Francis municipal race pits lifelong residents against new contenders
Mayor and two council seats will be on the ballot
October 19, 2017
Francis City's contested races for mayor and two open seats on the City Council is pitting lifelong residents against newer contenders, with all the candidates hoping their visions for the growing community resonate with voters.
Mayor Lee Snelgrove and challenger Byron Ames are vying for mayor. Shana Fryer, Casey Vorwaller, Trilby Cox and Steve Buchanan are going after the two four-year City Council seats that are on the ballot, currently held by Ames and Fryer.
The Summit County Clerk's Office was scheduled to send ballots to registered voters on Tuesday, Oct. 17. They must be postmarked and returned no later than Nov. 6. Ballots can also be placed in drop boxes on Election Day, Nov. 7.
Ames, an incumbent City Councilor who decided not to seek reelection for a second term, is challenging Snelgrove for the city's top position. He has lived in Francis for more than five years and owns a law firm in Kamas with his wife.
"The overarching goal of me running is to preserve and honor the heritage of Francis City," Ames said. "The challenge of doing that is it's a frontier town. We have growth and development pressures on hand, some of which go back 10 or 15 years."
The city's elected leaders need to plan ahead for the next 10 to 15 years and establish a commercial base, which currently doesn't exist, Ames said. He added, "What is Francis going to be like after these homes are built? What can we do to make sure when that happens it's not bad?"
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Ames said he supports growth because he is an advocate for individual property rights. He said if someone owns land they have rights to that land.
"But, I'm anti-development, on the other hand, because I moved here for a reason and I don't want the reason I moved here to go away," he said. "I think we can balance that if we try. I think this community has the ability to come back together because it has been, in some ways, torn apart."
Snelgrove, originally from the Salt Lake Valley, has lived in Francis for 26 years. He is retired from the Utah Department of Wildlife.
Snelgrove said he is seeking a third term to resolve several growth issues that have crept up in recent years as the development of more than 200 approved homes looms on the horizon.
"We have had some things that have taken place in the last couple of years, including losing a water source and approved subdivisions that are trying to come online," he said. "By virtue of the amount of developable space we have, we have become a bedroom community to those in Park City and Salt Lake City."
Snelgrove said he would like to help incentivize businesses to come to the city to increase the tax base. He said the city needs to control development beyond what is already approved to allow for more annexations.
"There is going to be growth," he said. "The real issue is how do you do that without eliminating the rural feel and not raising taxes. We need to take care of the needs of the city and their citizens and, at the same time, not let things get out of hand."
City Council contest
Francis is one of two municipalities on the East Side with a four-member board. Fryer, an incumbent Francis City Councilor, and Vorwaller, a Francis City Planning Commissioner, are serving their first terms in their respective offices. Cox is a seismologist seeking elected office for the first time. Attempts to reach Buchanan before press time were unsuccessful.
Fryer said she wants to keep Francis as "small as we possibly can." She has lived in town her entire life and currently delivers the mail there.
"I just want to keep the little, small town atmosphere," she said. "I know that we are growing, but we don't want to grow so big that we don't know our neighbors. I just want voters to know that I will do everything that I can that's legal to do that. I want developers to obey the laws and not come in and step on us."
Vorwaller is the fire marshal for South Davis Metro Fire and chair of the Francis City Planning Commission. He said he willingly acknowledges the growth the city is facing, but believes there is a way to keep the community rural in the process.
He suggested revitalizing Frontier Days and exploring trails as a way to connect the municipalities in the Kamas Valley.
"Growth has to happen in the correct way," he said. "I want to keep that small town feel. We just need a plan. Francis is kind of hodgepodge of subdivisions here and there. There is a lot of open space and there is a little bit of chaos. We have to take a very active role in trying to redirect that chaos to make whatever we already have fit and make what is coming in the future fit.
Cox said although she is not a Francis native, she was raised in small towns and is very sensitive to the small-town atmosphere. With the pending growth, she said citizens are concerned about the rising cost of living and need for a substantial commercial base to combat that problem.
"Francis is on this ledge," she said. "We are about to fall off into a bunch of growth and development. My message to the people of Francis has been that we can't necessarily stop it, but what we can do is manage it in a way that preserves our rural and agricultural heritage. Because of my frustration and woes with the current Council, I will listen to what the citizens of the town have to say and make decisions based on all the information I can get."