The COVID-19 pandemic. The largest earthquake in Utah in 28 years and the largest windstorm in 100. Though 2020 was a year that none will forget, it wasn’t all bad, according to Logan Mayor Holly Daines.
“During 2020, I realize many of our citizens, businesses and organizations struggled, and there have been some rough times,” she said in her virtual State of the City address on Tuesday. “However, in November, NBC did a national news story on Logan, as we had the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country. Our local economy has continued to grow. Overall as a city, we have been fortunate.”
The pandemic was an overarching theme to the year, and even her annual address was delayed by a month in hopes local numbers would decrease enough to conduct the Logan Municipal Council meetings in-person rather than over Zoom.
“I know numbers are declining, but I still want everyone to feel safe and feel like they can participate,” said Mark Anderson, local business owner and chair of the council.
Even with all of the struggles of the year, Daines commended Logan’s residents and city staff for their resilience in her address.
“When the pandemic hit in March, just as our budget was taking shape, we took a step back on some projects and expenses to be cautious and prudent,” she said. “As the year progressed, our overall revenues did not take the dramatic plunge that other cities have experienced, so we were able to move ahead with most projects.”
Despite the virus and related shutdowns experienced in 2020, Daines said many of the city’s goals were still met. Though her top priority was maintaining fiscal responsibility, downtown revitalization was close behind.
“The city council, acting as the RDA board, approved funds this past year to incentivize two new housing developments in downtown: one on 100 South replacing the former blighted V1 gas station, another on 100 East,” Daines said. “The RDA also purchased the blighted buildings near the corner of 300 North and Main, which had been a vacant eyesore for years.”
Though she was excited to learn of the upcoming demolition across the library — one of the most complained-about locations in Logan, according to Daines — Gail Yost was upset that the buildings got to such a rundown state in the first place.
“It just seems like we allow these owners to almost make money off of their allowing the property to go downhill. And we should be doing something about it as a city,” said the resident of the Wilson neighborhood.
Yost asked if there was any kind of code to ensure property owners would maintain their buildings.
According to Kymber Housley, the city attorney for Logan, “It’s often easier said than done.”
“One of the first things (Mayor Daines) did when she came into office was bring up a proposed ordinance to charge property owners for vacant buildings, and so it’s been on the books for about three years now,” Housley said. “So we are enforcing that. … We do charge a fee for vacant buildings over a certain period of time. This particular building that we have acquired from the Needham family had assessments.”
According to Aaron Smith, Logan’s neighborhood improvement manager, fees began to accrue in June 2019 for the buildings at 321 and 335 N. Main. A total of $2,400 in fees accrued on the properties prior to the sale to Logan City, but he said all fees were paid on time prior to the sale.
Another issue is that the blighted buildings aren’t always vacant.
As Council Member Jeannie Simmonds brought up, personal property rights can also fight any fees or charges in relation to run-down locations.
Kirk Jensen, the city’s economic development director, said the corner in question has been on the city’s radar for 15 years, and the potential for a new, well-designed mixed-use development far outweighs the cost.
“If we get a new development in there, it strengthens our tax base,” he said, “and it also eliminates blight.”
Another project, the Center Block Plaza, was delayed multiple times in 2020. After an initial plan was rejected by the Historical Preservation Committee, revised plans more in line with the committee’s goals are nearly finished, according to Daines.
“We will demolish the Emporium and the adjacent building to the north to create a plaza — a gathering place to benefit our citizens, including an ice rink, splash pad and stage,” Daines said. “Plans are nearly complete as we work to finalize the budget for council approval and then submit designs to the Planning Commission in the next few months.”