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Year In Review: Top 10 Lehi stories of 2021

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A look back at the top Lehi news stories of 2021. Visit lehipointe.com to read the full stories. 

1. Lehi wins most coveted double crowns

Beky Beaton | Lehi Free Press

It’s very rare for any high school to win both the football and boys basketball state championships in the same year, especially in the larger classifications, but the Pioneers pulled it off as they captured the 5A gold trophy in basketball last March and earned the football equivalent in November.

This was an even more remarkable feat when you consider that neither of these teams was favored going into their respective tournaments and both had to upset higher-ranked teams.

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In boys hoops, the Pioneers entered the playoffs with a less-than-stellar 13-8 mark but drew the No. 3 seed based mainly on strength of schedule. Lehi faced a 22-2 Olympus team, the No. 2 seed, in the semifinals and beat them handily 69-58 before going on to top No. 4 Farmington in the title game.

The football team faced an even steeper climb. The Pioneers needed a big win at Orem in the final contest of the regular season just to make the top eight to get a first-round bye. They landed at the No. 7 RPI spot. After escaping No. 10 Wasatch by a blocked extra point, Lehi went on to defeat No. 2 Timpview, No. 3 Stansbury and finally No. 1 Springville by successively larger margins of victory to claim the title.

2. Thanksgiving Point TOD faces rejection: Council asks for new plan in 2022

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press

Development in the Thanksgiving Point area has been on pause over the last few years because City Council directed City staff to reject building applications until Thanksgiving Point developers brought an updated Area Plan for City Council approval. According to the Area Plan, Thanksgiving Point has over-developed office space and significant traffic failures. 

Slopes Residential, an entity including STACK Real Estate, Greer Company and Thanksgiving Point, has been at odds with the City over current and future infrastructure. Both parties have continually disagreed about which entity would finance specific road and utility needs.

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Throughout 2021, Slopes Residential brought proposals to the City Council that were all essentially rejected. 

This month, the most recently presented plan included slightly less than 5,400 high density housing units, including a range from studios to three-bedrooms. The new housing would bring an estimated 12,190 additional residents.

The proposal, located on 115 acres at Executive Parkway and Ashton Boulevard included 11-acres of parks and open space, nine acres for a school, 500,000 square feet of office space, 52,000 square feet for a church, and 300 rooms of hotel space. The proposed building would occur in phases over the next 20-25 years.

Despite the unanimous denial to revised plans, the City Council expressed openness to a TOD at Thanksgiving Point and asked the developers to bring back a more detailed plan that addresses key concerns regarding infrastructure, phasing and financing. 

3. DR Horton to build master planned community on 664 acres in north Lehi

Nicole Kunze | Lehi Free Press

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In the summer of 2021, DR Horton presented a concept plan for 664 acres surrounding the former Micron (now Texas Instruments) facility in Lehi. Residents of Lehi and Highland came out in force to object to parts of the plan at Lehi City Planning Commission meeting and City Council meeting. DR Horton got a negative recommendation from the commission, with a tied 3-3 vote, but received an approval from City Council to move forward with the project.

At the June 29 meeting, the Council’s motion to approve was only for the 1,795 units slated for the property that is currently in Lehi. The remaining 597 units on the Highland and Utah County property are on hold until the three entities can complete an annexation agreement. 

The large Master Planned Community includes various housing products including condominiums, townhomes, smaller single-family lots, larger estate lots and a 55+ senior community. 

4. Lehi adds third middle school

Nicole Kunze | Lehi Free Press

The first week of school is a challenge for everyone, but Viewpoint Middle School overcame extra obstacles to begin in-person classes for 1,750 Lehi students in August 2021. Plucky kids and hard-working teachers and administration saved students from having to do online classes for the first two weeks.

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Construction on the building was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain issues that plagued building projects all over the country. Teachers didn’t even get into their classrooms until three days before school started. When the school budget money came in July, Viewpoint didn’t have a permanent address, so nowhere to send books for the library.

Viewpoint was supposed to “grow into” its spacious new building, but they’ve already enrolled 1,700 of their 1,800-student capacity with only 25 students out of school boundaries attending. Willowcreek is down to 1,600 students with several opting to stay and finish there instead of moving to Lehi Junior High for their final year of middle school. Lehi Junior High, the smallest of the three schools, has about 1,000 students.

5. Lehi home prices continue to soar

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press 

Buyers and sellers thought 2020 brought crazy prices, but 2021 prices made them look cheap. The average Lehi home cost $489,619 in January 2021. That average ballooned to $580,658 by December 2021, a nearly $100,000 jump. 

While Lehi homeowners saw an average equity gain of over $90,000, they weren’t alone. According to real estate data company, Keeping Current Matters, the American West led the Country in equity gains, with Utah coming in at an average increase of $81,000. Neighboring Idaho saw average gains of $97,000, while Arizona was at $79,000 and Nevada at $64,000. 

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Lehi’s record-shattering prices are coming from a mix of inventory shortages, supply chain issues, increased demand and low interest rates. 

Although interest rates are expected to rise, industry experts don’t anticipate Utah home prices to take a hit. 

According to realtor.com, the Salt Lake City metro is poised to be the top real estate market in the United States for 2022, with an anticipated home sales increase of 15.2% and a home price increase of 8.5%. Salt Lake is followed by Boise, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. 

