Murray City watchdog says residents need to engage in local governmentMar 08, 2023 01:50PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Arlington Elementary School (now city hall) was about to open in the 1930s, with its predecessor being demolished in the background. (Photo courtesy of Murray City Museum)
What ought to happen with the old city hall property? The Historic Murray First Foundation pushes for more public engagement and encourages residents to contact the council to voice their opinions.
City leaders have made it known that the city intends to sell the city hall property that fronts State Street and stretches to the Ken Price Ballpark. One specific issue is the potential loss of the Arlington building (old city hall), which is not included in the city’s interpretation of the “historic downtown” area.
Historic Murray First Foundation (HMFF) Vice President Rachel Morot said, “Murray City has not yet acted on the Y2 Analytics survey that was done, where citizens voiced their preference for a historic downtown. What has happened is that the definition of ‘historic downtown’ has been restricted in its interpretation by the city to mean the section of State Street between 4800 South and Vine Street. This excludes the Arlington property, and it should not.”
Murray City initiated the survey last year after the city conducted an open house regarding the area known as Block One. The open house generated enough public input to compel the city to hold off on the initial plans presented in the meeting. HMFF wishes more residents would engage in city plans beyond the Block One area.
“People could make a difference if they combine their voices on an issue,” Morot said. “In fact, that is the only thing that will have any effect. Our city council has encouraged people to reach out to them, and people are disaffected or apathetic for whatever reason. That’s what I mean by the need to re-engage. Our foundation has chosen historic preservation as a way to be engaged in the process, but there are a variety of other ways. I don’t even want those who disagree with our efforts excluded. I encourage them to make their comments to the council as well as long as they are ‘re-engaging.’”
According to Morot, the Murray City Council has been criticized for not heeding residents’ input, including the loss of the Historic Murray First Ward Chapel and the potential development of high-density housing next to Murray Park.
“Over and over, people have said, we do not want more high density. We don’t want to live in the shadow of these ugly, generic, high-rise apartments. We want Murray to stay unique and independent. We want to keep and revitalize what we have that defines Murray’s character,” Morot said.
With increasing applications for high-density housing, city leaders have expressed concern about serving new developments. As a result, the city placed a moratorium in 2020 to create new zoning guidelines to address high-density zoning permits. Most recently, Murray City Chief Administrative Officer Doug Hill told the Murray Journal in January that power generation is a big concern for Murray.
“The biggest question right now that we have for 2023 is what’s going to happen with energy… there are a lot of different forces in play right now with power,” Hill said.
Morot said, “While I appreciate that the city has many moving parts to consider when adding density or sourcing utilities, they have yet to give substantive answers when asked how agreeing to more density makes sense when we're all flipping our parking strips and letting our lawns die. That's just one example. I believe that our city administration is working to source the best deals for us on utilities and I am always grateful for our utilities and parks departments. They do wonderful work for Murray. But some real answers from Murray City government addressing the observable shortfall between density demand and sustainable supply would go a long way."
While HMFF understands that the city will sell the property, they believe the city should put deed restrictions to prevent the city hall from being torn down. Instead, they envision re-purposing the building to complement the renovation of the Murray Theater along with existing entertainment.
“My idea is to partner with a developer willing to turn it into the Arlington Restaurant Collective. It could house a collection of restaurants that the Murray Theater crowds could patronize before or after shows. It would check all the boxes on everyone’s wish list. For-profit, tax revenue producing. Walkable distance from Murray Theater, Desert Star, and Ken Price Field. A response to all the people who have said Murray needs more dining and bar options. Saves one of our last few historic buildings,” Morot said.
However, critics of HMFF’s previous efforts have said that if you want to preserve the building so much, why not raise the funds to purchase and renovate it?
“I’ve heard that criticism leveled at our efforts too, so not just previous efforts, so it’s clearly the low-hanging fruit of critiques. It’s also the most irresponsible worldview I can imagine. I would ask in return, ‘So people are only allowed to care about their immediate personal property and nothing else?’ No public art, architectural treasures, sporting arenas or national parks matter, then? We have no right to express dismay over the destruction of meaningful things unless our name is on the deed? That’s nonsense, and nobody really operates that way, even the critics. We all have things that we don’t control financially, but that impact our lives immensely,” Morot said.
Morot emphasized historic preservation, public art and other community parks make Murray a beautiful and livable city.
“We lose our heritage; we lose what ties us together as a community because the wrong things are prioritized for the wrong reasons. Our efforts in historic preservation are not just to save old buildings. They are to advocate for the things that make Murray a beautiful place with a quality of life that serves everyone. These things matter the most,” Morot said. “Murray citizens understand this. It’s time our elected representatives do, too.”
To gauge Murray residents feelings on certain city projects, HMFF is conducting an online survey at historicmurrayfirst.org.