Council lowers impact fees, denies zone change in Washington Fields

Washington City, May 23, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – City officials approved reduced impact fees related to its parks and recreation master plan and denied a request to turn a small parcel of land into commercial property along Washington Fields Road, at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The City Council also expressed its general favor of an opt-out plan related to a proposed countywide curbside recycling program.

Lower parks-related impact fees

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council adopted a motion to reduce impact fees attached to its parks and recreation master plan, lowering them from $4,000 to $3,700.

City staff has been presenting the various impact fee proposals to the City Council over the last several months. The majority of those impact fees have seen increases, Councilman Ron Truman said, adding that Washington City is already among the more expensive spots for area home builders.

Every time we see an increase in impact fees, those get tagged onto the homes,” said Mari Smith, executive director of the Southern Utah Home Builders Association.

An impact fee analysis recommended the fee rate stay at $4,000, but Truman said he felt it needed to be lower in order to help offset the other impact fee increases.

“If we’re the highest city in the county to build in, no one’s going to want to come here,” Truman said.

Barry Blake, the city’s leisure services director, warned the upkeep of parks and trails may suffer to an extent due to reduced funding for maintenance and other items.

“Keep in mind the level of service will decrease,” Blake said.

Truman made the motion to approve a reduced impact fee schedule which was seconded and ultimately approved by the majority of the council.

No commercial zoning for 2000 S. Washington Fields Road

In a unanimous vote that received thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd that filled the council chambers, the City Council voted down a measure to change the zoning of the 3-acre property at 2000 S. Washington Fields Road from residential to commercial.

There was a popular conception that the applicant, represented by Greg Whitehead, planned to put a convenience store and gas station on the property. However, it was just one of the possible uses for the property, Whitehead said. The purpose of the proposal before the council was to simply gain approval of a zone change. The developer would then go from there and determine the best possible use for the property and plan accordingly.

If the council approved the zone change, it would create an inland of commercial property in the middle of a sea of residential zoning that really didn’t appear to fit, or benefit, the area, Truman said. It’s not something that will promote the general well-being and character of the neighborhood, he said.

During a public hearing, many residents from the surrounding neighborhoods expressed concerns about increased traffic, potential crime drawn into the area by the presence of a business or businesses on the site and, ultimately, how it would change the residential character of Washington Fields.

It’s like fitting the square peg into the round hole,” resident Ryan Robison said about the proposed zoning change.

The opposition to commercial properties encroaching into Washington Fields is an ongoing matter of dispute between area residents and the city. Though residents speaking to the council said they weren’t against commercial development, they didn’t believe the proposed location was a good fit for it.

The City Council agreed, and unanimously voted to deny the zone change request.

Curbside recycling

Along with other municipalities in the county, Washington City is taking part in talks to possibly adopt a countywide curbside recycling program proposed by the Washington County Solid Waste District.

Options have been given to the cities for either mandatory or resident opt-out programs. Councilman Thad Seegmiller, Washington City’s representative on the county’s solid waste board, said the council favors an opt-out program versus a mandatory one.

We decided we support an opt-out program,” Seegmiller said, “an opt-out that would allow anyone to renew their opt-out if they ever were to sell and buy a new home in the area – so it’s an opt-out for residents who move to another place in the city – you’re given another chance.”

A mandatory program would cost residents around $2.75 per month, Seegmiller said. Overall cost of the service will depend on how high the countywide participation is; but, at around 50 percent participation, he said, the cost would hover roughly around $3.80 per month per resident.

The cities will take their recommendations for either the mandatory or opt-out program to the Solid Waste District during its next meeting, March 2.

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