Ephraim rosy about roses, but zoning, impact fees are thorny

Conception of rose garden proposal by Terrel Davis. The garden could be put at an Ephraim Cemetery entrance, or on the south side as the cemetery expands.

EPHRAIM—The Ephraim City Council started out talking about roses last week, but in the ensuing four hours, the council wrestled with growth, growth and more growth.
After getting the approval of the Cemetery Committee, resident Terrel Davis proposed that a rose garden be added to the Ephraim Cemetery at one of the entrances or on the south side where new plots are being added.
“I believe we have lots of rose enthusiasts who would be willing to form a Rose Garden Club, and these people could maintain the rose garden,” Davis told the council. The garden could also be used for places for cremation ashes. The council gave Davis approval to move ahead.
The council then faced proposals for general plan changes and two requests for zoning changes, one southwest of the city, adjacent to the new Ephraim Crossing subdivision, and the other in Ephraim’s business park, which now has the Eye Center of Ephraim, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Verizon.
The first proposal by Paul Thompson was to rezone 10 acres to the west of the new Ephraim Crossing subdivision from industrial to residential-agricultural (R/A). The property is at 550 W. 800 South.
Thompson said that currently he pays about $60 a year in property taxes to the city because his property is in the greenbelt, but if the council approved the change so he could develop homes, the city could get about $4,000 a year or more in taxes.
Thompson noted that the area would be close to the Manti-Ephraim Airport, but said he had received approval from the Airport Committee. He also agreed to any easements the airport wished to request.
Asked if airplanes flying overhead might bother future home residents, Thompson replied, “The airport averages less than two flights per day…My neighbor’s leaf blower makes far more noise than the occasional airplane.”
The council approved two motions to make the change—first to modify the general plan; second to approve the zoning request.
The second request concerned 10 acres of property at about 150 E. 700 North. The surrounding neighborhood contains single-family homes. The owners proposed to change the zoning from low-density residential to commercial.
The individuals requesting the change said the cost of single-family homes have increased so much families can’t afford them and are forced to rent. If approved, the developers plan to put in condos or duplexes.
The council granted the request, amended the city general plan, then approved the zoning request.
The city’s third request concerned the area known as the Ephraim Business Park at about 450 N. 50 East. The request was to amend the restrictions on the business park to allow mixed commercial and residential use.
Mayor John Scott wanted to be sure any development in the park matched the quality of existing development, such as the Eye Center of Ephraim building.
After reviewing the plans carefully, the council passed the motion.
Finally, the city approved a request for Ephraim Crossing to decrease the number of lots in its first subdivision from 22 lots to 8 lots. The result would be a substantial increase in lot size.
Impact fees were discussed at length at the meeting. About a year ago, the city commissioned Sunrise Engineering to evaluate Ephraim’s impact fees, currently set at $6,384. Impact fees are designed to “have growth fund growth.”
“Fees must increase for the city to meet future needs and accommodate infrastructure demands that new construction requires, such as wasterwater services, culinary water, roads, parks and recreation and emergency services,” said Shaun Kjar, the city manager.
“As our costs increase over the years because of new growth, we can either raise taxes and fees, which penalizes existing homeowners who have paid taxes for years, or we can have impact fees,” Kjar said.
The study by Sunrise said fees should be increased from $6,584 to as much as $23,882 per single family home or equivalent lot size. The council debated each category extensively, eventually deciding to propose several increases. A public hearing is required before increases in fees are adopted.
The council proposed to raise the wastewater fee from $1,100 to $1,490; the culinary water fee from $3,812 to $6,056 (the city’s largest growth challenge); the fee for roads from $900 to $2,393; and the parks and recreation fee from $450 to $4,500 (another major impact of growth). The impact fee for emergency services will remain unchanged at $315.
If all the proposed fees were adopted, the total cost for a new home would go from $6,584 to $14,754. The city will set the public hearing using those figures. Council members anticipate strong interest in the hearing.
Kjar also informed the council that the city was using about $150,000 of its remaining CARES money to purchase emergency backup generators for four city buildings: the city hall, fire station, and the south and north pump houses, which pump water into the water system.
The pump house generators run on diesel and cost about $27,000 each. The generators for the city hall and fire station run on natural gas and cost $56,000 and $40,000, respectively.
“Because of the importance of having emergency services functional during a power outage, we want to secure those services with backup generators,” said Kjar.
The city also approved an ordinance adding the duties and powers of a “fire code official” to the city.
Police Chief Aaron Broomhead said, “In the past, if we saw a problem relating to the fire code, we would have to say, ‘Boy, we sure wish someone could fix that,’ but with a designated official we can now actually fix the problems.”
The final issue of the council prior to having a closed session to discuss real estate contracts, also concerned city growth. Brett Olson, who owns property at 1300 S. 300 East, just outside the city limits, asked to hook up culinary water and services to the lot he wants to build a home on. His lot is across the street from the line he wants to connect to. The council granted his request.
The city discussed at length the quandary of annexation requests from people who want city services but live outside the city limits. The annexation process is long, and involves neighbors agreeing to the annexation and coordination with the county. The city also must decide whether the city’s infrastructure can handle the additional demand.
Councilmember Margie Anderson commented that another similar request many years ago cost the city a lot of money. “We don’t want to make those mistakes again,” she said.
The council decided to schedule a work meeting Monday (after press time) to talk extensively about annexation policies and other growth-related requests. The discussion relates directly to the earlier discussion on impact fees.