Leeds town council temporarily tables controversial development

Leeds Town Council, (L-R) Frank Lojko, Angela Rohr, Mayor Alan Roberts, Nate Blake, (not shown) Joe Allen, Leeds, Utah, Oct. 24, 2012 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

LEEDS – The Leeds town council tabled a motion to approve the controversial Grapevine Wash final development plan late Wednesday evening after expressing concerns relating to the project’s proposed density and the duration of the project agreement.

The Grapevine Wash development was annexed into the Town of Leeds in 2009. Contract planner Bob Nicholson told the council this move had approved the conceptual design of the project. Since then the developers and town council have met on numerous occasions to iron out concerns raised by language in the project’s final development agreement.  Throughout this process a coalition of Leeds residents has opposed the project, often packing public meetings and open houses and giving voice to their myriad concerns.

Grapevine Wash itself covers an area of 370 acres nestled between Leeds and Toquerville, and is surrounded by private property and public land. The project is designed to be a high-density, mixed-use development consisting of eight villages, 300,000 square feet of commercial space, and up to 2,500 units. At complete build-out, Grapevine Wash would support an estimated population of 6,600 people, up to six times the current population of the Leeds area.


“It’s something that would overwhelm the town,” Leeds resident Elliot Sheltman said. He called the proposed development’s 2,500 units a gorilla in comparison to the 350 that currently make up Leeds.

“This is pretty dense compared to the rest of town,” council member Angela Rohr said.

Originally, the development plan called for 3.8 units per acre; however, this number, as well as the overall number of units, is based on the future acquisition of Bureau of Land Management land that sits next to the property.  Without the BLM land, the density doubles.

According to a spreadsheet produced by council member Joe Allen, Grapevine Wash would only be able to build an estimated 1,400 units on its current acreage.

Drake Howell, a former Leeds town manager who now represents the Grapevine Wash developers, said his clients would make a concession to bring the number of units down to 1,870 units, a reduction of 22 percent. “But,” he said, “reducing any density is contingent upon a positive vote tonight.”

“It would greatly benefit the town to have that lowered density,” Allen said.

Heath Snow, Leeds’ legal counsel, told the council that a judge could look at the agreement and rule in favor of the original 2,500 units despite density concerns. Leeds could find itself in a lawsuit over the matter, though he said the developers had provided an “olive leaf” to the council with the reduction. The decision to accept or reject the offer was in the council’s hands.

Duration of the agreement

The agreement between the town and the developers covers 35 years, with a 15-year extension should the development continue to prove viable. Making for a total of 50 years, it is a length of time that bothers some of the council members.

“My concern is we’re signing a 50-year contract,” council member Blake said. “I still think there are a lot of open-ended issues.”

Other issues Blake addressed concern access roads into the development. Currently, 900 North in Leeds is considered the primary access into the area. A secondary access road is required once the development hits 101 units. So far the developers haven’t provided a solid designation of where the second road would be placed.

Snow said a secondary road designation was not required for the current stage of the plan. “Where we’re at with this process is the zoning process,” he said.

Issues such as roads and other infrastructure are typical addressed when developers are ready to start building subdivisions, Snow said. The only reason the final development plan for Grapevine Wash is so detailed is because of its size.

“If master planned communities had everything in place at Day One,” Howell said, “there would be no need for a development agreement.”

It was decided Grapevine Wash would initiate construction within the first 20 years of the initial 35-year term. If no signs of infrastructure are built within that time, the development agreement is nullified.

The council votes

Numerous other issues were discussed, such as the development’s sewage needs and what the town of Leeds may be left responsible for financially in connection with Grapevine Wash. At the beginning of the night’s discussion, Nicholson told the council, “there have been a whole series of changes” to the development agreement in order to bring it in line with town ordinances. The only exceptions made dealt with road design.

“We’re very much in conformity with the mixed-use zone” and city ordinances, Howell said.

Before making a motion to vote, the council agreed to listen to a limited number of public comments.

“Don’t negotiate away the town’s 3.8 (density),” Leeds resident Ron Condick said. “We want an agreement we can live with – we can’t live with this one.”

After comments, council members Blake and Lojko said they felt the developers were trying to force the council into voting that evening by using the possible one-time offer of unit reduction.

“I don’t feel we should be bullied into this,” Blake said. “That’s not how I play.”

A list of motions governing the possible approval of the development was also discussed. Mayor Alan Roberts and council member Allen said they both wanted the motion in writing before voting.

At around 11:20 p.m., the council unanimously passed a motion to table the vote for the final development plan until the next town council meeting on Nov. 14.

Previous articles concerning Leeds and Grapevine Wash

– Leeds meeting considers highway interchange and town growth
– Battle of public opinion continues over development near Leeds

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.


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  • Damie October 26, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Very odd choice of site for a high density/ big box urban community. There are a lot of failed sites based on similar plans littering the region already.

    • Karen October 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Right. Elim Valley on the way to Sand Hollow Reservoir comes to mind.

      • suburbanSG October 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

        Well you guys do realize that’s the future of urban Washington County right? One day it will be a solid swath of urbanized metropolis with no open spaces of natural desert from LaVerkin to Leeds to Ivins. Similar to the urban corridor of the Wasatch Front.
        Just a matter of time…

        • Damie October 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

          Fortunately, even the Lake Powell Pipeline won’t deliver enough water to get that dense. If they do it, it will have to be golf course, lawn, pool and daily bath free.

          • suburbanSG October 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm

            It’s almost there, buddy. Hurricane and Washington are growing denser and closer together more and more everyday…

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