Relies on precedent in one case, written ordinance in another
MANTI—The Manti City Council appears to have taken three different approaches in three recent zoning decisions.
In the first, David Craig of Manti has been seeking water and sewer hookups to a small non-residential structure at 540 E. Union Street. City Manager Kent Barton informed Craig the connections couldn’t be made until a building permit was issued for a residence, which is also planned on the lot.
Craig has expressed frustration with Barton’s position and has taken the matter to the council three times now. A decision wasn’t made the first two times.
On Wednesday, July 28, after Craig read a statement, the council held a 10-minute discussion, and then the council unanimously denied the request.
Craig says he has complied with all the requirements in the written code. “They (the council members) obviously think that is the right thing to do—to continue doing something wrong instead of going by the municipal code,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
Barton says the council is acting according to the “spirit of the law” and preventing non-residential structures from being used as de facto residences. He says a precedent requiring a residential building permit before extending sewer and water to a residential property goes back decades.
While Craig’s statement to the council focused on definitions and city ordinance, remarks from the council repeatedly referenced existing norms—not municipal code. Council members consistently stated they would uphold precedent, while simultaneously acknowledging the language in the code is not entirely clear.
“I will certainly admit there are things we could define in a better way than we have. But I think it is opening a Pandora’s box to change what we have been doing for the last … 40 to 50 years,” Councilwoman Mary Wintch said.
“The precedent has simply been there,” Councilman Darren Dyreng added. “And if some definitions need to be clarified, … then I think we could look at that. But I don’t think we change the precedent.”
“I look at it more as how [the requirement] has been interpreted and applied throughout the city for the past 30 plus years,” Councilman Jason Vernon said.
At the same meeting, on an application from Debi Abbott, it wasn’t precedent the council relied on. It was the written ordinance Craig was so adamant about complying with.
Abbott recently purchased property in Manti that had four homes on it. She was asking to divide the lot at 497 W. 500 North into four individual parcels, each with an existing residence.
City Manager Barton said the city was concerned a four-way subdivision wouldn’t meet zoning requirements. Acreage and street frontage minimums wouldn’t be met with four lots, he said. He worked with Abbott to develop a plan that would “meet the integrity of our ordinance” by dividing the site into three lots rather than four.
Abbott needs to remove an attached carport on one residence to meet setback requirements between lots. On the lot with two residences, she’ll also need to apply for an accessory dwelling permit, an option permitted under a new residential ordinance approved in late 2020.
In Manti Council’s own case, it wasn’t precedent they relied on. And it wasn’t ordinance either.
Last year, the city installed an electronic sign in front of the Manti City Building, located on the west side of Main Street at 50 S. Main. Yet under a Main Street zoning ordinance approved in 2020, such signs are not permitted in an historic zone running along Main Street from 100 North to 100 South. Residents and business owners voiced frustration at the Feb 3, 2021, council meeting.
At the time, Mayor Korry Soper explained the decision as doing what was best for the community. “We believe it’s in its best and proper location,” he said.