New Main Street zoning in Manti
reflects good process, great results
The new Main Street zoning ordinance passed by the Manti City Council earlier this month represents an excellent outcome to what, overall, was a good process.
State law requires every town to issue an updated general plan every 10 years. Sometimes, such a plan sits on the shelf until the next required update.
In contrast, after completing its last update, Manti retained the same BYU planning expert who had consulted on the general plan to draft ordinances to implement the plan.
Too often, when a city rezones a sizeable area, it “over zones.” An overzealous city council anticipates much faster growth than is really likely to occur. Or the council bends to property owners who get dollar bills in their eyes when higher density zoning is proposed.
The result can be an unattractive mix of uses such as a two-story fourplex, an office building or a store in the middle of a block (or multiple blocks) of exclusively single family homes.
The Manti ordinance avoids those problems by dividing Main Street into segments and setting rules for each segment. The area from 300 North to 200 South is zoned commercial. But 100 North and 100 South is designated as the primary downtown with additional restrictions on signs and building placement that don’t apply from 100 to 300 North and from 100 to 200 South.
North of 300 North and south of 200 South, Main Street is zoned residential. Yes, residential.
At both ends of town—north of 800 North and south of about 700 South—“gateway” districts are established to accommodate commercial and office uses, which could include restaurants, motels, a business park and other commercial needs that aren’t met in existing commercial zone, which is pretty much filled up. Development of the gateways is undoubtedly a long way down the road.
There are design standards, landscaping standards in the gateway areas, and detailed review by the planning commission of all commercial projects the length of the street.
As long as the new ordinance is enforced, there are a number of things we won’t get on Main Street or in approaches to the city.
We won’t get billboards, with the possible exception of a small electronic billboard in front of a business. We won’t get flashing neon signs. We won’t get a gas station in the primary commercial district from 100 North to 100 South. We won’t get a business setting up shop in a metal building anywhere on the street.
In primary commercial district, we won’t get a parking lot fronting on Main Street with a commercial building recessed into the back part of the lot. We won’t get high-density apartment buildings (Those will be addressed and areas zoned for them in a separate ordinance now under development.)
What we hope and expect to get is a compact district of stores and offices between 100 North and 100 South, business growth with slightly more relaxed standards from 100 North to 300 North and from 100 South to 200 South, and preservation of the many historic homes on the rest of the street.
Although developing and passing the ordinance wasn’t all hearts and flowers, on the whole, it was a good process.
The first draft from the consultant went to the Manti Planning and Zoning Commission for review and revision. Then there was a joint meeting of the planning commission and city council where the ordinance was projected on a screen, and the panels went over it paragraph by paragraph. More revisions were made.
Then there was a public hearing at which a number of Main Street property owners expressed vehement opposition to the ordinance. The document went back to the drawing board.
In January, after extensive revisions, another public hearing was held. This time, a number of property owners thanked the city council for responding to their concerns. But a couple of owners raised new questions.
Two weeks later, a final draft was projected on a screen at a city council meeting. No one on the council objected to the changes. Two more weeks later, the council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance.
The whole process, from retaining the planning expert to final passage took nearly five years. But the result reflects both technical expertise and public input.
Many rural Main Streets in the West are downright ugly. Manti is one of the outstanding exceptions. The new ordinance will help make sure Manti continues to be one of the prettiest little towns in Utah.