Ivins City Council tackles housing growth, prepares for move to new facility

IVINS — A request by a developer to change the zoning of his land to allow for a higher density of housing brought a strong reaction from residents at the Ivins City Council meeting on Thursday night.

Resident Barb Pridie speaks out against a zoning change for a development during the Ivins City Council meeting at the old Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 21, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Ultimately, the council continued the request by developer Reed Scow and Sunshine Seven LLC to their next meeting so that Scow can come back with a compromise that is between high and low-density housing for the land that is bordered by 200 West and Old Highway 91.

During the public hearing at one of the last council meeting at the city’s old City Hall before a move into the new City Hall next door, seven residents got up to speak during the public hearing. 

Four of the speakers were outright against any change in the zoning of the land that is presently zoned as low-density residential with a one-acre minimal lot size. 

The developer was seeking a change to high-density residential with 5,000-square-foot minimal lot size allowing for 17 single-home lots and 36 townhome units.

Shadow Canyon resident Kevin Gatis echoed a comment from several residents that the height of the land would give any multi-story dwellings a view into the neighbors’ homes across 200 West. 

“It will affect our property values and way of life,” Gatis said. “Everybody is going to look in my backyard.”

Three other speakers asked that any zone change preclude any housing that is more than one story.

Council member Derek Larsen during the Ivins City Council meeting at the old Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 21, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

All of the speakers expressed opposition to multi-story townhomes being placed on the site. In addition, Mayor Chris Hart said that he received a letter with the signatures of 25 residents in the Shadow Canyon neighborhood expressing the same concerns.

Council member Derek Larsen told St. George News after the meeting that the council needs to be conscientious of the city’s general plan that calls for an uncrowded feel with open space.

“I would just like to see us preserve our vista the best we can completely,” Larsen said. While he said he wasn’t against more density on lots, he said it should have some breathing room. “We need to space this out a little bit. I think it creates a lot better quality of life.”

Both Larsen and fellow council member Sue Gordhammer sought a compromise of medium density housing with 7,500-square-foot minimum lots, which is the same as the housing lots across the street on 200 West.

Driving by the lot before the meeting, Gordhammer said she could see the concerns about the elevation of the lot as valid and said the council needs to take the concerns of neighbors into account when it comes to developments. 

“I don’t think it’s the City Council’s role to maximize the profit of landowners,” Gordhammer said during the meeting. “Meetings are to look at the community, widen our lens and look at what’s around it.”

In rebuttal to the request for medium, as opposed to high-density, Scow told the council the shape of the lot made that difficult and noted his project would bring affordable housing to the city.

Map presented at the Oct. 21, 2021 Ivins City Council meeting of the land that developer Sunshine Seven LLC is looking to convert from low- to high-density housing. Old Highway 91 is the thoroughfare on the bottom, Ivins, Utah | Map courtesy of Ivins City, St. George News | Click to enlarge.

“When you look at the realignment, we’ve tried to do that already,” Scow told the council. “The width of the property makes it next to impossible. We’ve got more than 100 calls to a number on a sign for the property. A lot of people want and need what we’re building.”

Scow also said his plan would have single family homes along 200 West, with the townhomes behind them blocking any view across 200 West.  

Council member Jenny Johnson said it has been tough trying to deal with the need for affordable housing while controlling growth. 

“The only reason we’ve allowed these kinds of homes is for affordable housing. We don’t really have any affordable housing in our community,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to find the balance. Finding that balance is hard. It makes it hard to decide yes or no.”

In an initial vote, the council unanimously rejected the developer’s request for high density. In a second vote, the council rejected the medium-density compromise with only Gordhammer and Larsen voting in the affirmative. 

Council member Dennis Mehr, who had expressed opposition to townhomes on the property, expressed the reason for the no vote was to allow the developer to develop a compromise and present it at the next meeting.

“We need to give the person who owns the opportunity to develop it the way they want to,” Mehr said.

The council voted 4-1 to approve Mehr’s motion to continue the request to the council’s next meeting, with Larsen being the only no vote.

“If we can figure it out tonight, I don’t see a reason why to prolong the suffering,” Larsen told St. George News.

Ivins approves “mother-in-law” apartments

Also on the housing front, the council unanimously approved so-called “mother-in-law apartments” or accessory dwelling units where a separate living unit is incorporated in a larger house.

Accessory dwelling units, which can be either external guesthouses or converted garages on the property, or a room in the house itself, are seen as a way to bring more affordable housing to cities. They can also be used as permanent housing but have also had a role as short-term rentals for such entities as Airbnb and Vrbo. 

Cities are being forced into making accessory dwelling ordinances in the wake of legislation passed by the state legislature last March

Under the ordinance passed by Ivins, homeowners will only be allowed to create one accessory dwelling on their property whether it is in the house or a separate building on the property, and fifth-wheel trailers will not be able to be used. 

Moving day is coming

Ivins city offices will be closed on Monday, as much of the new City Hall next door is ready for occupancy. 

The Heritage Sculpture is place at the under construction new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Much of the Monday closure will be for materials and equipment from the old City Hall at 55 N. Main Street to be moved over to the new building at 85 N. Main.

However, the new picturesque council chambers still needs additional work according to Ivins Mayor Hart, meaning the old city hall, which will ultimately be converted into a new police headquarters for Ivins and Santa Clara police, will likely see at least one council meeting. 

“This is very exciting for all of us. It’s quite an achievement,” Hart said during the Thursday meeting, adding that the new building is so nice, even the mechanical room seems inviting. “That mechanical room is fantastic. It’s a work of art. I’d just as soon move my desk there.”

An official ribbon-cutting for the new City Hall will take place on Nov. 5 at noon. 

In other business …

  • The council unanimously rejected $123,000 in funding toward repairs to the aging metal water tank at Tuacahn. Instead, the city said it is working with Tuacahn toward a concrete replacement that will be mostly underground and replace what Hart called “a wart on Ivins’ nose.”
  • In a unanimous vote, the council approved a new impact fee plan that sets a maximum 47 cents per square foot for commercial construction. City officials say the new plan is to, among other things, necessitate public safety improvements including allowing for regular staffing at the 90 W. Center Street and a new staffed fire station in the Kayenta area. 
  • In a 3-0 vote with Mehr abstaining and council member Cheyne McDonald having left after falling ill, the council approved the development plan for Black Desert Resort at Entrada. The plan includes the stipulation that the resort’s hotel roof not be used by the public, a source of contention in the council’s recent approval of a height exemption for the resort.  
  • The council unanimously approved a preliminary plan for the Unity Village subdivision at 400 South and 200 West. Located immediately south of UNITY Park, the development will have 30 lots for single-family homes.

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

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