6. Voters pass PARC tax

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press

After months of discussion, the Lehi City Council voted unanimously in April 2021 to add a recreation, arts and park (RAP) tax to the November ballot. 

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The tax passed in November 2021 with solid support of 63% to 37%. Voters had previously rejected a RAP tax in 2015.

The RAP tax is a 1/10th of 1% sales tax on all purchases made in Lehi City which are eligible for sales tax. The tax increase to consumers will be an additional $1 for every $1,000 spent.

Dean Lundell, Finance Director for Lehi City, previously projected Lehi would collect between $1.3 and $1.5 million annually. The tax has a 10-year sunset clause and must be renewed by voters. 

Lundell also noted that the City would have the ability to bond against the future tax revenue for an estimated $7.5 to $8 million. The approved 2022 City budget includes $5 million in bonding for phase one of the Mellor Rhodes sports complex. 

According to Utah Law, a city may use a RAP tax for a broad list of recreational, cultural, or zoological facilities and programs that benefit the City. Municipalities may also grant funds to community organizations offering recreation or arts programs. 

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The City Council has previously discussed a spending ratio of approximately 70% toward parks and 30% allocated to the arts. Mayor Mark Johnson has also hinted toward creating an advisory committee to review and recommend spending opportunities for the new revenue.

7. Lehi re-elects incumbents after first ever Ranked Choice election

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press

Lehi voters had a chance to make their voices heard in November with two City Council seats and the Mayor on the ballot. Lehi incumbent Mayor Mark Johnson (6,994 votes) defeated challenger Jesse Riddle (4,295 votes), who ran the most expensive campaign in Lehi history, spending nearly $40,000.

In the large field of nine City Council candidates, voters expressed their satisfaction with the direction of the city by giving incumbents Chris Condie and Paul Hancock the nod for re-election. Condie won the first ranked choice (RCV) seat with 6,167 votes in the 8th round. Hancock won the second RCV seat with 5,867 votes in the 7th round. 

A first for Lehi in this year’s election was the use of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), also called instant runoff voting. 

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RCV allows voters to rank their preferences in order—one, two, three, etc. If no candidate gets over 50% of the first-choice votes in races with more than two candidates, the lowest-ranked candidate is dropped. The second choice of his or her votes is counted and added to the higher-ranked candidates. This process continues until a candidate receives over 50% and is declared the winner.

Proponents of this voting style cite advantages such as more civil discourse in campaigns, the opportunity for underdogs to win, and cost savings because of eliminating primary races. Opponents claim that RCV is confusing to voters and doesn’t count every ballot equally. 

8. Former Lehi streets boss pleads guilty, sentenced to probation

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press

Former Lehi City Streets Superintendent Wade Allred and his cousin, Adam Lake, both pled guilty in October 2021 to embezzling nearly $800,000 from Lehi City between 2014 and 2019.

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According to court documents previously presented in Provo’s Fourth District Court, Allred and Lake were charged with 15 second degree felonies and one third-degree felony, including money laundering, communications fraud, theft, and witness tampering.

Allred admitted to creating fake purchase orders for road salt and other road materials from Lake’s company, Vinco Enterprises, when in fact Lehi City never received the materials. According to court documents obtained by the Lehi Free Press, “Allred was responsible for ordering these materials for Lehi City. During this time, Lehi City paid $791,582 to the company owned by defendant Lake as payment on these invoices.”

On Wednesday, October 27, Allred pled guilty in a plea agreement negotiated between Allred’s attorney Brett Anderson and Utah County prosecuting attorney Timothy Taylor. Allred was charged with only one offense, while the remaining 14 charges were dropped. 

On Dec. 8, 2021, Allred was sentenced to 36 months of probation and charged with a $10,000 fine that will be waived if he fully repays the insurance company. 

9. Falcons claim one title and three other trophies

Beky Beaton | Lehi Free Press

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The Skyridge girls tennis team repeated as 6A state champions this fall after a back-and-forth final day of exciting competition with Layton.

The No. 1 doubles duo of junior Savannah Johnson and sophomore Kylee Sperry finished the season with a perfect record as they came from behind to win the final two sets of their championship match to claim the gold medals.

The No. 2 doubles pair of freshmen Kaia Sperry and Naomi Johnson gave up just three games on the way to the final and cruised to victory to win their individual gold medals.

The Falcons didn’t win any other sports titles this year but did add some silver trophies to the case along the way. Last spring, Skyridge collected runner-up awards in boys soccer and boys track, while this fall the girls soccer team went all the way to the end before finishing in second place.

10. LHS teacher fired after political rant, story goes viral

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On the first day of the 2021-2022 school year, Lehi High chemistry teacher Leah Kinyon went on a political rant for several minutes. The tirade was captured on video by one of her students and the video quickly went viral, making international news. 

Alpine School District investigated the incident and terminated Kinyon’s employment. She had been at LHS for nine years.

The video begins with Kinyon expressing her negative opinion of COVID-19 anti-vaxxers. She goes on to express displeasure with former President Trump. “I hate Donald Trump. I’m going to say it and I don’t care what you all think. Trump sucks. He is a sexual predator. He is a literal moron.”

“This behavior is inappropriate, not reflective of the professional conduct and decorum we expect of our teachers and will not be tolerated,” said the official ASD statement in their initial statement. On Wednesday, August 18, a second statement from ASD indicated that Kinyon was “no longer an employee of Alpine School District.”

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