After contentious discussion, Santa Clara City Council approves site for new Ace Hardware store

SANTA CLARA — Ace will be a place in Santa Clara after the City Council’s Wednesday meeting, where council members approved three motions that cleared the way for the Hurst family to build another Ace Hardware location in Southern Utah. 

An artist’s representation of Buck’s Ace Hardware, approved for the corner of Pioneer Parkway and Rachel Drive in Santa Clara, Utah. | Photo courtesy of MRW Design Associates, St. George News

The council unanimously approved the building location for Buck’s Ace Hardware at the southwest corner of Rachel Drive and Pioneer Parkway diagonally across the road from the Harmons Grocery complex. 

The council also approved by a 5-0 vote a parking reduction of the site to 74 spaces. 

The one moment where the council was not unified was in approving a 10-foot landscape strip along both street frontages of the store. Council member Jarett Waite was the one dissenter in the 4-1 vote.

But the decision wasn’t a quick one, coming after nearly two hours of discussion that included criticism from community members who took issue with the store’s aesthetic look as well as its placement on the lot 10 feet from residential properties behind it. 

There was also discussion related to a petition being circulated on social media stating that Buck Hurst, the owner of the proposed store, was receiving preferential treatment from the council after his proposal had been rejected twice by the city’s planning commission.

The Hurst family runs two Ace location in St. George, as well as a location in Hurricane. 

Buck Hurst, speaking to the council Wednesday, said he has always had his eyes on Santa Clara. 

“It’s been a desire of the family to build a store in Santa Clara for as long as I can remember,” Hurst said. “The citizens of Santa Clara will love this store.” 

During the meeting, council member Denny Drake took issue with what he said were personal attacks. 

“It’s interesting how we demonize people that make judgments. That is not the Santa Clara way,” Drake said. “This City Council would not take you individually and abuse your rights.”

Council member Leina Mathis defended Drake and the rest of the council.

“I do not know Mr. Hurst. I’ve never spoken to him,” Mathis said. “What I can tell you is I do know the members of this council, and they are good people who look at things objectively, and there’s no reason to attack their integrity. “ 

Sarah Weston, the resident who circulated the petition, said her goal wasn’t to keep the store from opening in Santa Clara but to seek concessions to make it better fit with the aesthetics of the community and to adhere to code.

“We really do want Ace Hardware to go in,” Weston, whose husband chairs the city’s planning commission, told the council. “We just expect them to do better.”

The property at the corner of Pioneer Parkway and Rachel Drive in Santa Clara, Utah, seen on Aug. 26, 2020, that was approved by the Santa Clara City Council as the home of a new Hurst Family Ace Hardware store. | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

Weston said her petition had 130 signatures. However, Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg said during the meeting that they had rejected the petition because it did not include the addresses of those who had signed it.

The discussion over the new store took up nearly two hours of the three-hour council meeting.

At one point early on, Rosenberg addressed the chambers and said they were going to have a “very civil discussion.”

“There will be no verbal attacks,” he said. “If you get personal with anything, you will be asked to leave.”

Rosenberg reiterated this when a person in the council chambers was attempting to talk over Drake.

“This isn’t an argument,” he said. “We listened, you listen.”

‘The City Council is the one that makes all the decisions’

When the issues related to the new proposed location were brought before the planning commission on July 9, the commission tabled the discussion in order to offer the store a chance to look at other site plan options. The store moved forward with no changes to their proposal, which the commission then did not recommend for approval.

One of the main contentions is that commission members had previously rejected applicants for the sites because of the commission’s preference for a building that is at the front of the lot along Pioneer Parkway with parking in the rear. Bob Nicholson, Santa Clara city planner, told the council that was one of the main reasons behind previously rejecting a Dollar Tree store for the site. 

The Buck’s Ace building would be placed at the rear of the lot, with a parking area in the front between it and the parkway.  

