City Council approves more commercial development near Mall Drive Bridge

A city resident addresses the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The city’s general plan was amended by the St. George City Council Thursday night, allowing for commercial development to take place in the area of the Mall Drive Bridge and 3000 East.

The City Council unanimously approved a zoning change to the city’s general plan opening the way for eventual commercial development of 106 acres located between 3000 East and Virgin River fronts on both sides of Mall Drive.

The 106 acres joins 24.4 acres belonging to the same property owner, Suburban Land Reserve, that was approved for the zone change during the council’s Jan. 8 meeting. The remaining acreage was tabled at the time because the Planning Commission wanted a revised proposal from the property owner.

Originally zoned for agriculture, the city’s general plan showed future zoning for commercial properties, as well as low-medium residential density zoning and open space areas. The amended plan allows for much of the same with the addition of professional office space.

The professional office space is often used as a buffer of sorts between residential zones and commercial and industrial zones, a member of the city’s planning commission said to the City Council.

Commercial development is slated for the area around the Mall Drive and 3000 East intersection. Surrounding a commercial development on the south side of the property will be 77 acres of medium density residential zoning.

While St. George City officials are pleased to see commercial development in the area, some Washington Fields residents aren’t, as the new zoning is, in a sense, right in their backyards.

It kind of encroaches on them, the border of the city is right there,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said. Hughes has often expressed support for preserving rural areas from encroaching development, but also said places like Little Valley may likely see some form of commercial development at some point.

During the Jan. 8 council meeting in which the initial 24.4 acres were approved for commercial development, Washington Fields residents expressed their reservations to the City Council during a public hearing.

One woman, who said the proposed commercial zoning is right behind her home, said future commercial development would forever change the “character and nature” of Washington Fields. People moved into Washington Fields so they could live in quiet neighborhoods and open space, she said. Area residents worry that allowing commercial properties to come into the area will ultimately destroy the lifestyle they moved there for in the first place.

Hughes said some Washington Fields residents have told him they feel Washington City does not have a coherent plan for “the Fields,” and that they feel like it is something of a free-for-all on their side of the border.

Recently, on Jan. 29, the Washington City Planning Commission held an open house at Riverside Elementary seeking the opinions of area residents on where they would like to see any potential commercial property in Washington Fields.

“My concern is obviously the St. George City residents,” Hughes said, “and I do think that right along that corridor, that busy road and that bridge, is a great place to put commercial and we do need to put it somewhere.”

Hughes added that potential commercial properties that develop in the area will be along the lines of supermarkets, possibly a gas station or two, and businesses related to commercial centers typically found next to residential areas.

Having supermarkets and accompanying businesses at the Mall Drive-3000 East location will help cut down on traffic heading into the city, said Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager. It will allow people who live in that part of St. George – Little Valley and Washington Fields – with closer accommodations.

A public hearing was held prior to the council’s approving the zoning changes, but only one person came forward with a concern about traffic at the Mall Drive-3000 East intersection. She said a family member had been in a car wreck there, and that the intersection had become increasingly busy since the Mall Drive Bridge was completed.

Mayor Jon Pike said the city has plans for a traffic signal at the intersection in the future.

As for the St. George potion of Washington Fields, Hughes said the city “is working to preserve the integrity of the rural lifestyle with bigger lots and horse-type properties.”

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