Santa Clara Planning Commission recommends development of approximately 1,700 acres in South Hills

City officials are working on plans for the development of more than 2,000 acres in the South Hills area of Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 26, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

SANTA CLARA — Plans to develop a large area of public land inched forward with the Santa Clara Planning Commission’s recommendation for approval of an update to the city’s existing general plan to the South Hills area following a public hearing Tuesday.

The amendment proposes development of an approximately 1,700-acre area south of the Santa Clara River and west of the Santa Clara-St. George boundary.


A map provided by the Santa Clara Planning Commission displays a proposed update to the city’s general plan. Shaded clusters denote zones planned for residential, commercial and recreational developments, Santa Clara, Utah, Aug. 8, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge

The majority of the area within the scope of the general plan update, approximately 1,440 acres, is currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management, while the remaining approximately 240 acres are privately owned.

Plans include space for residential zoning, as well as zones reserved for commercial development and business parks. Plans also include a 50-acre outdoor sports park in the western portion of the area near the city water tank with access to existing trails.

Residential development is clustered into low and medium density pods throughout the proposed general plan amendment area, which are divided up in order to help preserve open areas for washes, trail corridors and other recreational uses.

Environmental and traffic impacts

The BLM had already planned to dispose of the land proposed for development, which falls within Santa Clara city limits. The land will still be subject to environmental assessment in an area consisting of steep slopes and expansive soils before land transfer can take place. The assessment has yet to take place.

This January 2016 file photo shows some of the area in South Hills planned for development by Santa Clara city officials, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 26, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

An Area of Critical Environmental Concern encompassing an area of 100 acres will also need to be taken into consideration and worked around.

With between approximately 1,300 to 1,900 new homes projected as a result of the proposed development, traffic is expected to be pushed to capacity as more trips are made through downtown Santa Clara; of specific concern, Santa Clara Drive.

Construction of additional bridges and some connecting roads, such as the completion of Plantation Drive connecting into Dixie Drive in the Tonaquint area, would alleviate some of the increased traffic, in addition to a western corridor planned to connect Interstate 15 at Exit 2 to Santa Clara expected to run west of the South Hills.

The amendment also proposes that Chapel Street be extended southward with a new bridge over the Santa Clara river.

Public hearing

Before the onset of the hearing at the packed Santa Clara Town Hall, the planning commission noted that the city’s general plan serves as a guide to growth and development and does not tackle the particulars of zoning changes, such as use of dwellings as rentals or the types of commercial uses allowed. The proposed general plan update was also described more as a refinement to previous plans for South Hills.

David Leavitt, a Santa Clara resident, who expressed his favor for the plan update, said that city officials should be mindful of the BLM’s role in controlling the land, which will remain out of city control until it is either bought by the city or private developers.

Santa Clara Planning Commission Members attend a public hearing to discuss an update to the city’s general plan concerning development of the South Hills area at Santa Clara Town Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Aug. 8, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

The question of water access was also brought up by Leavitt, who noted that a new homeowner near the area paid about $7,500 to the county just for water availability.

Acknowledging several citizens’ concerns about increasing traffic as a result of development of the South Hills, John Grant, chairman of the city’s heritage commission, said development is likely an inevitability that they will have to work through with future zoning ordinances.

“I think it is, unfortunately,” Grant said, “naïve and unreasonable to assume that Santa Clara is always going to be charming little Santa Clara. … I appreciate its historic value, but again, we cannot prevent property owners from developing their land.”

Beyond providing new living spaces for future residents, some of the developers’ preliminary plans could bring employment opportunities to the community, Rex Oliver, chairman of the Santa Clara Economic Development Commission, said.

“We feel like whatever we do as a developer on the land will be better because of it,” Patrick Manning a representative of developers with interest in the area, said, adding that he recommends approval on behalf of developers of the general plan update.

Several city residents said they were concerned about the proposed extension of Chapel Street and how it would affect existing property owners in the area. Others also expressed their displeasure with the possibility of rentals or vacation homes being built in the area.

