Washington City approves grant for domestic violence victims, commercial zoning in Fields area

Erin's Home, Washington City, Utah, May 7, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A grant allowing for the conversion of space in the Erin’s Home into additional housing units for women escaping domestic and sexual violence was granted by the Washington City Council last week.

Members of the Washington City Council discuss a grant for Erin’s Home, Washington City, Utah, May 13, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington City via Zoom, St. George News

The majority of the council also approved a zone change request for a property in the Washington Fields area where a developer has proposed to build storage units. The pending zone change has been an issue of concern for area residents who worry the introduction of storage units will disrupt and destroy the residential character of the area.

Grant for Erin’s Home

The Washington City Council approved of a grant worth over $173,000 for the Dove Center, which manages Erin’s Home Wednesday.

The Washington City Council hears from representatives of the Dove Center as they ask for grant funding toward renovations to Erin’s Home, Washington City, Utah, Jan. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Dove Center representatives approached the council in January seeking the grant. Washington City previously granted $150,000 toward Erin’s Home in May 2013 for the completion of the home while it was still being renovated for use under the Erin Kimball Foundation.

The Dove Center, which took over management of the Erin Kimball Memorial Foundation in 2017, maintains both emergency and transitional housing for individuals and those with families escaping abusive home lives.

Erin’s Home has three transitional housing units on its second floor. With the newest renovations, it all add an additional two units along with two offices for onsite services like counseling, court advocacy and case management.

The two new units will be larger than those on the second floor as they will cater to households with children who may also need to stay a little longer in order to establish themselves, Lindsey Boyer, executive director of the Dove Center, told the council Wednesday.

Erin’s Home during an open house, Washington City, Utah, May 7, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The money granted to the Dove Center through Washington City comes through a Community Development Block Grant issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD sends an overall grant to the Five County Association of Governments, which then allots various amounts to associated entities like Washington City that apply for it.

Proposed storage units on 3650 South

Following a public hearing in which over 70 comments were read in the City Council’s April 22 meeting, the council continued its discussion surrounding pending approval, or disapproval of a sought after zone change allowing for commercial zoning in the Washington Fields area near the Southern Parkway where the property owner proposed to build storage units.

Some of the council, such as Craig Coats, had reservations related to the pending use of the property. He argued that the council should wait to approve anything before a forthcoming study commissioned by the city was completed that focused on future design recommendations for the Washington Fields area.

The council subsequently voted to approve a zone change with a concept design yet to be determined by the results of the pending study, expected to be completed in July or August.

The storage units would be built on a 3.5 acre parcel that would be set along a future extension of 3650 South. The location will likely be a busy roadway in the future, as the incoming Washington County Temple sits at the street’s western end in St. George, while its yet-to-be built eastern end will connect to the Southern Parkway. The street currently ends at Sugar Plum Way.

Members of the Washington City Council discuss a proposed zone change in the Washington Fields area allowing to the potential of storage units along a future extension of 3650 South, Washington City, Utah, May 13, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington City via Zoom, St. George News

Property owner Doug Dennett told the council Wednesday that storage units seemed like the most viable option for the property due to its being next to a flood plain, which creates certain development restrictions.

“I think the zoning works for those three acres,” Dennett said, yet added he was willing to work with city officials on what they felt was viable provided the use of the property was still a fit for the developers. “We want something (built) that could benefit us if possible.”

While some Washington Fields residents wrote in their comments that they welcomed the possibility of storage units into the area, others opposed it. Opponents cited concerns over traffic, aesthetics, crime and general disruption to the character of the area.

Coats reiterated he felt the city should wait for the design recommendations study for Washington Fields to finish before allowing any commercial building to take place there. This particularly concerned him as a future connection to the nearby Southern Parkway will make it a gateway into the city that Coats said he wants to look good.

“The concern I have its that we don’t have a plan,” Coats said. “I truly feel that 3650 South is another front door to Washington Fields from the Southern Parkway, and we need more of a plan and more time to look at that plan before we start throwing things out there, here and there.”

The general area between 3560 South and the Southern Parkway where a proposed storage facility would be built, along with an extension to 3650 South. | Map courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

The study currently underway is primarily focused on design standards and layout in the Washington Fields area, yet does not necessarily focus on zoning, Washington City Manager Roger Carter said.

The purpose of the study is to “look at the characteristics of the Fields, and try to develop a feel in architecture in design, in layout that would reflect the characteristics of the Fields in all land-use options,” Carter said.

Dennett repeated that he was willing to wait and see what the study proposed, though he added he hoped developers would not have to wait too long.

The study, which is being conducted by EPG, may not get to the council until July or August, Carter said. From there, any adoption of design standards by the city will need to go through the public process and may not see adoption into city code until later this year.

“We owe ourselves the time to benefit from a study,” Councilmember Daniel Cluff said.

Councilmember Kurt Ivie said he felt there was no legitimate reason for the council to deny the zone request or wait on the study, and proposed a motion to allow the zone change without a concept design in order to move the project along.

Ivie’s motion failed, then was taken up by Coats who modified it to include future development on the property being tied to standards dictated by the pending study.

The motion passed 4-1 with Ivie casting the lone nay vote.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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