LEEDS — Two opposing perspectives were voiced Wednesday evening at Leeds Town Hall, 218 N. Main St. in Leeds, during a Planning Commission public hearing concerning a proposed amendment for the town’s current land use ordinance. A heated discussion ensued, leading commission members to table the proposal until wording can be fine-tuned and the county attorney can review it for legalities.
The proposed amendment, ordinance 2014-02, Hillside Protection Overlay Zone amendment, would implement an exception to Land Ordinance 2008-04, which went into effect about 10 years ago and states, “there shall be no development of land having a slope of 30 percent or more.”
The amended clause would add: “except that the Town Council, after considering the recommendation of the planning commission, may allow the development of public streets and/or utility lines on slopes of 30 percent or more where the Town Council finds that other reasonable locations or design alternatives do not exist.”
One side of the discussion holds that the amendment, if approved, would allow flexibility for future needs, such as the installation of water, gas or septic lines that might otherwise infringe upon the current ordinance.
Additionally, residential housing in Leeds has surpassed 100 homes using one road for access, which is in violation of the fire code, commission member Steve Lewis said. Approving this amendment would make it possible to build a second access road, connecting an existing utility road leading to the water tank with one that winds up from the Catholic cemetery.
As it stands now, the area mentioned is the only feasible location for a secondary access road, Lewis said.
One misconception that was unraveled during the meeting regarded what “30 percent” means in reference to the proposed secondary access road. Some in attendance thought the actual road would be at a 30 percent grade, which would be extremely steep. Rather, the area conflicts with the current ordinance because of certain sections that dip at a slope steeper than 30 percent. The spaces would have to be filled with compacted dirt, which would fall under land disturbance and be in violation of the current ordinance.
Regardless, Leeds resident Betty McKnight said, nine-tenths of the land being considered is county owned and the county has not been contacted, so until county approval is received, changing the ordinance is useless.
The implementation of a second access road is an essential step toward approving Silver Pointe Estates Phase 2. Without the secondary road, this development violates town ordinances.
In an Aug. 4 email addressed to St. George News, commission member Elliott Sheltman wrote:
What was discovered was that the single road designated on the southern side of Phase II was indeed in violation of the Leeds Hillside Protection Overlay Ordinance. This was and is an important issue to the developer/applicant because without a southern road access, their road would be a dead-end with northern access only.
But this isn’t about building a road, Leeds Commission Chair Norm Peters said; this is only an adjustment to the ordinance. Any plans to move forward with a road would have to go through the same process and be approved through the planning commission and city council.
“If we do something now, we can get a handle on it,” Peters said.
Many Leeds residents were unconvinced. Some residents expressed concern that approving this amendment would put too much power into the hands of five people.
“If you get five people who are all into developments, then they have the power to approve whatever comes through,” Joe Sheltman, of Silver Reef, said. “And after it’s all said and done, it’s the town who has to take care of it.”
Other residents had safety concerns.
“I live at the bottom of a very steep hill,” Tracy Comas, of Silver Reef, said. “What happens if a road is built and the ground becomes unstable? Since the fire, my backyard is full of silt — I can barely open my door.”
Throughout the hearing, additional words were added to the end of the proposed clause: “for the safety, health and well-being of the town.”
Elliott Sheltman said the language in the exception uses subjective terms and he is more comfortable with objective terms — things one can measure.
“Even highways, they don’t say 75 or 80 miles per hour ‘unless you think you’re having a good day,'” he said. “I like my laws clear.”
As it sits now, the amendment will be tabled until the word use is more precise and the county attorney can review it.
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