Fountain Green wrestles with its own rules on plans for new bowery in park
FOUNTAIN GREEN—Fountain Green officials will continue to address what some view as a problem with the city’s zoning ordinance even though the at-times contentious issue that led to the ordinance review seems to be over, at least for now.
The city, Mayor Ron Ivory and others say, must find a way to get out from under its own requirement for 25-foot property setbacks (the space between a road and the building on a given parcel of property). That requirement was one of the factors that stymied what some hoped would be an additional bowery at the city park that could be used for the annual Lamb Day’s Sheep Show.
“To my knowledge, it’s a dead issue,” the mayor said this week, before clarifying, “I don’t think it’s going to happen this year in time for the Sheep Show.”
He’s probably right since Lamb Days is four weeks away.
But even if the bowery issue is put off a year, the city must deal with the zoning issue before then. There are at least two other places where setback requirement could hamper things for the city, including preliminary plans for a new fire station.
It was sheep in the heat that first exposed the flaw in the law, when Sheep Show Committee members requested the new bowery so that Sheep Show participants (the sheep, not the kids who show them) wouldn’t suffer in the blazing July sun.
That was last fall.
Sheep Show Committee members wanted the bowery in the northwest corner of the park but wanted to have a 10-foot setback like its sister bowery to the east. Because city regulations now require 25-foot setbacks, the committee took the matter to the Board of Adjustments for a variance.
Initially, the variance was granted, but Ivory vacated the approval a few weeks later after Fountain Green Planning Commissioner Chairman Bryan Allred pointed out that the wrong procedure had been followed in acquiring the permission for the bowery.
The next several months saw a good deal of wrangling among Sheep Show Committee members, the planning commission, the board of adjustments, the city council and private citizens with heartfelt concerns one way or the other.
The debate involved arguments regarding aesthetics, the amount of greenspace kept or lost, how much a third bowery was really and how much it would be used—arguments that will no doubt be rehashed should the Sheep Show Committee revive the idea.
But those arguments and the debate itself evolved into another question: Could the city exempt itself from its own zoning regulations?
The mayor and city council said “yes” when they proposed an ordinance that would have done exactly that.
Others were strongly in opposition, Allred among them. As a planning commissioner, he said, the perceived double standard would put him in a difficult position with others who came before the commission seeking building permits.
“I can’t defend 25 feet [of setback] if you’ve already gone eight-and-a-half,” he said.
Sometime later, Planning Commission Secretary Heather Papenfuss told the Messenger, “What the city wants to do is exempt themselves from getting a city permit. We feel like they should have to follow the same rules as everyone else does.”
Papenfuss said the city had already built a couple of structures without getting the needed permits, which would have required a permit application and an appearance before the Planning and Zoning Commission.
But does it even make sense for the city council to be subject to a subordinate committee or commission?
According to Fountain Green’s current zoning rules, yes.
Just as residential, commercial and industrial uses are assigned to their designated zones, all city-owned property is in what is known as a “public facilities” zone, a classification created specifically for publicly-owned property.
The Public Facilities section of the land-use ordinance states: “Prior to the construction of any building or structure in the PF zone, a project and plot plan must first be submitted and approved by the Fountain Green City Planning Commission and, after that, by the city council.” The Public Facilities zone also requires 25-foot setbacks.
That’s a problem in multiple locations. The city owns property around 100 West and 100 North, where it built its secondary culinary water system (one of the structures without a permit referred to by Papenfuss). While the structure does maintain the 25-foot setback, the city is hamstrung if it ever wants to do anything else on the property.
“We haven’t got enough room down there,” Mayor Ivory said. “If we went with city ordinances, we wouldn’t have room to do anything.”
And plans for a new fire station might never take a second step. The city is smack dab in the middle of the first step at this very moment (School district discusses event parking safety issues, looks at DIBEL tests).
The city is looking at property it owns east of City Hall for that project, but, said the mayor, “To accommodate what we’re trying to do, we couldn’t do it; the setback would crowd us so much we wouldn’t have room for it.”
Bowery or no, the ordinance—or a way around it—must be addressed, and probably well before October, since that’s the deadline for submitting a funding request to the Community Impact Board.
“We’re going to have to because of that fire station,” Ivory said.
According to Megan Ryan of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, which advises municipal governments on a myriad of issues, the city can indeed exempt itself from the requirements of the land-use ordinance. It would have to pass an additional ordinance, or rather, an amendment to the existing zoning law, to do that.