ST. GEORGE — The possibility of a car wash going in at the corner of Merrill and Sandia roads in Washington City brought opposition from area residents in person and online during a meeting of the Washington City Council last week.
They came to oppose the council’s potential approval of a general plan amendment at the street corner that would pave the way for commercial zoning that could allow a Tagg-N-Go car wash at that location.
The Sandia Road and Merrill Road intersection is the only corner of the block that lies within Washington City. The remaining three corners are inside St. George and either have either already been commercially developed or are slated to be. Current development includes a Lin’s Market on Mall Drive and several smaller businesses built around it.
Washington City’s corner primarily consists of residential neighborhoods and the nearby Riverside Elementary School.
Residents who spoke against the proposed plan amendment said they were worried for the safety of the children who attend the elementary school since a car wash nearby would create increased traffic. That specific street corner has already seen major increases in traffic since the opening of the Mall Drive bridge in 2014 and the subsequent addition of the Lin’s Market and other commercial development.
“We already know how busy (that intersection) is and how busy it is going to be,” resident Nancy Johnson told the council. She was among a handful of residents who appeared before the council in person for a public hearing held during the council’s Jan. 14 meeting. Other residents submitted their comments online. General in-person attendance to public hearings has been discouraged by the City Council and city staff since last March due to continuing COVID-19 worries.
Another concern brought up by residents dealt with Merrill Road.
The road west of the intersection only has two lanes, though there are future plans to widen it as development continues in the area. However, that development would take place in St. George, as the part of the road that would need to be widened sits within that city’s boundary.
Some residents said they want to see the road widened before any commercial development would be allowed at the street corner.
Other objections raised by residents included worries over light and noise pollution and a negative impact to their property values.
“A Tagg-N-Go should not be considered,” Johnson said. “Would you purchase a home next to a car with that kind of business on you backyard?”
The requested general plan amendment would impact 2.42 acres on the property in question and potentially make way for the building of the car wash at that location. Currently, the property is zoned for civic use. This caters to schools, libraries, churches fire stations or other public facilities.
The Washington County School District was said to have shown interest in the property at one point but later abandoned the idea of using it. If commercial development is to go there, residents asked the City Council to keep it to lower-impact businesses like a dentist office or medical center.
“Don’t open the door for an intense commercial zone. Keep the general plan the way it is,” resident Victoria Hales said.
Greg Whitehead, the property owner, said that safety for the children and nearby school were at the top of his concerns.
“I want to do what is best for the neighborhood, for the school and for the community,” he said. “That is my No. 1 concern.”
While he would like to see medical offices and similar businesses built on his property, the current climate makes it difficult to build that specific type of development, Whitehead said, adding he was willing to work with the city on the best feasible use of the property.
If developed, he said, the Tagg-N-Go car wash wouldn’t be the only occupant of the street corner, as some additional commercial development is anticipated for that property.
After hearing from Whitehead and the residents, the council chose to hold the vote on the general plan amendment until its Feb. 17 meeting.
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