answer them promptly, know other customers probably have the same questions and then either train their staff to answer those questions, improve their products so the questions don’t need to be asked or are no longer issues, or post questions and answers on an FAQ web page.