Hurricane City Council approves controversial subdivision with conditions

Hurricane City Council, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 7, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

HURRICANE – With a varied agenda, the Hurricane City Council engaged in discussion Thursday over a preliminary plat for a controversial subdivision and a possible future night sky ordinance, among other business.

South Fields Estates

More than a year ago, the developers of a potential South Fields Estates received preliminary plat approval from the City Council, with the caveat that potential buyers be made aware of the area’s collapsible soil and sign a waiver absolving the city of liability.

Originally planned as a larger subdivision with smaller lots, the development is now slated to be a three-phase, 40-lot subdivision with one-acre lots located between 1500 South and 2060 South at 920 West. With the expiration of the previous approval, Allen Hall from the developer Rosenberg Associates was at Thursday’s meeting to gain re-approval. He did not gain it without opposition.

Wayne Rogers, of AGEC-Applied Geotechnical, was in attendance with Hall to help allay concerns, especially with the soil. He said a pre-wet survey was done on the parcel. The first time it was done, the water seeped to 30 feet below the surface, which resulted in 12-18 inches of settlement. The next time it was done, it settled less than an inch.

Other areas in the county with similar soil, such as Stucki Farms, have been wetted and then settled with positive results, Rogers said, leading him to believe that the South Fields Subdivision would be just fine.

Rogers said his home in Santa Clara is on clay soil and that he had to sign a waiver before building it and has not had any issues. He also said that the developers would put up a field fence between the development and the adjacent agricultural land.

Early on in the discussion, Councilwoman Pam Humphries said she would vote “no” on development approval because of the soil.

I don’t think it’s been watered enough to settle enough,” she said.

Humphries continued to explain how she didn’t believe it is a good spot to build houses, that it is “good ol’ farm land.”

Planning Commission Chairman Ryan Cashin said the Planning Commission had similar concerns but approved it on the condition that potential homeowners are given pre-notice and given the responsibility to mitigate any problems on their own. Cashin said the commission was also concerned about the fencing needed to protect the nearby farmland.

Hall said the developer agreed to put up a six-foot stock fence.

Colette Wadsworth and her late husband, John, have used the land next to the proposed development for agriculture for 46 years, and she voiced several of her concerns to the council, including that her goats could get out of the field next to the development and cause problems for homeowners.

She is also concerned about the potential dust that would be created during construction and complaints from homeowners about the noise from weaning calves in the fall. Wadsworth had several other concerns written on a list she held in her hand as she spoke.

I just have to protect myself,” Wadsworth said, explaining that she’s experienced similar problems in the past.

She said she’d like a chain-link fence but would really prefer a block wall. However, she said she knows she’s not going to get that.

“We can find some sort of fence to keep the goats out,” Rogers said in response to Wadsworth’s concern.

Wadsworth also spoke about her concerns over the soil, saying her home — which is nearby — has been wetted for a period of over 50 years but that the nearby development hasn’t. She also spoke of people she knows who lived in the nearby Rainbow Canyon subdivision, which experienced significant settling. She said some of the people she knows experienced bankruptcy because of the losses incurred through damage to their homes because of the settling.

Wadsworth’s son Dallan, who works for the city water department, said one of his main concerns is runoff from irrigation water on his family’s property making its way into the development.

“We’ll do things on our side to mitigate it,” Rogers said of Dallan Wadsworth’s water concerns, suggesting a ditch or a berm between the properties.

In the end, Rogers said that he would work with the developer to limit both sides’ liability.

The City Council approved the plat for the development with the condition that the developer meet with city staff and Colette Wadsworth to communicate about and resolve concerns.

Preserving the Night Sky

Alex Chamberlain, a professor of photography at Dixie State University and a member of the Toquerville Planning Commission, came to the council meeting to encourage it to consider a light pollution ordinance to preserve the night sky over the city.

To demonstrate the impact of light pollution on the night sky, Chamberlain showed a picture of a spire in East Zion he took earlier this month depicting a dark sky with stars visible throughout most of picture but a red-hued light on the horizon. Chamberlain pointed out that this wasn’t the sunset but rather light pollution from the St. George area, which is more than 50 miles away.

Chamberlain said the National Park Service did an audit of night skies in areas under its jurisdiction, and Utah’s NPS-administered areas did not include a Class I night sky, which is considered the best. It only has one Class II: Natural Bridges National Monument. Not even Bryce Canyon, which is famous for its night sky and astronomy programs, made the grade as a pristine night sky.

Chamberlain explained that blue LED lights, which are the cheapest to produce, cause light pollution, are hard on the eyes and can disrupt animals’ and humans’ circadian rhythm, which can lead to less sleep. As an example, he said that some of the new headlights in cars use these cheaper blue LED lights, which can be irritating to the eyes when looked into directly.

In the midst of the discussion, the council asked Hurricane City Power Director Dave Imlay about the impact of the city’s street lights. Imlay explained that the city’s street lights are lower lights, recently reduced from 250 watts to 30 watts, which are easier on the eyes.

We wanted them to feel like a full moon,” Imlay said of the street lights.

Chamberlain said that 8 out of 10 children in the United States will never see a night sky in which they can see the Milky Way. He said Washington County has some of the best night skies in the country, and they need to be preserved.

When Chamberlain asked the council directly if they would consider passing a night sky ordinance, council members seemed amenable.

Planning Director Toni Foran said she would support such an ordinance, and Mayor John Bramall said such an ordinance would not be oppressive to businesses because 80 percent of the outside lights on the market today that businesses would utilize are “down lighting” that would comply with such an ordinance.

Other business

The council awarded the 400 South reconstruction project between 300 West and 100 East to Interstate Rock in the amount of $1,357,868.30. The project will include the complete reconstruction of the roadway surface, new curb and gutter, sidewalk, landscaping, striped bike lanes, parking and sewer and water improvements. It is slated to begin in June and wrap up in September of this year.

The council approved an agreement with JRS Investments for acquisition of property for a water tank, water line and service road along 1500 South between approximately 1100 West and 2000 West.

The council also approved a use amendment in Peregrine Point PDO phases 1B, 2A and 2B to allow short-term vacation rentals in accordance with Hurricane’s vacation rental ordinances. It also approved a final plat for the Villas at Sand Hollow Phase 3.

The council approved a resolution amending the consolidated fees schedule to include Police Department fees and a resolution amending Resolution 2006-10, which abolishes deposit fees for building permits.

L-R: City Manager Clark Fawcett and Mayor John Bramall present 30-year service award to Larry Hutchings, Hurricane, Utah, May 19, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News
L-R: City Manager Clark Fawcett and Mayor John Bramall present 30-year service award to Larry Hutchings, Hurricane, Utah, May 19, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

The council honored Larry Hutchings for his 30 years of service in the city’s Streets Department. It also honored power lineman Scott Hughes for 10 years of service and police officer Chris Smith for five years of service.

During staff reports, Humphries said residents should not be putting styrofoam with their recyclables and should not have any contaminants in their garbage cans. If residents would like an extra BluCan for recycling, they should contact Dixie Waste and will have to pay an extra fee, she said.

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

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