ST. GEORGE — The roadmap of Springdale for the next 20 years is ready. The town’s Planning Commission has completed its general plan update with recent public input. The commission will present the revised plan on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“We have worked on this plan for almost a year, tweaking it and reading it and re-tweaking it. At a recent public hearing, we got input from members of the community and incorporated changes that impacted the language of the general plan,” the chairperson, Barbara Bruno, said.
The plan addresses many areas from land use to public health, transportation to natural resources. The document outlines goals and strategies for the town, residents and businesses to help Springdale retain its village character, even as it encounters constant change. The town provided a survey to gather feedback from the community.
Town officials said its uniqueness is defined by a setting amid unparalleled natural beauty and scenic vistas, a historic mix of agricultural, low-density residential, limited commercial land uses throughout the town, and the restrained size, scale, and density of the buildings and infrastructure. The town finds it imperative to protect this unique village character, the plan stated.
Springdale is encompassed on three sides by Zion National Park, which is managed by the National Park Service. According to the plan, wildlife freely migrates between the national park and Springdale. Development in the town can impact the park, and vice-versa.
Janet Stroud-Settles, a former resident of Stone Mountain Condos and wildlife biologist at Zion National Park, expressed concern over the proposed high-density apartments next to eight acres owned by Dianne and Greg McDonald near Balanced Rock Road. The eight acres and adjacent properties along Lion Boulevard are some of Springdale’s most wildlife-friendly properties.
“Minimal development has occurred on these properties, which has allowed for native vegetation to largely remain undisturbed, providing essential habitat components of food, water and shelter for native wildlife species,” Stroud-Settles said.
Destroying or removing native vegetation from development usually happens. Developments typically landscaped with plants that are not native provide little benefit to native wildlife. Also, the increase in the use of herbicides and pesticides will impact wildlife, she said.
“Increased vehicle traffic, noise, and night light have been proven to negatively affect wildlife species,” Stroud-Settles said.
Dianne McDonald also commented on changing the zoning to Transitional Residential, which allows up to six units per acre.
“We have lived at this property since 1997 (24 years). We have seen what development has done to the night sky and the reduction of wildlife in town. We used to be able to see the Milky Way at night,” McDonald said. “This rezoning would cause noise, traffic and congestion. Balanced Rock Road is the only public access to the properties in the zone, and it is in terrible condition. The road has been closed numerous times in winter weather as ice and snow make it impassable. Adding dense housing would only make it worse.”
Another area of the plan covers transportation issues. A variety of transportation is covered that includes walking, biking, public transit and private automobiles. Traffic and parking congestion from vehicles of all types would be minimized and managed. The town will plan for and accommodate emerging transportation technology such as electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, charging infrastructure and other future transportation innovations.
The town will address transportation by participating in regional transit planning efforts. Town officials also hope to develop the infrastructure that supports walking and bicycling as the primary mode of in-town travel. Springdale will partner with Zion National Park and the State Office of Tourism to support and promote the in-town Zion shuttle system.
Another topic is how Springdale will balance retaining its rural residential character from the impacts of increased commercialization while still addressing its housing needs. The town will have housing options including low-density residential units, higher density multi-family units in select locations, and accessory dwelling units.
Those options will allow the town to maintain housing for families of diverse incomes. It will benefit local businesses by providing a larger labor pool. The plan states that it will help the town by having people work in local companies and contribute to the community by having access to attainable housing.
Max Gregoric, a Springdale resident, submitted a comment that reflects the point of view of a large employer with multiple employee housing units.
“I can tell you what has worked best for us. Employees like to have their own rooms,” Gregoric said. “The most sought out housing are studios (obviously larger apartments would be better, but not practical for us). Dormitory style housing leads to more transient type people, who generally have less respect for the property and have zero community involvement.”
Gregoric suggested increasing the number of unrelated people in a single house from three to five.
“We do not believe it’s the government’s (taxpayers) responsibility to provide local businesses with housing,” Gregoric said. “Future development should be required to provide housing that can’t be converted to nightly rentals. This doesn’t mean we are opposed to public housing. At this point, it is the only option that can’t be taken advantage of by developers.”
Springdale’s plan proposes to serve independent, local businesses and residents. The town would continue to provide residential needs and diversify its tourism-based economy. It will encourage companies that focus on resident needs and remote working opportunities.
Other areas the plan addresses include public safety, water, recreation and the arts. Goals include access to recreational, social, and cultural activities that are compatible with the natural setting and promote community diversity and cohesiveness.
Public health is also prioritized through enhanced medical services. Physical and mental wellness is provided by protecting natural resources such as dark night skies, clean air and water. The plan also promotes a vibrant corridor along the Virgin River, healthy native vegetation, scenic vistas and quiet.
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