ST. GEORGE — In their last meeting of the year, the Washington County Commission approved a smoking ban on county-owned property while also passing an attainable housing plan and next year’s budget.
During the Dec. 17 meeting, the commission passed an ordinance banning smoking on county-owned property. This extends a ban that started at Legacy Park fairgrounds over two years ago.
“Washington County recognizes the detrimental effects of smoking on the general health and community and … desires to limit the exposure to secondhand smoke,” Commissioner Gil Almquist said as he read a part of the resolution to adopt the ordinance.
In addition to lessening exposure to secondhand smoke, the ordinance is also meant to curb tobacco-related litter and pollution.
The ban primarily applies to county-owned property, such as the County Administrative Building and Boulevard Office Building, public libraries and Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park.
“We’re basically declaring county property smoke-free,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said.
The smoking ban takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Attainable housing plan
Similar to what has been done in St. George, Santa Clara and other communities statewide, Washington County adopted an attainable housing plan as a part of a moderate income housing plan mandated by the state as means to address the housing crisis.
While the county adopted an affordable housing plan in 2017, the Utah Legislature passed a bill in March requiring counties and municipalities with a population of over 5,000 to update their moderate income housing plans.
“Attainable housing is not just for those who are currently homeless, this is housing that’s needed for everyone up to the middle class,” said Scott Messel, Washington County’s community development director.
Messel is also a part of the county’s Housing Action Coalition, which is working with county and city planners, home builders, title and mortgage companies and other invested parties to find ways to help create more attainable housing across the county.
The term “attainable housing” has begun to be used in place of “affordable housing” due to the negative connotation certain parts of the community associate with the term, Messel said.
Iverson said he was glad municipalities were involved in the process, as the county has limited infrastructure and services to adequately address housing issues in the unincorporated parts the county.
“We’re somewhat limited in what was can do,” he said.
Prior to the state-mandated requirements, the county had amended zoning ordinances allowing auxiliary out-buildings and “tiny homes” to be used as dwelling units.
Moving forward, Messel told the commissioners that the county’s planning commission wants to see an inventory of places in the county where attainable housing could be built. This includes areas near transit stops and commercial developments.
“Our goal is to make it possible for all of our kids to be able to have a place to live in Washington County,” Messel said.
2020 county budget
The County Commission also adopted the proposed 2020 budget.
The $105 million budget is 2-3% higher than the 2019 budget, with increases in revenue being attributed to an increase in sales and property tax base brought on by the county’s continuing growth.
There is also an anticipated increase in funding for the county’s roads due to the adoption of the 0.25% sales tax in June for transportation and transit funding.
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