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Manti reconsidering zoning changes after input from businesses

 

By Teri Forbes and Robert Stevens

Staff writers

9-26-2019

 

MANTI—In the face of opposition from Main Street business owners at a public hearing about zoning changes, the Manti City Council said it would consider going back to the drawing board on the proposal.

The meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18 was an opportunity for the public to be heard in regards to the proposal, which has been in the works for some time.

Manti City Mayor Korry Soper opened up with some background on the proposal, which is actually an extension of the new general plan the city had crafted with the help of BYU’s urban planning department. He began by detailing some of the background on the residential zoning changes.

“A survey of housing inventory and residential zone requirements found that our city was deficient in housing options for moderate and lower income families,” Soper said. “That situation has only worsened as we have witnessed the real estate market spike dramatically over the past 3 years since the plan was completed. Part of our proposal addresses that need through the additional of two residential zones.  These zones would allow multifamily housing options currently unavailable in our city such as townhomes, condominiums retirement cottages and smaller yards.”

Next he addressed the commercial zoning changes in the proposal. These changes were the primary draw for attendees at the hearing, most of which were business owners.

“Our current commercial zoning is two words: No restrictions,” Soper said.  We feel this puts both our downtown area and the property owners at risk.  Our proposal includes design standards and setbacks that will build on the strengths of our historic commercial district.  Study after study has shown that commercial areas which are protected by reasonable zoning restrictions are more successful, more inviting and increase the property value.  Downtown areas where character is protected are more likely to attract people and shoppers.  We want our local merchants to be successful.”

The changes, which are intended to help Manti prepare for future growth while preserving the historic character of the town’s Main Street, include redrawing of the city zoning map to accommodate newly annexed areas and adding the new zoning designations—some of which are more restrictive than the zoning currently in place.

The proposed restrictions on signage placement, building height, building finish materials and type of business allowed there became a focal point of discussion at the hearing.

Several owners said the restrictions would lower their property values.

“I feel I am being stabbed in the back,” said local business owner Todd Miller, who also said that he felt a matter like this should involve a committee of local business owners, a sentiment that was echoed by other attendees.

John Jensen, who owns Jensen’s Department Store, said he didn’t understand why no member of the council had been in to his store talk with him about a proposal that would directly impact him.

“You are letting the business people down,” Jensen told the council.

Linda Nielsen, owner of Manti Mercantile, came with sheets of paper full of reasons why she thought the proposal was a bad plan.

Tamra Nielson raised a concern about the residential zoning changes, saying she was worried it would end up with the same problems as her former home, Lehi. She said the development caused traffic congestion issues there, as well as safety concerns.

Although opposition to the residential zoning changes was not nearly as vocal or as many in number as those worried about the changes concerning commercial zoning, before the night was up everyone had their say about one or the other and it was time for the council to address the attendees.

Jeff Killian, chair of the planning commission of the city, explained that he was a part of the process. Killian stated that he supported the changes as he feels they represented a vision towards the future without losing the cultural and uniqueness of Manti for the Manti City businesses and residents.

Councilman Gary Chidester commented that he had been expecting an emotional response from the public about the proposal. He mentioned that if residents wanted to have more direct involvement with the direction of the city, people should consider running for election, since the town has 3,500 people but only four are running.

Chidester added that the proposal was never meant to be a burden to local business owners, and that perhaps more input was needed.

Councilman Jason Maylett said he was not in support of the plan because of the feedback he had heard that night, but the town would need to deal with growth eventually.

Councilman Jason Vernon said he also was expecting a “firestorm,” but he appreciates the public process and agrees a committee might be a good idea.

Councilwoman Mary Wintch said it was good to get some input on the matter.

The attendees were thanked for coming and being heard, and encouraged to attend all meetings in the future.

“We realize that some adjustments could make this a better proposal,” Soper said.  “Again, our desire is to position our community to grow, to attract visitors and to have a successful and thriving downtown.”