ST. GEORGE — While a proposal for a car wash on the corner of Sandia and Merrill Roads in Washington City was withdrawn earlier this week, the City Council still approved the location for future – albeit light – commercial use.
In a 4-1 vote Wednesday, the council voted to amend the city’s general plan and convert the 2.4 acre parcel of land from a “civic” designation to “neighborhood commercial.” A reason for this was to narrow the scope of what future zoning could be applied for at that location while also streamlining the process in the future for the City Council and applicants.
Tagg-N-Go withdraws from location
The vote came following continuing discussion on the property that began two weeks earlier when residents were able to offer public comment. The majority of those who commented opposed the idea of a car wash, which local company Tagg-N-Go proposed to put at the corner of Sandia Road and Merrill Road.
The part of the intersection the car wash was slated for is the only part of the block within Washington City and is surrounded on three sides by the city of St. George. On the western side of the intersection, there is already heavy commercial development with more on the way. This has come in the wake of opening the Mall Drive bridge in 2014, which has brought an increase in traffic and commerce to the area.
At the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, residents raised concerns about the safety of children attending nearby River Side Elementary School, as well as general concerns over increased light and noise pollution and negative impacts to neighboring residential property values. The narrow width of Merrill Road and a need to widen it in the future was also mentioned.
Following its policy of waiting two weeks to vote on general plan amendments and zone change requests following public hearings, the City Council was set to vote Wednesday on a requested general plan change that would help pave the way for the car wash. However, that did not happen.
The owners of Tagg-N-Go Express Car Wash issued a statement over Facebook on Monday announcing they were withdrawing from that location:
We, as owners, are first and foremost residents of Washington City. We have both grown up here in Southern Utah and want to raise our families here. That’s why we are striving to grow our business here, give back here, and offer a great service here.
Our business model is all about the convenience for our customers. We know how important the Washington Fields area is to many people as the growth continues. After much consideration we are going to withdraw from the proposed location at Sandia and Merrill road as we continue to look for a new location.
At the last city council meeting it was stated by a resident that ‘this is not personal it’s business.’ We want to reiterate on our end the same thing, ‘this was business and not personal.’ We in no way shape or form ever intended to cause any harm. We appreciate the city council and planning commission for countless hours spent on this project. We also want to give thanks to all of our customers and community for their continued support.
Vote for neighborhood commercial designation
With this new development, Washington City’s community development director Drew Ellerman brought a proposal to the City Council to vote to change the property at the street corner to something more palatable.
The parcel is currently designated for civic use, Ellerman said, which typically allows for schools, libraries, churches, fire stations or other public facilities. It also allows the property owner to come in and request any type of zoning on the books for that location.
“The civic is way too broad,” Ellerman told the council. “With civic, they (the property owner) can come and ask you for anything. I’m trying to keep us out of that.”
Narrowing the scope of the proposed use of the land will help avoid a string of unnecessary meetings and help streamline the process, Ellerman said.
The proposed change to a neighborhood commercial designation would allow for small-scale commercial development that may not impact the surrounding area as much. According to the city’s general plan, this allows for administrative offices and small businesses that cater to neighborhood needs.
“I’m open to neighborhood commercial,” property owner Greg Whitehead said at the meeting. “I and my partners are completely open.”
Whitehead had previously stated there were low-impact businesses already eyeing the Merrill Road-Sandia Road property if developed.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the general plan amendment.
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