WASHINGTON CITY– Lively and heated debate was had between city officials and residents at a four-hour Washington City Council meeting Wednesday night over a proposed high-density development. Some residents of the Nichols Peak subdivision also attended the meeting to speak against a pending zoning change that would allow a funeral home next to their community.
Informal public hearing over Creekside Townhouses
The council chambers were packed as the city council began to discuss the potential approval of a preliminary plat for a high-density development called the Creekside Townhomes, located at approximately 250 South 350 West – east of the Wal-Mart Superstore and south of Star Nursery. The property covers an estimated 4.7 acres according to the developer and will house 40 units.
Councilman Ron Truman expressed concerns over adequate parking – concerns which have lingered through the plat design process. Councilman Bill Hudson expressed the same concern.
Jason Smith, a representative of the developer, said there would be 12 visitor parking stalls provided, as well as space for residents to park in two-car garages and 20-foot deep driveways. This would make for a total of 172 parking spaces.
The preliminary plat was approved in a 3-2 vote; Councilmen Hudson and Thad Seegmiller voted against the current design.
After approval was given, some seated in the crowd immediately began to protest the decision. Issues over parking were again raised, as well additional concerns about traffic generated from the development, drainage, whether or not the development met city fire code and if the development would become Section 8 housing.
Accusations were also made that certain councilmen who live in Washington Fields and voted in favor of the development didn’t care about what they did to the downtown portion of the city, as they didn’t live there.
Though a public hearing was not scheduled for the plat approval, Mayor Ken Neilson allowed people to approach the council and speak.
Priscilla Calhoun addressed the council first. She had submitted a letter to each council member with questions about the development. Among them was the concern that the townhomes, which had been touted as “affordable housing” by the developer, would become Section 8 housing.
Councilman Kress Staheli said the townhomes were intended to be bought and not rented out. While the idea of the development may not be popular, he said, “it does provide a young family a home to buy.”
Staheli said residents had made some good points about the the development, yet the property owner also had the right to develop the land as he saw fit as long as it didn’t harm others in some way.
“Someone purchased this property,” Staheli said, “a person should have a right to do what they want with that property.”
Scott Sandberg was near shouting at the council as he asked about the single access point into Creekside, and whether or not it was approved by the city fire chief.
“The access has been reviewed by the fire chief and it meets code,” Smith told the council.
A lot of water drains into the area the development will be built on, said Leo Tobler, whose grandfather once owned the same property. The ground would have to be compacted correctly and the drainage rerouted, or it could result in cracked and shifting building foundations.
“Everyone who has come tonight has a valid point,” Truman said.
A re-vote on the preliminary plat was considered, but the council ultimately decided to let the vote stand. However, they told Smith to take note of the issues raised by the residents and to make sure the developer addressed them in the final plat for Creekside Townhomes when it comes before the council in the future.
Subdivision residents speak against zone change
The first official public hearing was held concerning a proposed zone change that would allow a commercial property – a funeral home specifically – to be built by a residential area located at approximately 4200 S. Washington Fields Road by the Nichols Peak subdivision. The city planning commission voted against the zoning change over increased traffic concerns, as access to the funeral home would be had on a road either by or through the subdivision.
A spokesman for Shawn Wiscombe, the person planning to build the funeral home on the two-acre property, said the building would resemble a large home and not look like a commercial business. It would also lack a chapel, and only employ a viewing room. Not having a chapel in the building would help mitigate some of the traffic concerns, the spokesman said.
Still, some Nichols Peak residents were not convinced.
“The planning commission voted (the zone change) down for a reason,” one woman said. “A business inside a neighborhood doesn’t make any sense.”
Worries over traffic passing through the subdivision were revisited, as well as worries over funeral processions traveling east on Sandia Road (2000 South) and then trying to make left turns onto Washington Fields Road, which area residents described as “accidents waiting to happen.”
Another resident told the council that her property value would drop between 10 and 15 percent if a commercial business were allowed to be built by the subdivision. A worry was also expressed that once one business came in, what would stop other commercial entities from joining it?
Ralph Staheli, who sold the land to Wiscombe, wants to see more commercial development in the area. Though he could make more money selling the land to a residential developer, Ralph Staheli said “(the land) is too valuable a piece of property to put houses on.”
The funeral home would help beautify the area and could jump start commercial development, Ralph Staheli said.
When the public hearing closed, Councilman Kress Steheli said, “The owner of the property is the most important factor to me.”
Councilmen Truman and Hudson, however, did not support the zone change. Truman said the location was bad and wasn’t consistent with the city’s general plan. Hudson said he saw the area as residential only and it shouldn’t be subjected to commercial levels of traffic.
The council voted 3-2 to approve the zone change. Truman and Hudson voted against the proposal.
Residents against the zone change thanked Truman and Hudson for their support, while blasting the rest of the council for ignoring the homeowners in the area. One woman protested Kress Staheli’s even being allowed to vote, noting he was related to Ralph Staheli.
- The city council approved a zone change that will allow for the expansion of Sandia Greenhouses.
- The sale of a .86 acre piece of city property at 1775 N. Green Springs Drive to a private owner was approved.
- The city council approved final plats for New Warm Springs Subdivision Phase 6; Steeplechase at Washington Fields Phase 1; Washington Vista at Green Springs Phase 4; and Rusted Hill Phase 1.
- An energy services performance contract was approved between the city and Seimens Industrial, Inc.
- A pending agreement between Mama Know’s Pizza to take over concession stand operations at the Washington City Community Center was approved. The agreement has yet to be penned by City Attorney Jeff Starkey.
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