Ivins Council strikes compromise for woman seeking to build affordable housing

IVINS — The Ivins City Council said Thursday that a resident looking to convert her one-home lot into affordable housing townhomes could get her additional housing, but not the townhomes.

Homeowner Sally Jensen passes an informational pamphlet to council member Dennis Mehr during the Ivins City Council meeting at the new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 6, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The decision came during the council’s first meeting of the year at the new City Hall and the first for new council members Lance Anderson and Mike Scott, who were sworn in at the start of the meeting. 

The council followed a recommendation by the city’s Planning Commission that the request to convert the medium density residential lot at 145 W. 100 South into a high-density lot be denied but replaced with a change that will allow for two to three traditional homes to be added to the lot.

The council unanimously approved the recommendation after the homeowner made her case.

Ivins City Manager Dale Coulam and council member Mike Scott during the Ivins City Council meeting at the new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 6, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Scott, who was elected in November and took one of two seats from voted-out council members Cheyne McDonald and Derek Larsen, said the decision was a good compromise between the property owner and her neighbors that had expressed some opposition to townhomes on the lot.

“When you look at a zoning change to me, you want to look at all of the surrounding properties and you want it to be compatible. That’s the biggest issue … you’ve really got to protect the people that are there,” Scott said. “You also have to protect the property owner that’s trying to develop their property. So there’s a balance. It really should stay single family, but let’s try to help the property owner maximize that single-family use.”

Image from Google maps shows the property, shaded in blue, that was up for discussion during a meeting of the Ivins City Council on Jan. 6, 2021 | Photo via Google Maps, St. George News

Sally Jensen, who owns the house on the mostly empty property, told the council that affordable housing came to mind when she was deciding what to do with the empty land on her property that is right next to Troy’s Custom Body & Paint. 

“The goal is to bring more affordable housing to the area,” Jensen said. “To me the best use of that land is to put in affordable housing.”

Along with two opposition e-mails Mayor Chris Hart said he received, five other residents spoke in opposition to the Jensen’s request to be granted high-density zoning, though three expressed openness to Jensen being cleared to build additional, smaller single-family homes on the property.

Brianna Dummar, whose home is right next door to the property, expressed concern for her four children with increased traffic in the area – especially after her husband passed in September.

“I work for the Highway Patrol in Hurricane and I’m not home when my kids are riding their scooters home from school,” Dummar said.

But Beth Gale, while opposing high density, said she wasn’t against any new housing in the area. “I know Sally is looking out for people. That’s what’s hard for me,” Gale said. “I don’t mind if she builds a couple of homes back there. I’m just opposed to the townhomes.”

Update on new police headquarters

The council received an update on the renovation of the old City Hall next door into a new headquarters for the Santa Clara-Ivins City Police Department.

Artists conception of the former Ivins City Hall after it is converted into a SCI Public Safety Building headquarters for the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department | Photo courtesy of Ivins City, St. George News

Some further exterior changes will take place for what will be renamed the SCI Public Safety Building that Hart said are necessary for repairing stairwells that leak into the basement of the building, replacement of the 25-year-old roof and interior fixes to bring it up to law enforcement regulations. There are also cosmetic changes that will take place to remove the Roman columns in favor of an exterior that looks more like the entry of the new City Hall. 

The price tag now stands at $154,838, which has already been budgeted. 

New role for past council member

The council unanimously voted to set in motion Thursday an unprecedented move to allow McDonald to still represent the city on the  Washington County Solid Waste District Board despite being voted off the council in November. 

File photo of then-Ivins City Council member Cheyne McDonald during the council’s meeting at Ivins City Hall on July 15, 2021. Ivins, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

McDonald has been on the board for 12 years and is chairman of the group that oversees waste management for all of Washington County. 

Usually, a council member from each local city sits on the board. 

Ivins will still have to post a notice of vacancy and take other applications for the position before holding a formal hearing on the board member position in February. 

Council members expressed appreciation for the job McDonald has done on the board and said they saw no problem with having him continue that role even while no longer on the council. That included new member Scott, who borrowed a waste-management pun.

Because of the work he’s done, as long as he can and is willing to do it, that’s just too solid of an opportunity to waste,” Scott said to the laughter of those in chamber.

In another move, council member Dennis Mehr was tapped by the council to a second term as Mayor Pro-Tem of Ivins. 

New way to see the council

In another first, the meeting was the first Ivins City Council meeting to be broadcast live on YouTube

“This will allow more of our citizens, especially with COVID raging again, to watch our meetings,” city manager Dale Coulam said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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