City, Main Street leaders confront issues separating city, downtown landowners

DAVE SNIDER, Sandy's economic development managerMembers of the Sandy City Council and city staff members came together Tuesday night initially thinking it was doomsday — that there were few options for the continuance of the Sandy Main Street program.

But after City Manager Seth Atkinson described three options (two of which didn’t offer much of a future), a ray of sunshine beamed across the room.

Main Street Board Chairman George Hoyt told the five councilors assembled that he had received a phone call that day from AmeriCorps and was told the organization wants to do everything possible to find someone to work in Sandy.

That was a change of attitude — Main Street volunteers recently had screened and interviewed five candidates (most of whom were college graduates with master’s degrees) for the job of Sandy Main Street coordinator, but the person local interviewers chose did not want to work in Sandy.

So Tuesday’s meeting was to go back to the drawing board and decide what the city wanted to do with the $60,000 budgeted funding that was earmarked for Main Street in 2013-2015. The meeting’s purpose also was to decide if the city wanted to be a part of Main Street’s future — whatever that might be.

At the meeting, the group decided by consensus that the city would take the lead in the nonprofit’s near future, folding it into the Economic Development Department under the management of that department’s manager, Dave Snider.

When AmeriCorps is able to find a capable person willing to work on Sandy Main Street goals, that person will work in concert with Snider. The city also might seek a graduate college student who could make some of the city’s goals a degree project, adding to the city’s ability to bridge the gap between commercial landowners and city government.

That gap has been huge for a long time, Hoyt told the council Tuesday. The gap was caused by a number of different issues that left longtime landowners at odds with the city.

“The problems are a lack of trust that developed over time,” said Councilor Carl Exner, “plus, some didn’t want to pay the assessment for economic reasons.”

But with a new council, new city manager, new economic development manager and new person from AmeriCorps, city officials hope some attitudes will change and the past can be left there so all can move forward in ways that would benefit all land and business owners.

The most important order of business, said Mayor Bill King, is to work toward a permanent source of funding — not depending on the city or any sporadic grants.

“Having an AmeriCorps volunteer is the best (current) option,” King said. “But it will be a tall order for (that person) to roundup permanent funding.”

Not spoken about with much enthusiasm is the hope an economic improvement district (EID) would be approved by enough downtown landowners to meet state guidelines.

A previous attempt at that EID failed to garner enough votes to be approved.

City and Sandy Main Street officials hope landowners will realize that the people of the past and their actions are just that — in the past.

“We have a good core of people in the (Main Street) economic development committee,” Hoyt said. “We just need to demonstrate to the property owners that the programs will benefit them.”

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