Windmill Plaza Subdivision raises concerns for Cedar City Council

Cedar City Council Council Chambers, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – Wednesday night’s Cedar City Council meeting was dominated by discussions regarding the Windmill Plaza Subdivision, a commercial property located on the south end of Main Street between the Comfort Inn and the south exchange for Interstate 15.

As the landowners, a group titled Windmill Plaza LLC, move forward with plans to develop, residents in the neighborhood next to the development site are voicing concerns about how it will impact their livelihood.

When the residential land adjacent to the commercial property was developed 20 years ago, Cedar City Councilman Fred Rowley said, it was first zoned to build apartments. Developers changed their mind based on the economy at the time, and asked City Council to rezone the land to allow for single-family homes.

The City Council accommodated the request and it is now creating a problem for current developers as they seek to move forward with opening the commercial property to businesses because the natural sound barrier that would have been created by the apartments, is nonexistent, and community members are concerned that the noise pollution will become an issue in the area.

There are city ordinances requiring a sound barrier of some kind to be put in place to help with the noise pollution issues, President and Principle Engineer for Watson Engineering Inc. Tim Watson said. For instance, a 6-foot stone wall between the properties, similar to those built alongside of highways and interstates to help keep noise at bay, he said.

The apartments that were supposed to be constructed in the zone, directly adjacent to the area, would have acted as a natural barrier without the need for the wall, but since the City Council approved the zoning change years ago, the logistic issue has fallen into the laps of those who are currently working the land.

When it rains

When plans to develop first cropped up, Rowley said, he knocked on each door in the residential area to get a clear understanding of how the community felt about commercial development taking place right next door.

One of the major concerns brought to his attention by homeowners, Rowley said, was the fear that once the land was developed, water would flow freely into an area that is already overcome with flooding during a hard rain.

By grading the lots so the pavement slopes gently towards Main Street, flooding can be avoided, Rowley said. There were talks of placing a detention pond in the area that would allow water to fill the basin and slowly drain from the area as well, he said.

The natural slope of the land is towards I-15, Watson said, which would make grading the land towards Main Street difficult. Detention ponds are one possible solution to this problem, he said.

The biggest source of frustration and concern however, derived from the opening up of a cul-de-sac road in the vicinity.

Interstate Drive was built to offer a turnaround for truckers and travelers who needed to find their way back to the highway. As it currently sits, it has only one entrance and exit. Developing the Windmill Plaza Subdivision would mean that there would have to be another outlet for people to leave through in case of a fire or an evacuation as per state building codes.

Residents in the area are concerned that opening the cul-de-sac up to another exit point would drive more traffic into a normally traffic-free area of town, Rowley said. It is hoped that by placing a sign at the top of the new entry that says “local access only” patrons will only drive into the area if they have a reason to be there.

“I was sitting at Dairy Queen yesterday and I was looking, and there are houses exactly behind Dairy Queen, and I realized that I’ve never gone to Dairy Queen and said ‘I think I’ll go driving through that neighborhood,’” Rowley said. “I believe that most people who come into that development will do whatever they need to do there and then go back out to Main Street.”

The property that Windmill Plaza LLC is looking to develop was already zoned commercial before many of the residents in the area purchased the land they built their homes on, Watson said.

“This property has been zoned commercial since 1982,” Watson said. “They are not coming in to try and do anything different than what is currently allowed for this zoning property.”

Council was warned by City Attorney Paul Bittmenn that if they were to vote against the development of the Windmill Plaza Subdivision as it sits now, they better have a clear and concise reason that falls within regulations and codes or there could be potential for a lawsuit.

It is hoped that while the developers have the right to build as they see fit within the allowable codes and laws, Rowley said, that they will consider how to be a good neighbor to the residents who live in the adjacent area.

There are little things they could do that would go a long way, Rowley said. Something as simple as placing garbage dumpsters on the side of the building instead of in back of the building so residents won’t be woke up early in the morning as waste management hauls off the debris, would go a long way.

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