As explosive growth continues, city appoints director to oversee new development department

An artist's rendition of the planned Desert Color development, one of the many large-scale building projects in St. George that the newly created Community Development Department will help oversee | Image courtesy of Desert Color partners, St. George News

ST. GEORGE As growth continues at a breakneck pace, the city of St. George has created a new department and appointed a new director to oversee the many aspects of residential and commercial development.

Community Development Director John Willis at St. George City Hall, Sept. 6, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“As the city looks to increase its efficiency and better utilize the resources that we have, we’ve decided to create a new department within the city, the Community Development Department,” City Manager Adam Lenhard said during Thursday’s City Council meeting at St. George City Hall.

The city has chosen John Willis to head the department. Willis has worked for the city for a total of six years and most recently served as planning and zoning manager.

“We went through the process of looking at our internal candidates here at the city,” Lenhard said, “and we determined that John Willis was the best fit for that position.”

As the new department’s director, Willis will oversee a wide range of city functions relating to development, including planning and zoning, building inspection, building permits, business licensing, special events and code enforcement.

“This will be an incredibly busy department,” Lenhard said.

In his new position, Willis joins the city’s executive team managing the broad scope of intricacies involved in community development.

“I’m excited for the position,” Willis said. “I’ve lived in St. George since I was 14 years old, and it was always my dream when I went to college to be able to come back and work for St. George.

“I love this community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to further that and work in this capacity.”

Willis, who was joined by his wife and six children at the meeting, was formally recognized and appointed to the position in a unanimous vote by the City Council.

“He is an expert in his field,” Mayor Jon Pike said. “We are thrilled to have him in this new position.”

Everyone on the council gave Willis a ringing endorsement and vote of confidence as the right person to head the department.

“He’s always very helpful with the public and you can really tell he likes what he does, and he knows his stuff,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said.

The city says the position is crucial as the number of building projects in the city only goes up.

We’re the fastest-growing city in the nation,” Willis said, “so having that purview of the building department and planning is a big deal and making sure that we’re running as efficiently as we can.”

Indeed, that fact was on full display at Thursday’s City Council meeting, which included an agenda brimming with large planned development projects seeking approval to go forward with construction.

Following are some of the highlights of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects featured in the meeting in various stages of development:

  • An ordinance was approved to rezone about 30 acres of agricultural land to planned development residential on the south side of Mall Drive on either side of 2780 East, making way for a 522-unit housing development that includes apartments, town houses and twin homes.
  • Approximately six acres of land were rezoned for a 48-unit town home community off Dixie Drive at 415 South.
  • The final plat was approved for the Shoppes at Red Cliffs, a 6-lot commercial subdivision on Red Cliffs Drive.
  • A permit was approved for the construction of a 48-foot-tall cellphone tower with service from AT&T near Airport Road above St. George Regional Airport.
  • Several plats were approved for planned residential developments in and around the Little Valley area.
  • Plans were approved for the first phase of the Tech Ridge commercial subdivision on the old airport hill.

Read more: City chooses developer for ‘Tech Ridge’ in bid to attract top tech talent to St. George

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Not_So_Much September 7, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Good luck.

  • No Name September 7, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Unbridled growth hoping there will be enough water to sustain it…???
    Way too late to build the kind of expressways, etc. needed to handle the horrendous traffic coming with this growth…
    There goes our clean air!
    Forgive me for being cynical. I moved here in 2002 for the wonderful quality of life… It hurts to see it being so terribly compromised due to excessive greed…

    • mshaw September 7, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      I lived here before 2002 and was better till you moved in!

      • Striker4 September 7, 2018 at 5:52 pm

        I liked it alot better before you got here

  • Brian September 7, 2018 at 11:50 am

    “Fastest growing city in the nation” isn’t a good thing! How about we slow the growth just a bit until we get more and better jobs in the area and we aren’t mortgaging our children’s future on water we don’t have.

    The exact same things we’re doing as a nation financially (spending money we don’t have because it benefits us, as the expense of our grandchildren and their grandchildren) we’re doing in southern Utah but with water.

  • tazzman September 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    So is he also in charge of the traffic flows? They are horrendous now. Imagine when we add tens of thousands more residents. Can you say gridlock?

    • Steve September 7, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      And you don’t think residents of Washington county said the same thing in 1970 when the county’s population was 13,669??? Yet somehow we are doing just fine! People need to take a chill pill and stop acting like growth is gonna kill us all. And if you don’t like it here, no one’s forcing you to stay!

      • mesaman September 7, 2018 at 8:24 pm

        Frankly I don’t care what they were doing in 1970. I am concerned as is tazzman with traffic congestion and lack of foresight in creating traffic options through and around the city in 2018. The South Corridor is not the answer, at least north of the new space station and international air terminal, every time I drive it I remark on the beauty it reveals and the absence of traffic to enjoy it. Until Utah Highway #7 connects directly to Utah Highway #9 I don’t see much traffic except when Sand Hollow attracts on weekends and holidays.

  • iceplant September 7, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    As a transplanted Californian, I can say with a surety…
    Southwestern Utah IS NOT prepared for the projected growth to come.
    Not. Even. Close.

    • Redbud September 9, 2018 at 2:04 am

      You should go back to California.

    • Mike P September 10, 2018 at 11:49 am

      One of the reasons we moved here was because all the people here were so friendly and welcoming. Then AFTER we get here, we get people like old Redbud and Striker4 telling us to leave. What an ass.

  • No Name September 7, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    MSHAW, this comment forum is meant for mature respondents. Your earlier comment tells me that you are immature.

  • utahdiablo September 7, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    No, St George is not doing “Just Fine”….so now we need to add yet another on the payroll to oversee? What the Hell ever happened to “Vision Dixie”? …it got sold out to the Utah greed machine…slow the damn growth down before it’s too late….stupid developers do not give a dman about anything but more money in their pockets, and to hell with our quality of life

  • Mike P September 10, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Also, it’s obvious who’s running this town when they “create” a position and then “appoint” one of their own to the position. Geeze.

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