ST. GEORGE — At last Thursday’s council meeting, the Hurricane City Council, absent members Darin Larson and Joseph Prete, spent most of the meeting discussing a proposal to designate the Hurricane Ready Mix materials site as a Critical Infrastructure Materials Protection Area. The council also briefly addressed the issue of a power rate increase.
Attorney James M Elegante, representing the Todd Stratton Estate, drafted the proposal and explained to the council that the law that provides for agricultural protection areas is the same law that provides for critical infrastructure materials areas.
“It’s exactly the same law, and this council has used it many times,” he said.
Elegante said the Utah Legislature foresaw the state’s growth when it enacted the Land Protection Act, designated 17-41 in the Utah Code.
“In its wisdom, the Legislature decided to protect various types of activities that are germane to Utah’s communities and its business,” he said, adding that these activities include agricultural lands, industrial lands and critical infrastructure lands.
Elegante stressed the point that aggregate sites such as Ready Mix, which is located on 1100 West south of 3000 South, are necessary for growth.
“People want sidewalks. People want driveways. What are you going to do? Let it all go to the big boys like Interstate Rock, or are you going to protect your local industries, like Hurricane Ready Mix?”
Elegante cited the relocation of the St. George Regional Airport as an example, noting that the airport offers short flights to Salt Lake City and other cities. As a result, he said, the airport has become extremely popular.
“Contact the airport administrator and have that person tell you about the number of calls from people complaining about the noise because they have moved into that development just south of the airport, across the parkway,” he said. “And now they’re complaining about the noise and the nuisance of having an airport. Well, it’s part of life, isn’t it? And the gravel pit and the batch plant are also how we build our communities.”
Elegante pointed out that the Land Protection Act designates sand and gravel and rock aggregate as critical infrastructure materials and concluded his opening remarks by acknowledging that the site is a nuisance.
“That’s the whole point,” he said. “That’s why it’s way out there.”
Previous to Elegante’s presentation, the issue was raised during the public comment section of the council meeting from interested parties already aware of the proposal.
Ladd Gilbert, who owns a property near the site, brought up the nuisance factor, citing air and noise pollution. He also questioned why Ready Mix in particular needs to be designated as a protection area and receive additional protections.
“There are nine other aggregate sources within a 25-mile radius, two of which are within 8 miles of this source,” he said, asking what would be become of the other sites and requesting the council to further investigate the issue before rendering its decision.
Darren Clow, who owns property adjacent to the site, spoke after Gilbert. Clow said he wanted to build a storage facility on the property but delayed construction because of concerns over the stability of the perimeter of the site that abuts his property.
“The vertical cut of approximately 58 feet with no steps in it, no 2-to-1 slope. Just a vertical cut,” he said. “[The cut] has deemed that part of our property unusable. We can’t drive on it. We can’t park on it. … They’re asking for protection; we’re the ones who need protection.”
Clow mentioned Todd Stratton, who owned the site prior to his death in 2019. Clow said Stratton was willing to make a deal with the property owners to fill up that part of the pit.
“But after Todd’s death, there has been silence.”
After Elegante’s presentation, Mayor John Bramall opened a public hearing to entertain comments specific to the proposal.
Scott Stratton, who owns property on both sides of the site, said he came to terms with the location of the site before he purchased his property.
“I’ve always said they were there and they need to do business as usual.”
Gilbert spoke up again, this time asking about the site’s reserves and repeating his statement about the other pits that can service the Hurricane area when the time comes.
“I’m not asking that they stop, but eventually that area will be consumed [by development].”
The question of reserves would later be repeated by Councilmember Nanette Billings, at which point Elegante responded: “About one-third of the entire parcel has not been deeply excavated. So that would tell you there’s at least 25 years of reserve material.”
Bramall took the unusual step of speaking as a private citizen. Bramall owns property in the area and expressed concerns about reclamation.
“What are we going to do to reclaim it if we do this?” he asked, but he added that he doesn’t mind the noise from the pit. “It’s progress.”
Clow also spoke again, saying that based on tests he commissioned from soil engineers, the vertical cut will fail.
“You need to be on record that if you give them this protection zone, you’re giving up my right to have any legal recourse when that property fails.”
Elegante concluded the public hearing by saying the issue before the council is whether the site satisfies the conditions for designation as a protected site.
“I believe we do,” he said.
Following public comment, Councilmember Kevin Tervort expressed concerns about the lack of definitive information on the site, its longevity and the rights of the adjacent property owners.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It just seems too open-ended to me.”
City Attorney Fay Reber reminded the council that the site, as a mining concern, already has vested protections.
“What we’re doing here tonight or possibly doing is just granting them a few additional protections. But this is not mandatory.”
After further discussion, Bramall put up the issue for vote. Tervort demurred, citing his initial concerns. The council lacked sufficient votes to establish a quorum, and Billings recommended the issue be tabled until the full council be present to vote. The council concurred.
In other business, Power Director Dave Imlay gave a presentation on Hurricane’s energy consumption. Imlay displayed a spreadsheet that listed power companies and the amount of energy each company could provide to the city and the attendant costs. The spreadsheet contained a formula that provided projections based on different variables, such as consumption, cost, et cetera.
Using 2030 as a target, Imlay noted that coal-fired plants are likely to become obsolete. Bramall and Billings asked Imlay to punch in different numbers to gauge the percentage of energy coverage for each number.
Following a discussion of the available energy resources and the costs associated with adopting each resource, the council elected to table the discussion until the full council could vote.
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