ST. GEORGE – After a lively public hearing attended by more than 50 people, the Washington County Planning Commission unanimously denied a zone change request for a 127-acre parcel adjacent to Dammeron Valley which would have allowed a new subdivision to proceed.
Residents at the hearing strongly expressed a number of concerns about the new development, including the lack of an adequate sewage system, the loss of open space and the rural quality of life. One resident even promised commissioners a “revolution” if the zone change was approved.
The public hearing Tuesday filled the Washington County Commission chamber to overflowing and was held to consider a proposed zone change from open space to residential with a 40,000-square-foot minimum lot size as a preliminary step towards development.
The zone change was requested for property located west of state Route 18, west of the Dammeron Valley Old Farm Subdivision and north of the Dammeron Valley Homestead Subdivision. The applicant for the zone change was The Dammeron Corporation, and the land is currently owned by Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA.
A big concern of residents was adequate wastewater treatment. County planner Scott Messel said that the last available septic tank permits were used in the Juniper Ridge phase of Dammeron Valley.
“So for this property that the zone change is requested on, for that to be built, some other means would have to be created or built to make it possible for the utilities to be there, the wastewater utilities,” Messel said.
A representative of Dammeron Corporation, Andrew Pace, said the proposed subdivision includes plans for a treatment plant nearby, which brought groans from members of the audience.
“As far as the wastewater, this will have to be on a waste treatment system, a sewage system,” Pace said, which would be located in the same area as a current septic leach field for Pinyon Hills.
“Currently, it’s basically a huge septic system that isn’t being treated, the water is just going into the ground. So now we’re going to have to build a facility that does treat it before it goes into the ground,” Pace said.
Dammeron Valley resident David Arenaz said a study shows that the septic leach field where the new treatment facility would be located has been shown to already be discharging nitrates into the ground at a level which far exceed allowable levels.
The nitrates will migrate along faultlines and end up in the Snow Canyon well field, where Santa Clara and other communities draw their water, Arenaz said.
“It may not happen today, it may happen 20 years from now, but we really have to take that into consideration.”
Because of the leakage, Dammeron Corporation is under an agreement with the Washington County Water Conservancy District that mandates the problem be corrected, Arenaz said.
Arenaz asked the commission to insist on a long-term, comprehensive plan to address the issue before any zone change is granted.
Open space is another issue residents are concerned about. Dammeron Valley resident William Chapman lives adjacent to the proposed development and said he moved to the area two years ago primarily because of the green, open space. The proposed development would remove the last open space, which Chapman said he uses three or four times a day.
“The 123-acre parcel, that I was deceived at the time into thinking would be exempt from future development, is the last existing green space in Dammeron Valley, and if this proposal is adopted it will be lost forever,” Chapman said.
Losing the open space means that dozens, or even hundreds, of area walkers, runners, hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers and horseback riders would be left with no place to go except “paved streets with no sidewalks.”
“You can be sure of one thing,” Chapman told the planning commission. “If this zoning proposal is adopted, there will be an uprising, a revolution, on a scale you’ve never seen in this county. You can count on it, you can expect it.”
Attendees erupted in cheers, and a planning commission member told the crowd that order must be maintained.
Residents brought up other concerns as well. One resident told the commission that an archeological dig had taken place on the site of the proposed subdivision and that a plaque had been promised but not delivered.
Other residents were concerned about having adequate water, a proper storm drainage, the potential for property tax increases and road capacity.
Members of the planning commission pointed out at the start of the hearing that the request for a zone changed was in line with what has been approved for adjacent properties and is consistent with the general plan for Dammeron Valley.
However, after hearing from residents, the commission voted unanimously to not recommend the zone change request, saying it was inappropriate to consider without a preliminary plat which would offer more details of the planned development.
” … for many reasons … there’s very many unanswered questions that we probably need to get a grip on before we could really think about making a zone change,” a member of the planning commission said while seconding the motion to deny the zoning request.
Members of the public applauded heartily after the decision was made.
In other business, the planning commission heard requests by Aspen Development LLC/Glen Bingham for two parcels on the west side of Washington County on old Highway 91.
A conditional use permit was granted for a 160-acre solar farm on property that straddles old Highway 91 near the intersection with Mohave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Backway.
The solar farm is planned to have up to 7,000 solar panels – depending on topographical challenges on the property – and generate up to 30 megawatts of power. A separate conditional use permit will be required for transmission lines, which will go south into Arizona and be built along the highway.
The commission also reviewed and approved a conceptual site plan for a proposed youth facility on 98 acres located at the intersection of old Highway 91 and Eardley Road, also known as Lytle Ranch Road.