Message from Mayor Shepherd

Over the past year, Clearfield City has been recognized several times for the work we are doing. The first was by Forbes magazine, which listed Clearfield as the 6th best place in the nation to raise a family. They didn’t draw our name out of a hat, and the list of qualifications was very long. Unlike some publications that list the area as the Ogden-Clearfield area, this award was specifically for Clearfield. On the heels of that award came recognition for Clearfield City as one of the top 100 places in Utah for women to work. This is the first time a municipality has received this honor. And then, at the beginning of the legislative session, the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives praised Clearfield for the work we are doing in addressing the state’s housing needs and called on other cities to follow in our footsteps.

It isn’t often a city is recognized like Clearfield has been this past year, and yet I see some of the negative comments about the city and our approach to growth. Nearly all of the negative comments come from within the city, from great people who have watched the city change over time. If I could change one thing we have done as a city over the past 10 years, it would be to have done a better job of talking about our ‘why’ – letting our residents know why we have chosen to grow the way we have. While I can’t change the past, I will try to give you a brief glimpse into why these decisions were made.

Clearfield all but died over the past few decades. In fact, if you had mentioned Clearfield to outsiders, only a few knew where Clearfield was located. It used to be that when people said they were ‘going to town,’ they were going to Clearfield. Those days have long since gone and we have watched neighboring cities grow up around us. I could blame that on a myriad of things, but I don’t apologize for who and what we are.

The truth is, Clearfield is a manufacturing and military community. It is landlocked and broken up by Freeport Center, which takes up roughly one-third of the land in the city, and a State/Main Street which has a significant elevation change on the west side. Each of these things makes redevelopment a serious challenge. Make no mistake about it, I AM PROUD OF EACH OF THESE THINGS, except for maybe the elevation drop-off! It is our military members, factory workers, and others that make us who we are. I love the “sound of freedom” as the F-35s fly over the city, and I love traveling around the country and seeing a table, chair, or basketball standard with Lifetime Products emblazoned on the side. It gives me another opportunity to brag about our city. But if the people don’t know who and where we are, and what we have to offer, the building community doesn’t know it either. City’s don’t build things. They count on outside builders to do that, and they won’t do it if they don’t know where we are.

So, how does one resurrect a city and bring attention to it? That was the question posed to the City Council years ago. The city ultimately did several things. We hired two separate planning groups to look at the city and give recommendations on laying out a downtown area and zoning for change. One of those brought in residents to contribute, vet ideas, and come up with a plan. They listened to make sure the plan they came up with had the input of those who live here.

When the studies came back, separate from each other, they were eerily similar. They both spoke of ‘nodes’ within the main corridor where development should be focused. These included the Civic Center (centered around city hall, the county building, and the fire station), Mabey Place (Lakeside Square and the Clearfield Mobile Home Park), S.R. 193/State intersection area, Clearfield Station, and Legend Hills. They both voiced a need to bring more people to live downtown along the State Street corridor from 300 N. to S.R. 193, with the most intense portion being around the pond with a gathering space there. These weren’t the ideas of inexperienced city council members, planning commissioners, or city staff. They were the recommendations of two of the most respected organizations in the state. We took their guidance, and that of our residents, and created a Downtown Corridor plan, along with a promise that any multi-family housing would be built only in those nodes and not encroach upon the current neighborhoods.

We did not go this direction thinking that by adding rooftops we would attract a Walmart, Costco, or any other big box store. We don’t have anywhere large enough or with the proper access to accommodate a big box store. What we have planned for are small, niche businesses. We also didn’t go into this with the intention to bring ‘affordable housing’ to the city. We set a new standard for apartments and townhomes with the intention of providing quality housing. We recognized that many of our current residents would have mortgage payments that are less than the rent in these new developments, but our focus was on quality as compared to the existing apartments our residents had come to know. We used city code to discourage traditional 3-story walk-up apartments and focused on a minimum of 4 stories with enclosed hallways, elevators, and more amenities. We were told no one would build to this level in Clearfield, and yet here we are. While other cities are starting to see these types of apartments, many cities are seeing 4 and 5-story walk-up apartments. Yes, five stories without an elevator.

We learned some lessons along the way. When you are blazing a trail, you’re bound to encounter challenges, but we learn from them. The biggest lesson by far is that there are great developers who take pride in their projects and want to make this city a great place to live, and there are some who simply care about the profit. And, we have learned how to recognize one from the other. We were reminded that people hate sitting in traffic and yet, while our drive times have increased, most of that is due to things we cannot control, including how fast Security Forces can get people on and off the base. But, as people sit a little longer in traffic, they also aren’t passing by our businesses at 50 mph missing what we have to offer. We were also reminded that development takes time and re-development takes even longer. We didn’t expect the commercial spaces to fill up overnight. We hoped we would see fewer empty spaces at this point, but we are finally seeing things happen.

And the biggest lesson learned, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, there will always be those who criticize and complain. There is more development coming, and while there will be additional housing built, there are other amenities as well, including some open space, shopping, and a plaza around Mabey Pond. We have 600,000 sq. ft. of office and retail space planned at Clearfield Station, and we have a very large furniture store coming to town that should open later this year.

Clearfield is changing, and I know change can be hard, but as American author, Bruce Barton said, “When you are through changing, you’re through.”

Mayor Mark Shepherd

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