ST. GEORGE — Debate over commercial development in Washington Fields was sparked Wednesday evening as the Washington City Council discussed the possibility of storage units being built on 3650 South.
The proposed storage units are part of a rezone request from an open space area to planned unit development-commercial zone. The storage facility will cover an area of nearly 3.5 acres along a future extension of 3650 South that will be built by the developer if approved.
The location would likely be a busy roadway in the future, as the incoming Washington County Temple sits at the street’s western end in St. George, while its yet-to-be built eastern end will connect to the Southern Parkway. The street currently ends at Sugar Plum Way.
Councilman Daniel Cluff said Wednesday that he was hesitant to move ahead on approving the zone change in that part of the Washington Fields area.
“There are so many explosive constraints in the Fields area,” Cluff said. “Our Fields are in dire need for people to be more respectful of those constraints.”
As the city also currently has a study into future land use and development guidelines for the Washington Fields area taking place, Cluff said he was in favor of putting a moratorium on commercial development in that part of the city until the study was finished.
“I don’t think that’s inappropriate,” he said, adding that he had visited the area and spoken with residents who don’t want storage units in their neighborhood. “I feel the concerns of the people aren’t being addressed.”
Debate over the future of Washington Fields has been a continuing issue as the population has grown over the last two decades. While residential development is welcomed to a point, many residents have balked at the idea of any sort of commercial development in Washington Fields.
The storage units were the subject of a public hearing held electronically, with residents able to submit comments online through the city’s website. Over 70 comments were submitted between April 3 and the closing of the comment period during Wednesday’s meeting.
Each comment was read by a member of the city staff. The majority of comments were in opposition to the zone change.
One comment stated the zone change is inconsistent with the area, while another asked the City Council why it wasn’t waiting on the Washington Fields study to conclude before even considering the zone change.
“A zone change will destroy the character of the Fields and the storage units will bring crime and light pollution,” another comment stated.
Concerns over increased traffic on 3650 South were also mentioned, as well as pleas to keep any commercial development along the Southern Parkway only. Some also said they would rather see a park in that area instead of a storage facility.
Others remarked how they moved to the Washington Fields area for the rural feel and to get away from the core of the city.
Some residents, however, supported having storage units in the area.
“There’s a desperate need for storage units in Washington City,” one comment read, while another stated, “It’s a great idea, we could use storage close to home.”
Developer Doug Dennett was asked if planners had considered proposing other projects versus storage units, and he said they had; however, it wasn’t considered feasible due to property being in a potential flood plain. Previously considered projects had included apartments and a small shopping center.
“We thought we were doing what would be good for this area,” Dennett said.
Cluff asked Dennett if he might be willing to hold off on trying to push through a zone change until after the Washington Fields study was done. Dennett said he was open to the idea, as well as going by the study’s possible design recommendations, but he added it also depended on how long the study would take to conclude.
“We can’t go beyond what we can’t afford,” Dennett said.
Cluff acknowledged he wasn’t sure when the study would finish and said he appreciated Dennett’s willingness to consider the study.
Due to the pandemic, however, City Manager Roger Carter said the company commissioned by the city to conduct the study was at least six weeks behind schedule.
The City Council took no action on the zone change Wednesday and will vote to either approve or deny it during its next council meeting.
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