The six candidates running for Orem City Council gathered Thursday at the SCERA Center for the Arts to answer questions collected from Orem residents via Facebook, city staff members and those in attendance.
The topics residents and candidates felt the most strongly about were growth, particularly in relation to high-density housing, and funding for public safety officers.
Nichelle Jensen was the only candidate to show support, or at least cautionary support, for high-density housing. Every other candidate had strong words against high-density housing.
Jeffery Lambson said Orem ought to essentially pause development of high-density housing to “gather itself,” a comment for which he received a round of applause.
“I feel like we need to place a moratorium on the high-density housing so we can ... get our feet under us,” Lambson said. “Continue to plan and manage that growth and that high-density housing responsibly so that takes place in appropriate places.”
Debby Lauret and Sam Lentz both expressed a desire to emphasize home ownership and single-family homes.
“I would like to have people invested in their home, invested in their neighborhood,” Lentz said. He also clarified that while he feels he’s been blamed for approving several high-density projects, he only ever approved one for student housing.
Terry Peterson cited the statistic that “40% of (Orem) residents are renters” several times, and said he would like to bring in and build more businesses over high-density housing.
Spencer Rands said if the infrastructure isn’t there, such as parking, traffic control, and so on, high-density housing simply shouldn’t be built.
The next hot topic of the night was funding for public safety officers, after Orem has lost several police officers to neighboring cities due to salaries or a lack of benefits. Across the board, every candidate expressed gratitude for public safety officers and said they would make funding a priority.
“We have the money,” Peterson said. “Let’s make our first priority our first responders.”
Other topics included the CARE tax, which every candidate fully supported, a curve ball question about a renewable energy partnership with Rocky Mountain Power, and how the candidates plan to promote civility. Finally, all the candidates gave their best guesses for where the Orem temple might be built. Most said Palisades Park — although Rands said he liked the idea of the temple occupying the now-empty Macy’s storefront at University Place.
The full town hall can be viewed on the Orem City Facebook page.