ST. GEORGE – A plan to convert the Ridge Top Complex, the location of the former St. George Municipal Airport, into a technology and business park drew one step closer to reality last week as the St. George City Council unanimously approved a change to the city’s general plan. The change allows for commercial development in the area which city officials hope will be spurred by construction of the Dixie Applied Technology’s College’s new campus.
“We’re going through several steps,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said prior to the Dec. 17 meeting of the City Council that saw the approval of the general plan amendment. “What we’ve done in the past is to change the general plan in terms of the types of uses we will have at the Ridge Top Complex.”
Prior to the general plan change on Dec. 17, approximately 184 acres of the of the Ridge Top Complex had been zoned to accommodate various residential uses to suit the needs of a potential buyer of the overall property in 2008. The purchase of the overall parcel, valued at around $42 million at the time, Pike said, didn’t happen.
Now plans are rolling forward to create the Ridge Top Technology Park in which the new 30-acre campus of Dixie Applied Technology College is anticipated to act as an anchor.
The general plan amendment needed to be addressed sooner rather than later due to DXATC’s desire to break ground for the campus early next year, Pike said.
In order to preserve views of the area, City Manager Gary Esplin said that single-story buildings will be set back from the ridge 50 feet, while two-story buildings will be set back 100 feet.
“… So it won’t be imposing for the community when they look up at the old airport and see highrise buildings, but we can take advantage of the site and the landscaping to build what we would consider a state-of-the-art technology park,” Esplin said.
City officials want the Ridge Top Technology Park to become for high-tech and bio-tech groups and companies what the Fort Pierce Industrial Park has become for manufacturing, Pike said.
“So let’s use (the land) for something that is really important to and in proximity of downtown St. George,” Pike said. “This is the best use, we felt, for this property.”
The location of the Ridge Top Complex gives potentially incoming companies immediate access to the downtown area, plus an unfettered view of the eastern portion of the city. While plans are in the works to get the project rolling, the city will also face the eventual challenge of creating a second access point into the tech park.
“The biggest challenge as we go along is, at some point, we’ll have to build another road on the south, probably the southeast end of near Black Ridge Drive – that’s going to cost several million dollars,” Pike said.
In order to hold off the need for the road for a while, the city will be focusing on developing the northern end of the tech park first.
Overall, members of the City Council and staff said they are looking forward to seeing the Ridge Top Complex continue toward development.
“I think it’s a brilliant opportunity,” outgoing Councilman Gil Almquist said.
“We think it’s exciting, we think it’s a great plan,” Esplin said.
A number of businesses have already begun to show interest in the Ridge Top Complex, Pike said, which is another reason why the city moved on changing the general plan that night.
“We anticipate it’ll probably take 20 years to really develop the whole thing, but it’s time to start,” Pike said.
The City Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the city’s general plan. As the new tech park develops, proposed plats and plans will begin to come before the City Council for approval, starting with those related to DXATC.
DXATC currently uses the old airport terminal as a part of it’s Emergency Response Training Center.
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