ST. GEORGE – Three multifamily housing projects were approved to move forward by the St. George City Council during a regular meeting Thursday night. Officials said there’s a need for such developments as the general availability of multifamily housing like apartments, townhomes and the like is less then 1 percent across the county.
The largest of the multifamily housing projects set before the City Council was the proposed Grayhawk Apartments at River’s Edge project, located between Riverside Drive and 2450 East and set behind a church and Millcreek High School. It will feature 244-units spread across 15 buildings between two and four stories tall and covering nearly 12 acres.
A requested zone change allowing the project to move forward was originally passed in March 2015. However, due to delays related to the size and scope of the project, as well as financing, a building permit from the city was not taken out within a required time period of 18 months. This caused the zoning to revert to its previous designation.
With those issues subsequently resolved, developers came back Thursday night with a renewed request for a zone change that was unanimously approved.
Randy Rindlisbacher, of Bach Homes, who originally spoke to the council about the project, said he wanted to emphasize the need for multifamily housing in Washington County, as no major multifamily housing project had been built in the area since 2006.
According to a mid-year report from NIA Excell that Rindlisbacher cited, the demand for multifamily units is very high while the supply is virtually nonexistent. On top of the scarcity, rent for such units can also high, he said.
“I am shocked to see that (vacancies) have dropped below 1 percent for the entire market,” Rindlisbacher said. “That means there is no supply at all.”
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said the council believed in the project and the need for more multifamily developments. The mayor said he would also like the see the surrounding communities embrace such projects.
Other requested measures related to multifamily projects that passed Thursday night included 96 townhomes located in the area of 1420 E. River Road. The site covers 16 acres and is a part of the Fossil Hills development.
A much smaller complex housing four residential units in the area of 1650 N. Dixie Downs Drive covering half-an-acre was also approved to move ahead. Like Grayhawk, developers on this project had not taken out a building permit before the required 18 months experienced.
City officials are sometimes criticized by facets of the public for not implementing elements of the Vision Dixie plan, Pike said, adding that multifamily housing projects like Grayhawk and others actually meet elements of that plan.
“We’ve got to go up a little more, and we need a little more density,” he said.
Following the meeting Pike acknowledged there are residents who don’t want to live near multifamily units, even if they may agree there is an evident need.
“Apartments, townhomes and condominiums, whatever it might be, we need those options for people and right now we can see there is almost no availability,” Pike said. “That’s very difficult to say to young people, the young professionals. They need a place to start that’s not a $250,000 home, so these are good options.”
The multifamily housing squeeze may continue for a while yet, especially amid the county’s projected growth rate.
According to a study from the University of Utah, Washington County has experienced a growth rate of 3.7 percent in the last year. This is higher than previously estimated rates that place growth at just under 3 percent.
Between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2016, Washington County has gone from a population of 138,115 to 160,359, a gain of 22,244 during that period.
By comparison, the vacancy rate for multifamily units in 2010 was 9.8 percent and dropped to 0.4 percent in 2016.
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