Provo’s new Neighborhood District Program starts Jan. 1
Sammy Jo Hester, Daily Herald file photo
Provo’s neighborhoods have been formally organized for 50 years through its Neighborhood Program. On Jan. 1, a new program will replace it.
In November, the municipal council voted to change the program which gives the council more influence on the neighborhoods, as well as a more uniformed way of running the program.
Provo’s new Neighborhood District Program still carries the same purpose as the old program: To encourage public participation in Provo City affairs and to open communications between the Municipal Council and the public.
The new Neighborhood District Program focuses on three goals outlined by the council: community building, consistent engagement and government transparency, according to Rachel Breen, the new program coordinator.
“The previous program consisted of 34 individual neighborhoods, each having a chair and a vice chair. The new program will have five districts, with each district having a minimum of seven and a maximum of 11 Executive Board members, which includes a chair, two vice chairs, and a secretary,” Breen said.
Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald
As with the previous program, feedback from the impacted area is presented to the Provo Municipal Council via the Neighborhood District Executive Boards.
A number of current chairs are leery of the program and have a wait-and-see attitude. Jonathan Hill, chairman over the Fort Utah Neighborhood, is one of those wary residents.
“On the one side there will be more consistency with meetings,” Hill said. “But we will lose much of the personal touch with the neighbors.”
Hill, a professor at Brigham Young University, has been a chairman for six years. He said most of the neighborhood leaders are just rolling their eyes at the change. They see it as more controlling by the council, but are not surprised.
Like other neighborhoods, Fort Utah Neighborhood has a great deal of development, as well as the ongoing hope of a grocery store being built. Fort Utah takes in the area just west of the freeway along Center Street to Utah Lake, including the property that has been owned by Smith’s grocery store for about three decades.
Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo
“The Neighborhood District program builds on the success of the previous program by providing the tools that are needed to engage all areas of the city more effectively,” said Municipal Council Chair George Handley. “A regular meeting schedule for all districts with a specific location and virtual options, along with clear meeting notices and published agendas will increase access for all residents to information about city issues and to maximize their opportunities for input to the council.”
One major difference in the new program is Executive Board Members will be appointed by the Municipal Council, as opposed to being elected by the neighbors.
As the transition takes place, current Neighborhood Chairs who want to continue to serve in their position will automatically be on the Executive Board for their district. Breen stressed the importance of resident involvement.
“So far, almost 50 people have applied to be on the Executive Boards, but we would love to have more,” Breen said. “We want to make sure that every neighborhood is represented.”
Provo citizens can apply online at the Provo City website on the Neighborhood District Program page.
Executive Board member terms are 48 months, but some will last 24 months, for the purposes of staggering with the new program. Each Executive Board member will need to attend a Neighborhood District Orientation, with ongoing meetings held about once every six weeks.
Breen said many residents will appreciate the greater collaboration on issues within their neighborhood, and those surrounding.
“Residents will now have a voice in what’s going on in neighboring areas that could impact them,” Breen said. “Having neighborhood boards also reduces overload on one or two by spreading the responsibilities between more people — with the additional benefit of being able to tap into greater knowledge and resources.”
Breen also notes the benefit of having a consistent meeting time and place, with rezoning and general plan amendment requests automatically going on the meeting agendas.
“Our goal is to ensure our Neighborhood Districts are well informed on the issues and feel empowered to contribute their suggestions on the growth of our community,” Breen said.
The Neighborhood District Program meetings will have a set calendar and will be held in the new City Hall Community Room. Each meeting will also be held over Zoom and recorded for those who can’t attend in person.
The Neighborhood Facebook groups will still exist for local concerns, but new District Facebook groups will be created for disseminating official Neighborhood District Program information.
The Matching Grant and COP programs will still be part of the new Neighborhood District Program. Five thousand dollars will be set aside each year for use as a matching grant within each Neighborhood District. In addition to the grants, the Municipal Council Office will have a yearly budget of $1,000 for each Neighborhood District for facilitating meetings and social functions, Breen explained.
The five new districts, which keep their neighborhood names include District 1: North Timpview, Riverbottoms, Sherwood Hills, Riverside, Edgemont, Indian Hills, Rock Canyon. District 2: Oak Hills, Wasatch, Foothills, Provost, Provost South, Spring Creek. District 3: Lakeview North, Lakeview South, Fort Utah, Provo Bay, Sunset, Lakewood. District 4: Grandview North, Grandview South, Rivergrove, North Park, Carterville, Pleasant View, University. District 5: Dixon, Timp, Franklin, Franklin South, Downtown, Joaquin, Maeser and East Bay.