Vertical housing? Commercial development? St. George City Council seeks input for 2040 plan

ST. GEORGE — The St. George City Council is updating their general plan and asking those who live and work in St. George to take part in a survey, which takes no more than 10 minutes, that will help shape the next 20 years of city planning.

Mayor Michelle Randall at City Hall, St. George, Utah, April 28 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“We normally do this every 20 years,” Mayor Michele Randall told St. George News. “But with the growth we’re seeing, we’ve got to act now if we’re going to be ready for 2040.”

As more people flock to St. George, council members have wrestled with how best to handle growth. Issues under consideration include housing, traffic and water.

“We’re trying to figure out whether we should be looking at building vertical, for instance,” Randall said. “Intergenerational housing, where multiple families live in the same building, or buildings on the same lot, is interesting. We’re also asking property owners to consider building accessory dwelling units.”

Accessory dwelling units, Randall said, are guest houses that owners typically rent out on a short-term basis.

Councilman Vardell Curtis shakes hands with Mayor Michele Randall after the former was appointed to the St. George City Council in St. George, Utah, Feb. 10, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“Given the city’s growth, housing has become harder to find for single people and young families,” Randall said. “If property owners would rent those units on a long-term basis, it would help those who are just getting started.”

The newest council member, Vardell Curtis, spent a year on the Planning Commission before being appointed to replace Randall when she became mayor. He said that building vertically – multi-story apartment buildings, duplexes and fourplexes – may make better use of land and resources.

“We’ve seen this work in other cities,” Curtis told St. George News. “If we do it successfully, it can also lead to more affordable housing.”

Curtis said that Desert Canyon and Divario seem to be getting it right, as they build medium and high density units into their plans from the start. Then, Curtis said, it’s important to think about amenities.

“When we build commercial developments nearby, those residents won’t have to drive everywhere,” Curtis said. “When you add walking trails, parks and things like that, the community becomes more walkable, limiting traffic.”

Water levels at the boat launch ramp for Antelope Marina at Lake Powell, April 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Susan Kjvj, St. George News

As the population continues to grow and the current drought stretches on, water and where the city will get it remains a pressing topic.

“Water is definitely a challenge,” Curtis said. “Especially as we’re in the midst of a historic drought.”

Curtis said he recently took his motorcycle to Lake Powell and was surprised by what he saw.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years,” he said, “and I’ve never seen it that low.”

Randall said conservation needs to be a communal effort.

“We’ve got to step up our conservation efforts,” Randall said. “But it can’t just be St. George – it’s got to be all of Washington County.”

If conservation efforts are embraced by everybody, the city has another 10 years’ worth of water before it needs to depend upon another source, such as the Lake Powell Pipeline, she said.

In addition to looking at these deeper issues, Randall said that the survey is also meant to encourage residents to take pride in ownership, get involved and foster a sense of community.

The survey, which will close on May 16, can be found online.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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