Manti passes new zoning ordinance for Main Street

This aerial shot of downtown Main Street shows the commercial area between 100 North and 100 South, which is a main focus of a new zoning ordinance reflecting planning work over more than three years. The ordinance also addresses the north and south “gateways” to the city.


Manti passes new zoning

ordinance for Main Street 


By Suzanne Dean 




MANTI—The Manti City Council has passed a new zoning ordinance designed to chart the future of its Main Street.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously and without discussion last Wednesday, Feb. 13.

But discussion of the new rules has actually stretched over at last a dozen meetings of the city council, and planning and zoning commission, over at least three years.

When the city was developing its last general plan in 2016, citizens and city council members decided one of their most important goals was to preserve the historic character of the city.

Kent Barton, the city manager, said the city council looked at extending commercial development the length of Main Street as some towns have done.

“We decided that would destroy the character of the street,” he said. “We have nice residential areas on both ends of Main Street” containing many historic homes “that we want to preserve.”

By setting standards for the types of buildings that can be constructed along various spans of the street, the ordinance is designed to discourage conversion of homes into businesses.

Even if some of the negative things the ordinance seeks to prevent aren’t imminent, “when they come, we’re ready,” Barton said.

The ordinance defines the span from 100 North to 100 North as the main retail area of the city. In that area, there is a zero setback rule. Buildings must start at the sidewalk.

Any new buildings must be a maximum of two stories. The main floor has to be used for business. Apartments are permitted on the second level. And no new gasoline stations are permitted.

The ordinance also sets rules for “gateways” on the north and south ends of town. In those areas, new buildings can be three stories. Building designs need to be approved by the planning and zoning Commission. And exterior grounds need to be landscaped.

In the south gateway, any new business property must be 2-5 acres.

The ordinance contains a fairly detailed list of sign requirements applying to the whole Main Street. For the most part, signs need to be flush with the building or with a canopy connected to the building. There are limits to how far a sign can project out from the building.

The original draft did not permit any more pole signs. But during various discussions, the provision was modified. Pole signs are permitted, but they cannot be more than 20 feet high. They can’t be placed on a building with less than 100 feet of frontage. And they have to be at least 100 feet from any other pole sign.

Generally, the ordinance bans billboards and permanent signs advertising anything other than the business where the sign is located.

However, a few weeks ago, the council reviewed an amendment to the original draft to permit digital signs, like the one at I-Four Media in Ephraim, where an ad for a business is projected for just a few minutes.

The amendment limits the height and width of the digital signs, requires a business with such a sign to have 100 feet of frontage, recommends the sign be near the midpoint of the business property, and says if there is more than one digital sign, the signs need to be 500 feet apart. The digital billboards aren’t permitted between 100 North and 100 South.

And the ordinance bans “intense, strobe-type flashing signs” such as one might see in Las Vegas, anywhere on the street.

Another amendment reviewed in late January clarified the so-called “grandfather” rule as it applies to the ordinance. Any existing development at the time of ordinance passage that doesn’t conform to the ordinance is covered by city ordinance and state laws on “nonconforming uses.” Barton said those provisions permit a nonconforming use to continue indefinitely, even if the property changes hands.

Actions leading to the ordinance began in September, 2015, when the city council hired Dr. Michael Clay, professor of urban planning at BYU, and a student team to begin updating the general plan.

In mid 2016, after research, a survey and a number of public meetings, the plan was adopted.

The city council decided to retain Dr. Clay to write ordinances implementing the general plan. And in November, 2018, the city council and planning commission held a joint meeting to discuss general concepts for a new Main Street zoning ordinance.

By January 2019, Clay had a draft ordinance, which was reviewed at a joint meeting of the city council and planning commission. The draft went through lots of additional study.

But in September 2019, when a semi-final draft went to a public hearing, there was heated opposition from business owners. One owner said, “I feel I am being stabbed in the back.”

The mayor and council agreed more input was needed before moving forward. “We realize some adjustments could make this a better proposal,” Mayor Korry Soper said at the time. “Again, our desire is to position our community to grow, to attract visitors and to have a successful, thriving downtown.”

In January of this year, a memo went out to business owners containing a final revised draft. The main changes were loosening some of the sign rules and reducing the area where zero setbacks are required from five blocks to three blocks.

At the next public meeting on Jan. 16, the tone was much more conciliatory.

John Jensen, owner of Jensen’s Department Store, 29 N. Main, said, “I appreciate you listening to us. It’s been approached the right way.”

“I think you’ve worked really hard to appease us,” said Todd Miller, owner of Miller’s Auto Body at 245 N. Main. “…I think it’s really good to know what the future holds.”