A sense of place and belonging – that’s what Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. believes is among the most important aspects incorporation brought to the residents of Cottonwood Heights.
And, for him, that’s something worth celebrating.
“I think there’s a lot of community pride in Cottonwood Heights. When we became a city, citizens said ‘now I feel like I can tell people where I’m from,’” he said.
Residents of Cottonwood Heights gather to celebrate incorporation after working together for more than two years to become a city. Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights City
The festivities to celebrate 10 years as a city begin Friday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. with an anniversary presentation in the Butler Middle School Auditorium, 7530 South 2700 East.
A video by Chadwick Booth & Co. Productions will detail the history of the area before incorporation, commemorate the period of organization and growth since becoming a city in 2005, and offer a sneak peak at some of the city’s plans for the future.
The Historic Committee is preparing aerial views of the region from the 1930s to the present day, along with a timeline of some of the most significant events in Cottonwood Heights history. Banners, designed by youth in the city, will be on display and light refreshments will be provided.
Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. is sworn in as the first mayor of Cottonwood Heights on Jan. 14, 2005 by Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert. Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights City
The celebration continues on Saturday, Jan. 17 with a carnival from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, 7500 South 2700 East.
“Everything is open at the rec. center. It’s going to be a big indoor party. It’s all free, from popcorn to cookies and hot dogs,” Event Coordinator Ann Eatchel said. Swimming ends at 8 p.m.
The First 10 Years
Cottonwood Heights marked its entry into the world of municipalities on Jan. 14, 2005 with the swearing in of Cullimore as the city’s first mayor. He said the past decade has been one long learning experience.
“The first year following incorporation was more than hectic. We probably didn’t know what we were doing, which was probably good. If any of us had known how much work there was to do, I don’t think any of us would’ve done it,” he said.
Among the first order of business was the need to establish a municipal code and determine the financial status of the city. From there, everything was a first; from issuing the first building permit to celebrating the first Butlerville Days, it was all new to the fledgling city.
“It’s been an eventful 10 years, and I think the community is better for it,” Cullimore said. “We’ve listened to our citizens. That’s the biggest benefit of being a city: your decision makers are local. You may not always agree with us, but you can talk to us and you know who we are. We didn’t become a city to have absolute power; we became a city so there would be absolute opportunity for input.”
In the 10 years since incorporation, Cottonwood Heights has established a strong economic development team, which has been instrumental in inviting new businesses, like Trader Joe’s and the Canyon Centre development, into the community.
They’ve established committees, including the arts council, historic committee and youth city council, all in an effort to foster an even stronger sense of community belonging and pride.
Forming community and regional partnerships to accomplish common goals has become a cornerstone of the young city. Cottonwood Heights played an instrumental role in the formation of the Canyons School District in 2009. Since then, elected officials have maintained close relations with the district and other government and private entities to serve the community.
“The cumulative steps that the city has taken to participate on every reach-out board, like Mountain Accord and EDC Utah, are pretty significant. We don’t consider ourselves myopic; we know that our survival is based on how we interact with others,” Senior Planner Glen Goins said.
In 2008, the city formed the Cottonwood Heights Police Department, and in 2012 residents celebrated the opening of the widely popular Mountain View Park. In a somewhat controversial move, the council voted to privatize public works efforts in 2013.
In 2014, city leaders announced the purchase of roughly 5 acres of property on 2300 East and Bengal Blvd. for the construction of a city hall.
A Rich History
In terms of municipal governments, Cottonwood Heights is still a baby, but the area itself boasts a rich history dating back to the early pioneers. It all began in 1848 when eight families were sent to settle land at the southeast end of the Salt Lake Valley.
While portions of the region have been known by many names over the years, including Union, Butler, Poverty Flats and Danish Town, the legacies of industry and education have been consistent throughout the area’s history.
From the early 1850s through the 1950s, settlers and their posterity went to work building homes, establishing mills and other businesses, constructing schools and organizing school districts.
Seeking a sense of unified identity, members of the community petitioned the county commission for a name change in the 1930s. In 1938, the name of Cottonwood Heights was officially adopted.
In a move that would later prove to be the first step toward incorporation, the Cottonwood Heights Community Council was formed in 1952. The subsequent 50 years was a time of tremendous residential and business growth.
“It’s important to understand everything that has gone on to make this community what it is today,” historic committee member Gayle Conger said.
In 2002, formal efforts toward incorporation were initiated.
“The primary motivating factor for incorporation was the desire to control our own destiny. We could see that people making decisions for our area didn’t even live here. They didn’t have any local perspective,” Cullimore said.
With 10 years of success behind them, Cottonwood Heights leaders are now setting their sights on the future.
In 2016, after more than a decade of renting office space, the proposed city municipal center is expected to be complete, giving city staff and the police department a place to call “home.”
The focus going forward will be on preparing to accommodate expected growth. An emphasis on economic development to further strengthen the city’s tax base is among the issues at the forefront of council discussions.
The potential of the gravel pit site on Wasatch Blvd. and redevelopment along the Fort Union corridor will play key roles in the future of the city.
“We’re the gateway to the canyons. With a million more people coming in the next 30-50 years, there’s going to be a greater demand on the canyons and more and more traffic coming. We need to plan now how to meet those demands,” Cullimore said.