The commission ultimately ended up recommending a reduction in the parking spaces to 74 spaces and a 10-foot-wide landscape fronting the property but recommended denial of the proposed location of the building. 

A diagram showing the position of the new Buck’s Ace Hardware in Santa Clara, Utah, compared to Pioneer Parkway and Rachel Drive as well as nearby residences. | Photo courtesy of MRW Design Associates, St. George News

While the City Council agreed with the recommendations on parking and the size of the landscape strip in front of the property, it did not concur with the planning commission’s recommendation that the building should not be at the rear of the property. And Mathis said Wednesday that they don’t have to.

“The planning commission is a recommending body,” Mathis said. “The city council is the one that makes all the decisions.”

Hurst defended sticking to his guns as far as keeping the building with the parking lot facing Pioneer Parkway, saying as a hardware store it would be necessary. 

“The design allows our customers to access the store in an easy way. Hardware stores usually require the purchase of bulky items that require easy access,” said Hurst, who added the position of the building in the back was better for the residents whose existing homes along Sagebrush Drive will be right behind the new store.

“The placement of the store at the back of the property is better for neighbors, as light and activity are shielded from the building that will serve as a sound barrier.”

However, one of those neighbors, Lori Perez, told the council she didn’t think putting the building at the back of the lot was very neighborly. She said along with now having a wall and the stucco wall of the building changing her backyard view, she was concerned about combustible materials on the property and the fact there will be 10 feet between the back wall of the store and the residential property line. 

“How can you get a fire truck back there when there’s just 10 feet between the wall and our homes? How do we fight the fire? My kids windows are less than 40 feet from the store. I don’t feel like its safe,” Perez said. She then addressed Hurst directly. “We’re practically begging … to just consider moving it. We love Ace Hardware. We shop there even though we have to pass Home Depot on the way. We just want the enjoyment of our back yards.”

Drake, citing the sprinkler system that would be required for the store, dismissed the concern about combustibles. 

“The same thing is true of any store we have. There is some kind of hazardous material in it. That isn’t a major concern,” Drake said. “I really don’t want to sound this cold, but the fact is that was zoned for commercial before there was residential there.”

During the meeting Santa Clara Fire Chief Randy Hancey responded to the concern about the 10-foot clearance behind the building, especially when it comes to firefighting. 

“We follow international fire code. We need to have access on three sides of the building,” Hancey said. “You can count the front and two sides.”

Setting a precedent?

Weston echoed the concerns about the positioning of the building and addressed the aesthetics, saying she was concerned about the look of both the parking lot frontage and a building with few windows.

“The standard for Ace Hardware will become the standard along the corridor. Ace Hardware has not made many significant changes in response to the planning commission,” she said. “It’s both appropriate and it is needful for you as a City Council to ask for some compromises by Ace … Some.”

The Harmons Grocery Store in Santa Clara, Utah, Feb. 24, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Drake responded by saying the Harmons Grocery complex across the way is also designed with a parking lot in front, and no new precedent is being set. He then directed his comments directly at Weston. 

“Not one of those buildings met all of your criteria, Sarah. The idea that this is something out of the ordinary … Each residence was put in after the commercial zone was created,” Drake said. “I feel very concerned that there’s a feeling created by individuals that we would do something against the law. I’ve been accused by one email, Sarah. That emotion is not true.”

While four of the five council members were unanimous in supporting the approval of the store site, Waite expressed some reservations. 

“I’m about 50-50 . I have to look at what is good for the business, the residents, and maybe we could find a compromise,” Waite said. 

He said his main concerns were about the front landscaping being 10 feet, as well as the space between the back of the store and homes, adding that he personally measured other buildings in the area and found 22 feet of space behind the Family Dollar store in Ivins City and 22 feet of frontage landscaping in front of the Harmons gas station near the Ace site. 

Ultimately, Waite voted for the site approval and the parking spaces, giving the only lone “nay” vote for the frontage landscaping.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the name of the new store in the headline.

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

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