Manti City close to passing
new Main Street ordinance
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—The Manti City Council appears to be close to passing an ordinance designed to create a historic commercial zone on Main Street.
The council held a final meeting with business owners last Thursday, Jan. 16 to go over a revised draft incorporating suggestions submitted by owners over the past three months.
The tone was more positive than previous meetings about the proposed ordinance. “I appreciate you listening to us,” John Jensen, owner of Jensen’s Department Store, said. “It’s been approached the right way. I want to say thanks.”
“I think you’ve worked really hard to appease us,” Todd Miller, owner of Miller Auto Body, said. “…I think it’s really good to know what the future holds.”
Mayor Korry Soper told the group, “This council, everything we do, is to try to help you as business owners.” Examples, he said, are the sports park and new industrial area south of the city. “It may not be good enough or fast enough for some of you,” he said, “but we’re trying.”
A few years ago the city hired Urban Planners International, a consulting business operated by Dr. Michael Clay, professor of urban planning at BYU, to help write a new general plan.
In 2018, after the plan was adopted, the city brought Clay back to write some new ordinances implementing some of the goals described in the plan. The drafts were completed and sent to the Manti City Planning and Zoning Commission in early 2019.
One set of ordinances dealt with the commercial area along Main Street, while another set addressed residential development, particularly in recently annexed land. The residential changes have not yet come before the city council for action.
Public meetings were held in September and October of 2019 to review a draft of the commercial ordinance approved the by planning commission. During those meetings, the city council invited business owners to suggest changes to the draft.
In the revised draft reviewed last week, many of the provisions in the earlier planning commission draft remained intact.
General goals: The revised draft retains language saying the goal of the ordinance is to “preserve the look and feel of the downtown historic area” and defines the historic commercial area for most purposes as Main Street between 200 North and 300 South.
Design requirements: In the future, the draft ordinance says, the planning commission or city council “may require specific design guidelines,” which “may include but are not limited to architectural controls, color, materials, building mass, innovative design of buildings and any other features deemed appropriate.”
Use of store fronts for housing: The revised draft retains a ban on use of the ground floor of store fronts as residences and says homes in the historic commercial district may not be used for business unless the owner obtains a home-occupation permit.
Facades: The revised draft also retains a requirement that 50 percent of the facade on new buildings in the historic commercial zone be brick or stone. The original draft said new building facades must be “similar” to existing ones, while in the revised draft, the word “similar” is changed to “complementary.”
But the revised draft presented last week also had several significant modifications from the original planning commission draft.
Building heights: The original draft only permitted two-story buildings in the commercial area between 200 North and 300 South. The revised draft permits three-story structures.
Public buildings: Both drafts state that public buildings are exempt from the requirements, but the revised draft has added language stating that the design of public buildings must be approved by the planning commission and city council.
Parking: The original draft said all parking in the historic commercial zone must be behind or underneath buildings. The parking requirements were taken out of the revised draft.
Setbacks: Both drafts call for new building fronts to have a zero setback; in other words, to abut the sidewalk. But in the revised draft, the area in which the zero setback applied was pulled back from between 200 North and 300 South to between 100 North and 100 South.
Gas stations: Likewise, a ban on further gas stations stayed in the revised draft, but the area in which the ban applied was reduced from the 200-North-to-300-South span to 100 North to 100 South.
Signs: Both drafts banned “strobe-type flashing signs.” But the original draft also banned “flashing, rotating, animated and neon signs.” The revised draft allows those types of signs.
The original draft banned pole signs. The revised draft permits the signs so long as they aren’t higher than 20 feet, don’t exceed 50 square feet in area and are at least 100 feet from any other pole sign.
The original draft banned any permanent sign advertising a business other than the business where the sign was located.
Gerald Christiansen, owner of Big G’s Automotive, asked if the provision would ban an electric billboard with rotating ads for business, such as the one I-Four Media has installed on its property in Ephraim.
Councilwoman Mary Wintch said the key word was “permanent.” The ads on the I-Four sign appear for just a minute or two. She offered to draft some clarifying language, under which a sign with rotating ads could be installed.
One owner who was not happy with the revised ordinance was Linda Nielsen, owner of Manti Mercantile Village.
She noted that there are quite a few pole signs now in the historic commercial zone. City Manager Kent Barton said those signs would be grandfathered in and could remain until the property involved changed hands
“Who is going to be determining the colors and designs, and what are their qualifications,” she wanted to know.
She said she has a master’s degree in design. Addressing the city council, she said, “I don’t want any of you making decisions on what’s going on my building.”
“I really think there are a lot of things in the ordinance that need to be clarified,” she said.
Mayor Soper said the city council could pass the historic commercial zone ordinance as early as the Jan. 29 meeting.