Addition of one house on narrow farm lane triggers host of impacts
MANTI—A resident’s request to build a house on agricultural property west of Manti could trigger a domino effect of potential impacts, particularly the need to acquire property, widen, and pave what has been a dirt farm road.
The same thing is happening all over Sanpete County, Gary Mitchell, county zoning administrator, said. He pointed to a two-drawer filing cabinet in the corner of his office in the Sanpete County Courthouse. Both drawers, he said, were filled with requests for new subdivisions.
“This year for zoning, for our office, is a record year,” he said.
Last Tuesday, Oct. 19, after discussion at two meetings, the Sanpete County Commission gave the Manti City Power Department permission to build an underground power line as close to the north fence line as possible in the easement where the dirt road is located. The power line is for the new house.
The prospective homeowner, Shaun Layton of Manti, agreed to widen the dirt road to 20 feet, the current county standard, and put in a cul-de-sac, either at the end of the road, or on his property (which is near the end of the road), so that county road equipment, emergency vehicles and everyday traffic can turn around.
Under the current county ordinance, there is supposed to be a 40-foot easement, a right-of-way dedicated to the county to provide an average of 10 feet of unoccupied space on both sides of the 20-foot road. The present easement is much narrower than 40 feet, but the commission decided not to make an issue of that right now.
The road in question is 200 North in Manti. As you travel west beyond the city limits and shift to the county address system, the road becomes 150 North. The Layton property is west of 1500 West.
“It was a farm access when it was put in, and that’s what it’s always been,” Tom Seely, county road supervisor, said at the Sept. 21 commission meeting, which was the first meeting where the road was discussed.
But somewhere along the way it got classified as a Class B county road. Currently, the county has just two road classifications: Class B and Class D. Class D roads are private roads that the landowner permits the public to use. Everything else is Class B.
But whether a road is Class B or Class D, any time someone puts in a subdivision (and in Sanpete County, a single lot is considered to be a subdivision), the access road “does have to meet our specifications,” Mitchell said. “This road doesn’t meet them because it’s more of a farm lane than a public access.”
In an interview outside of the commission meetings, Mitchell said of 150 West, “It is literally wide enough to fit one car.” If a car was traveling west on the road, and a semi truck carrying livestock started up the road heading east, one of the vehicles would have to reverse until it could back up onto private property in order for the other one to pass.
The issue before the county commission was whether to let Manti City put a power line in the county-owned easement along 150 West. Commissioners concluded the easement on the south side of the road was off limits because there is already a Rocky Mountain Power high-voltage line there.
They were afraid if they allowed the power line on the north side of the road, and if the road had to be widened later, the power line might end up underneath the road. If the line had to be repaired, the road would have to be dug up.
Ultimately, commissioners decided the road could be expanded to 20 feet with the power line still fitting, barely, on the north side of the road.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Robin Benton, who owns property along the road, said she wanted to be sure the road was handled correctly “so later, when land starts to develop, the 22 acres I own to the north of that road, if I want to develop it or something, I would be able to.”
Mitchell said another owner with land fronting on the road “is not looking right now to do any development, (but) may be in the future.”
That’s the problem, Seely, the road supervisor said. “Today, there’s one house. Next week, I don’t know.
“You build your house, everything’s hooked up for the first time,” Seely added. “All of a sudden the guy next to you decides to build a house, and the one next to him. The SSD (Sanpete County Special Service District for roads) gets involved, and they want to oil the road. Now you’ve got three (utility) lines in a road that’s 20 feet in a 30-ft. easement…Everything’s stuck in the road. We end up moving it all.”
With growth breaking out throughout the county, the rules governing road expansion, and for that matter, all development will probably be changing soon.
The Sanpete County Commission, Sanpete County Planning and Zoning Commission, the two-person planning and zoning staff, and consultants from Jones & Demille Engineering of Richfield and Manti are rewriting county zoning, subdivision and development ordinances. (See accompanying story.)
The draft ordinance breaks county roads into four classifications rather than two. The new categories are major streets, collector B roads, collector D roads and minor streets.
The smallest road is a “minor street.” It has to be 24 feet wide in a 50-ft. right-of-way. Major streets and collector B roads require a 30-ft. drivable surface within a 66-ft. right of way.
For the most part, all new or expanded county roads have to be paved. “There’s going to be a type of exemption under our new ordinances,” Mitchell, the county zoning administrator, told the county commission last week. “They’ll revert back to what our current standard is for one or two (new) houses.” A road serving one or two new houses can still be dirt or gravel.
“But the moment you get to three and above, it’s going to be our new ordinance standard,” which requires a hard surface. The homeowner or subdivider must get preliminary approval from the county commission for the subdivision, even if it’s a single lot, and must hire a road engineer to design the road. The road must be finished before building permits are issued and before owners can start building their homes.
“If they do not complete (the road) within a year,” Mitchell said, “and have it signed off by the road engineer that it’s built to county standards, and I go out and check it, their subdivision is going to be null and void, and they’ll have to start the process all over again.”