Santa Clara City Council tackles residential density for assisted living facilities

Santa Clara City Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Nov. 13, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Santa Clara City Council adopted an amendment at their Wednesday meeting that will establish the number of assisted living units in a facility that can be considered as one residential unit under the city code in a residential zone.

Stock image | Photo by KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The amendment passed after a long discussion and a 3-2 vote. Council members Dennis Drake and Wendell Gubler were the two dissenting votes, citing confusion about the timing for passing the amendment and the process for future action.

Under the city’s current ordinance, assisted living facilities are included as residential units, but assisted living facilities don’t operate their units the same way apartment or townhome complexes do. This amendment will provide clarity specifically for assisted living facilities, council member Ben Shakespeare told St. George News.

“Under our ordinance now, it doesn’t work,” Shakespeare said during the meeting. “This is still well below St. George and other (cities) when you talk about density, but at least it’s a clear direction.”

The city currently allows between eight and 12 individual dwelling units per acre. Most assisted living facility units are designed to house one or two people, sometimes with a small kitchen or cooking supplies within the unit, and other times with a central dining facility within the assisted living complex. The council was tasked with taking these factors into consideration when deciding how assisted living facilities should be considered in terms of density.

The amendment became effective with the passing vote, but it will only remain in place for up to six months. The council has until then to decide permanently how the city wants to consider the density of senior living facilities, and they can introduce a permanent amendment as soon as they like.

During discussion, Drake said that he didn’t understand the point of passing a temporary amendment instead of searching for a permanent solution.

“To me, the adjustment ought to be, ‘Let’s look at the ordinance, determine if that’s what we want to do,’ which we do want to have assisted living in Santa Clara, I think everybody agrees there,” Drake said. “I’m okay with the ordinance, my problem is suspending the process to come to City Council. I think we’re abandoning public hearings.”

With the passage of the amendment, the city planning commission will hold a public hearing in early March and then bring the public comments before City Council. The city is starting over from scratch when it comes to the density of assisted living facilities, city planner Bob Nicholson said during the meeting. He added that the process for receiving density applications will remain the same as under the current ordinance.

In other news, the council set a public hearing to receive community input on amending city subdivision fees for city inspections and annexations. The hearing will be held at 5 p.m. on March 10 at Town Hall.

Council also approved a city Municipal Wastewater Planning Program annual report, outlining the past year’s financial, operations, performance and compliance information. The full report can be found in the meeting’s packet.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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