Enoch City Council votes in controversial ordinance change

MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News

ENOCH — The Enoch City Council chambers were buzzing Wednesday night with talk of rezoning commercial property to create a new subdivision — a discussion that brought on heated debate between residents, developers and city representatives.

Despite arguments and concerns raised by residents, City Council members ultimately voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance changing the zoning on property located on Midvalley Road and Old Highway 91 from regional commercial to M-R-2, multiple or mixed residential.

Before the vote, about 20 neighborhood residents from the area of Heather Hue Road and Saddleback Drive filled the room to hear MJB Enoch LLC’s subdivision development proposal for the property.

“At the time we purchased (the land) we had the understanding that there was going to be an off ramp from the freeway coming close to our property,” MJB Enoch LLC partner Brent McQuarrie said.

MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News
MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News

Based on that knowledge, McQuarrie said he and his partner, Joe Schoney, petitioned the City Council at that point to rezone the land from residential to commercial anticipating future growth in the community. However, the freeway off ramp has yet to be built, and the partners have reconsidered.

“Since that time, we’ve looked into different tenants, but frankly we have no interest,” McQuarrie said. “So, we’ve had it for 10 years and mostly we’ve farmed it and so now we need to do something with the property.”

The two men recently proposed a 42-lot development with commercial space available on a corner lot where a gas station or something of that nature could be built. Each residential lot would have a single family home with price points beginning at $180,000. This development would require an M-R-2 designation.

Immediately following the presentation, the City Council moved into a public hearing about the property rezoning request. It was the second public hearing held on the issue, City Recorder Julie Watson said.

The first public hearing took place as part of the Enoch Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 9. At that meeting, the planning commission recommended the land designation remain zoned commercial.

Given the fact that Enoch City Council isn’t required to follow the planning commission’s recommendation and based on the extent of the clamor by residents in regards to the potential M-R-2 designation, Watson said Enoch City Council voted to have a second public hearing when the zoning matter was brought in for a vote on Wednesday.

“The main idea for that was just that they (City Council) wanted the public to know they were heard and that they were listening to them,” she said. “The law doesn’t require two public hearings, but you can do that if you want to and they did.”

Townsfolk gathered to hear MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News
Townsfolk gathered to hear MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News

Many of the concerns raised by community members revolved around previous flooding patterns in Enoch and the specific zoning designation that was under consideration. Residents said they feared that once zoned M-R-2, developers could change plans and build multifamily homes that would attract renters rather than homeowners.

“My big concern is, if you allow this M-R-2 in, what’s going to prevent the other developers to go and adjunct to it and say, ‘Well, they did it. Why can’t we change this?’” Enoch resident Mitch Gibilterra said.

The M-R-2 zoning ordinance allows for duplexes and townhomes to be built, he said, adding that these are not the kind of homes community members want in the area. Gibilterra pointed out that once the zoning designation is reallocated, there would be no way to stop that sort of development should MJB Enoch LLC partners change their mind about what to build.

“When I moved into the area, I moved into a rural area,” said resident Debra Ley. “This will double the density.”

Most of the homes in that part of Enoch were built on half-acre to 1-acre lots, said Enoch City Councilman David Harris, who is the current City Council representative to the Enoch Planning Commission.

“Most of the residential zones in Enoch (are) termed R-1-18,” Harris said. “Which means one residence per minimum (an) 1,800 square foot lot, which is about a half an acre.”

The M-R-2 zone states that there may be two homes per 2,200 square feet parcel of land in the form of townhomes, duplexes or single family homes, he said.

Many of the townspeople who took to the podium expressed that they were “all for” the owners developing their land, but they wanted them to conform to the same standard that was previously established in that part of town.

MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News
MJB Enoch LLC partners present their proposal for a new development to City Council, Enoch City Building, Enoch, Utah, April 7, 2016 | Photo by Carin M. Miller, St. George News

Schoney said the homes MJB Enoch LLC plans to build will keep with the city’s regulations and standards required within the M-R-2 zoning designation and city ordinance codes.

It took months of research before Schoney and his partner were prepared to take this request to City Council in the first place, he said.

“We actually did market surveys,” Schoney said. “We  looked to see what was going on as far as what the (city’s) current needs are. We looked at the demographics. We looked at the income and at the age bracket of the average buyers.”

These were just a few of the considerations made when looking at how to best develop their land, Schoney said.

Despite the fact that many residents requested City Council look for other designations to allow the project to continue without opening doors to other unwanted developments in the future, City Attorney Gary Kuhlmann, who joined the meeting via conference call, advised City Council to tread lightly.

Legally, if MJB Enoch LLC has met all of the requirements by law to become an M-R-2 designated zone, Kuhlmann said, it would be illegal to vote against it simply because the public didn’t want it done.

While the discussion may cause City Council to revisit the ordinance and tighten the language in the future, a decision would have to be made based on existing law.

In a 3-2 vote, the zoning change passed with both Harris and Councilman David Owens dissenting. Harris cited the importance of having good locations to develop commercial land in the future.

“I felt like we are better served by keeping that as a commercial zone,” he said. “That is perfectly legal to do, but we can’t vote to deny someone just based on whether or not we like their project.”

The rezoning allows developers to move forward with planning the subdivision. Plan approval will be required by City Council before development begins.

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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