Such concerns, however, did not fall within the scope of the hearing, and planning commission member Jason Lindsey recommended those concerns be relayed in future meetings when zoning ordinances in the area come up for public review.

Following the public hearing, the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the general plan update to the Santa Clara City Council.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Kilroywashere August 9, 2017 at 9:57 am

    John Grant is right. Santa Clara has shifted from its small town structure. The plan is immense and the impact cannot be underestimated. The key is implementation, and the real barriers to success are social, not financial or legal. Truth of the matter is that the outcome, although positive for financial stakeholders, could end up making Santa Clara quality of life go down for the community as a whole. Implementation is where things can and will go wrong. Change is not easy, but at times necessary. I hope the city gets it right and pulls this off without destroying the fabric of the community. Not a sure thing, and getting it mostly right, will require solid execution and a damn good well researched plan. Good luck, just hope we the people don’t get sold out in the end. Keep the faith.

  • comments August 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Let’s get to building. Turn this place into vegas as quick as we can. sprawl sprawl spraw, it’s what’s good for us, right?

  • DRT August 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    “an area consisting of steep slopes and expansive soils”
    Doesn’t anybody see anything wrong with this? After the expense and heartache caused by shifting land in Santa Clara, it seems that the powers that be, should take this very slowly.
    Perhaps there needs to be a codified state law holding developers, planners, city and county building department employees, city council members and county board members financially responsible for mitigating future catastrophes brought on by the incompetence and greed that allowed building to occur in geographically unsuited areas.
    (I know that was a very long sentence, but it expresses what I mean.)
    If everybody charged with approving these questionable decisions knew that their decisions could come back to them years down the road, it might make them more cautious. And less likely to be bought off by crooked developers.

  • Caveat_Emptor August 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    DRT raises a great point for prospective homeowners.
    Washington County, and Iron County, have geologic features which have been generally ignored until only recently. Subdivisions were built out, upon questionable soils, and the approvals came without concern for underlying soils. We have seen soil subsidence in Cedar City as a result of overdrawing groundwater. The impacted homeowners are generally unable to make a claim against the municipality for their incompetence in approving the subdivision. They will claim that they did not know……..

    Only recently, within the past ten years, have we seen widespread requirements for geo-technical assessment of soil conditions by licensed engineers, prior to building a house, so that the foundation design is proven adequate for the soil conditions.
    The bottom line is: you are on your own……..Good luck getting anyone in the approval process to accept legal/financial responsibility if something goes wrong. The Errors and Omissions Insurance that your professional engineer carries would probably find a loophole, even if they approved a foundation design.

    • Thecadean August 9, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      Have you ever seen an EIR that was paid for by a developer fail? I have been with city planning in So Cal for 30 years.. have yet to see that happen.

    • Scorch August 13, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Geo engineering has been going on for much longer than 10 years. Most of the commentors on this board have no idea how the development process works. I hear complaints about the cities and the “greedy” developer when it really all comes down to the engineers. Engineers run the show, nothing can happen without an engineer giving his blessing. Municipalities, builders, developers all go on the say so if an engineer. The dirt work is also inspected and passed off by an engineer. Santa Clara City does a great job of trying to protect and provide for the citizens. Any problems will not be because of the City.

  • Kilroywashere August 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I hope youre listening Santa Clara city council. Get it right, duo diligence is key. Let’s broach the comments above and MAKE SURE there are no victims at the end of this process. That is only fair, and PAST HISTORY indicates the biggest oversights in regards to SC development projects have involved water. Underground water issues are REAL in Santa Clara. And no one wants the Levy to break either. So let’s get it right. Shortcuts on behalf of financial stakeholders is unacceptable and would be wrong. This city has to do this right . I am not against development as it is natural in regards to population growth. However it is important that things are done right from the get go. The place it will go wrong if anything is during implementation. Let’s hope that contractors and developers are held accountable and monitored during the construction and development period. Good luck.

  • hiker75 August 10, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I cannot imagine traffic on Santa Clara Drive after the build out. Will they need to widen it? How will residents losing more frontage feel? Will the loss of sycamores lining the road impact the charm of Santa Clara? Hope the city has a major solution for the traffic…

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