Copper Rock annexation moves forward after Boundary Commission Hearing

View of the future front 9 holes of the Copper Rock Golf Course, which have already been graded, Hurricane, Utah, March 29, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

HURRICANE – The Copper Rock development, a future golf course and subdivision located at the very southern end of Hurricane and next to the Cliff Dwellers and Sky Ranch subdivisions, is one step closer to annexation by the City of Hurricane.

The Washington County Boundary Commission met in a public hearing March 30 to address the concerns of Rebecca Nelson, who owns a home in Cliff Dwellers, and to certify that the development’s annexation petition satisfies every requirement for a proper annexation under the Utah Code.

While Nelson’s protest was the reason for the Boundary Commission meeting – the first one the county has held in eight years – Copper Rock Attorney Matthew Hess, with Armstrong Law Offices in Salt Lake City, motioned to dismiss Nelson’s annexation protest.

“While Mrs. Nelson is an owner of real property in Washington County, the Utah Code does not grant standing to owners of residential property to file annexation protests,” Hess said after the meeting. “That was the basis of my Motion To Dismiss. Because the annexation petition is proper, Mrs. Nelson’s protest became moot.”

Nelson’s representative, James Humphries, did voice her complaints, but the Boundary Commission cleared the way for the annexation petition to be heard by the Hurricane City Council in its regular April 20 meeting.

Hess acknowledged that the concerns Mrs. Nelson and her neighbors have expressed about the Copper Rock development are legitimate public policy concerns.  

“The Boundary Commission was simply not the proper forum to have those concerns heard,” Hess said. “Those matters will properly be heard by the Hurricane City Council.”

Hess said he expects many neighbors of the development will turn out for the hearing before the Hurricane City Council.

“They have every right to be heard, and that is the proper forum to voice their concerns,” he said.

Both Gordon Zitting, Copper Rock Manager, and Hess noted that Copper Rock is not indifferent to the concerns of its neighbors. Zitting said he started contacting the Cliff Dwellers and Sky Ranch HOAs to start discussions with them six months ago.

The view of the Sky Ranch subdivision from the future location of the Copper Rock Golf Course clubhouse, Hurricane, Utah, March 29, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

“The landowner principals have had numerous meetings and phone calls with concerned neighbors,” Hess said.

Zitting and Hess agree that the chief concern is light pollution.

“They’re adamant about that,” Zitting said about the neighbors’ desire for a dark night sky, ”and I’m on their side.”  

“In deference to that concern, back in February the landowner proposed a dark sky policy for the Copper Rock project, “Hess said. “Hurricane City declined, in deference to public safety issues.”

As an alternative, Hess said Copper Rock would include a light pollution diminution or mitigation covenants for protection of surrounding property. Copper Rock’s owners would hope the city would permit it to depart from existing street lighting standards, Hess said, and allow the project to reduce the number and spacing of required street lights, and use low lumen fixtures and light deflection and similar light mitigation devices.

“While a dark sky or light-mitigation ordinance cannot be drafted, debated, and enacted prior to the Copper Rock annexation, we are committed to contributing to that effort in the coming months,” Hess concluded. “There is a legitimate public policy debate that needs to take place over that issue.”

Hess said that Ivins City is an excellent example.

Ivins has “an outdoor lighting ordinance that strikes a nice balance between public safety and preservation of natural scenic beauty,” he explained. “If a light-mitigation ordinance is later adopted by Hurricane City, we would welcome it as an overlay ordinance that applies to Copper Rock.”

Another point of contention has been the density of the homes in the development – especially next to Hole 16’s fairway, which abuts Cliff Dwellers and Sky Ranch.

James Humphries, who represented Nelson at the Boundary Commission meeting, said residents in those unincorporated subdivisions moved there for a specific lifestyle, with lots up to 5 acres, not much impact on the ground, and not a huge footprint.

“Protecting that matters,” Humphries said. “It would behoove the city council to make sure they’re taking into account the concerns of those who are left in the unincorporated peninsula that will be created as a result of this annexation.”

