HURRICANE —After a 90-minute public hearing, the Hurricane City Council approved a zone change by a split vote of 3-2 at its Thursday meeting.
Following the action, Scott Stratton of Stratton Construction in LaVerkin will now be able to divide approximately 52 acres of Hurricane land into half-acre lots, where he plans to build single-family homes.
Stratton first pitched the change from a zoning of residential agriculture one unit per acre to a less restrictive residential designation on May 26, but council balked at his plans, which at the time included nearly all quarter-acre lots. Stratton worked with the planning commission to address concerns of residents and the council, and he returned June 17 to again make a case for his zone change.
At that point, council members Nannette Billings and Joseph Prete motioned to deny Stratton’s request on the grounds that the development would impinge on the city’s vanishing farmland. Their motion was voted down, and council member Dave Sanders motioned to table the item until a work meeting could be held.
Stratton attended the Sept. 16 work meeting with the council and then returned to the regular council meeting last Thursday with a proposal that only featured half-acre lots. However, Billings and Prete were still opposed to the new land designation.
Billings said it’s important people realize only 2% of the community in Hurricane is currently agricultural, and she again expressed her hesitance at any changes that could threaten the future of the city’s farmland. Prete agreed.
“I’m very protective of the farmland in the south end of town,” he said, “and every time we get (too close to the agricultural center), I worry about encroachment and the loss of our agricultural heritage, which is what the city was founded on.”
Mayor John Bramall reflected on the difficulty of the decision, bringing up the fact that Hurricane’s population is expanding and saying that with several farmers having gone bankrupt in recent years, it’s hard to deny the city is no longer an agricultural hub.
“With change comes growing pains,” he said.
The rest of the council members were more amenable to Stratton’s housing project, in large part because the project keeps with the city’s general plan, which states that properties east of 1100 West can have houses built on parcels ranging in size from a half-acre to 40 acres.
Additionally, council member Darin Larson said he believes the development is in harmony with its surroundings.
“Will it affect adjacent property? Every change does,” Larson said before motioning to approve the zone change. Stratton’s request was ultimately approved 3-2, with Billings and Prete voting against the change.
Give and take
After thanking the council, Stratton provided more details about the pending housing development for an area that he said draws lots of visitors looking to climb the hill, hike its trails and explore local caves.
“It’s getting a lot of activity, which I think is great,” he said.
Stratton said he plans to provide a buffer zone, which he estimates will be 2-3 acres, and he expressed his willingness to donate the buffer zone to Hurricane for public use. He suggested the city put in a parking lot, granting visitors access to the buffer zone and the federal land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management that lies beyond.
Billings said she liked the idea of keeping it an open space.
Stratton’s son-in-law Chester Ence spoke with St. George News after the meeting and said that he feels the council made the right decision. If Hurricane doesn’t adapt, he said, the city is poised to lose more than its rural flavor, adding that people who’ve lived in the town for years are seeing their children move away because they can’t afford to buy houses on larger plots.
“People are getting priced out,” he said. “My friends are having a hard time buying.”
Ence said that while you can’t farm on a half-acre lot, it still allows for a rural lifestyle.
“It’s a lot of property. I love it,” he said. “You can have a big garden, a couple of horses.”
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