Greater density and smaller lot size has a negative impact on Sky Ranch and Cliff Dwellers residents, Humphries said.

The cart path and view of the Pine Valley Mountains from the future fourth hole of the Copper Rock Golf Course, Hurricane, Utah, March 29, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Last week, however, Zitting said he delivered a new map to the city that includes a reduction in density in that area to one lot per acre.

“In deference to neighbor’s concerns about high-density housing on Copper Rock’s ridgeline, the landowner recently instructed its design engineer to reduce the density of housing planned for that ridgeline corridor,” Hess noted.

Another major concern for the development’s neighbors is about traffic impacts on 1100 West and nearby streets.

For instance, Humphries said that 1100 West doesn’t have proper shoulders, no guardrails, no curbing, and no sidewalks and he is concerned that it will see significant traffic as the development proceeds and receive the majority of traffic along that corridor until the western access road is completed.

“This commission should require developers to work with Hurricane on a plan for the street in a reasonable time frame,” Humphries said.

In response to that concern, Hess explained that three additional points of street access to the project will be constructed that will not connect to 1100 West.

The Hurricane City Master Plan calls for 3000 South to become 60 feet wide and a part of SR-7, the Southern Parkway, Zitting said.

Hess explained that when the Southern Parkway is completed, which is likely in the next five years, it will naturally siphon traffic off 1100 West. Lastly, Hess said that for each home that Copper Rock constructs it will pay Hurricane City a traffic impact fee of $2,294.  

“Over the life of the Copper Rock development that will add up to over $5 million of fees,” Hess said. “The purpose of those fees is to create a fund for the city to widen and improve city streets.”

Humphries also brought up a few other concerns at the meeting.

He said that blowing dust and debris from the construction site would either cost the developer a lot to mitigate or could cause potential damage to the homes and aircraft at Sky Ranch where the dust could blow. It is imperative that grass on the golf course get in sooner rather than later, Humphries said.

Another of Humphries’ concerns is zoning. He said that north of the property, the General Plan calls for a minimum of 8-10 units per acre.

“The disconnect is significant,” he said as current zoning surrounding most of the development is agricultural, similar to the county’s residential agriculture that exists presently.

“The county and the city have very different views of this particular project,” Humphries noted, adding the County Planning Commission and County Commission denied the developer’s request to build the golf course.

Future waterfalls on hole number 12 of the Copper Rock Golf Course, Hurricane, Utah, March 29, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

As water is regularly a concern in new development in southern Utah, Copper Rock is doing all it can to meet its water needs, Zitting said.

For instance, it is digging a 24-inch wide well, 2,400 feet deep, and it paid extra for a culinary-capable water system, he said. Currently the development has 530 acre feet of water rights for the golf course and is buying canal company shares when it can get them.

If needed, Zitting said Copper Rock would purchase culinary shares from the city. The development even contracted for $75,000 with the city for wider pipe to reach the development.

Even though it won’t be building any homes for more than a year, Copper Rock is already on the radar of potential home buyers.

“People call all the time wanting to build homes,” Zitting said, “but what we’re doing right now is building a golf course.”

Zitting sees the main market for the future homes will be for baby boomers coming from northern Utah, southern Idaho and Wyoming.

The first phase of the development is the golf course, the second is the golf clubhouse. After those two phases are done, then the developers will give the green light to start building homes.

They were able to do eight months of grading on the golf course before the county shut it down because, according to the county, its new plans exceeded their original scope. Zitting estimates that they’re already two-thirds done on the golf course. The majority is graded, most of the cart paths are already in and the sprinkling system is already installed for the front nine holes.

As he looked over the golf course while giving a tour last week, Zitting said, “I want to be planting right now,” voicing his displeasure over the county’s stop work order. “We’re putting patient money into this.”

In the best case scenario, Zitting said the golf course could open about this time next year.

St. George News reporter Julie Applegate contributed to this report.

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