The meeting of the Kane County Planning Commission on Wednesday, November 16, was well attended by the public; both halves of the Kanab Center Boardroom were filled to capacity. There is always a promise that a meeting will not be boring when the commission chair opens by outlining rules of civility for public comment and specifying that beyond the public comment period to open the meeting, there would also be individual public comment periods for each specific item on the agenda. With the meeting so prepped, the planning and zoning session was underway.
The first hour or so of the meeting proceeded smoothly - with mostly benign proposals, standard operating procedure for adjacent lots to be joined, property lines to be specified and intended uses prepared. Many unanimous ‘ayes’ from the planning commission, many individual public comment periods left silent as no feedback was necessary.
However, once the straightforward portion of the meeting concluded, the real work began. The majority of the meeting was dedicated to five agenda items - four zone change proposals and updates within the East Zion Project bounds, and one Planned Unit Development for the subdivision being prepared east of Kanab.
Firstly, the East Zion Project series. A particular point of concern from the public, as evidenced by the multiple citizens who stepped up to offer their comments at the mic during the comment period dedicated to the issue, was of a proposed zone change from Residential 5, to Commercial 2. According to Shannon McBride, the Land Use Administrator for Kane County, the zone change was made necessary by legislation at the county level - Kevin McLaws, the applicant for the change, “had been planning this project for years, and is within all conditions and regulations necessary to complete it … but the change in the state’s policy means the planned use falls under C2 instead of Residential like it was before,” according to McBride. Per McLaws, “we don’t really want to change zones to C2. There’s a lot of uses that we don’t really want in C2 … I can see why that’s a scary change.” McLaws presented a Deed Restriction Agreement, binding any developments of the proposed zone to only a few dozen uses, rather than the hundred-plus that C2 allows, to guarantee the county and its citizens that the uses of the C2 zone will not exceed what was planned for the R5 as it stood before. According to County Attorney Rob Van Dyke, “The way the C2 deed restrictions could be changed after this zone change goes in… means they would need to come back before the planning commission.” Once the agreement goes in, the developer could only develop within their agreed uses - meaning despite C2 allowing for hotels, stores, gas stations and so on, the developer would be bound to their voluntary deed requirements, which according to McLaws consist of “an eco-hotel, with smaller units that could be camouflaged into the landscapes with smaller units … we’ve worked with the park service. We’ve done viewshed tests so people won’t see them on the eastern hikes in the park. We’ve done dark sky studies … we plan on 75 to 85 units on 800 acres. That’s a lot less square footage developed than the 116 homes [allowed by the previous R5 zoning].”
The public’s concerns were directed toward the loss of natural landscape, cultural sites, agricultural land and the proximity to the Zion National Park. “We don’t need a thousand acres of North Fork Road to be commercial. We should be focusing on Highway 9, that’s where the people are,” stated Bill Thurston, an adjacent landowner to the zone applying for the change. After hearing the public’s concerns during the dedicated public comment period, the planning commission discussed the issue. With the recommendation of the Land Use Administrator and the Planning and Zoning staff, the zone change was ultimately approved.
McLaws applied for and presented other similar zone changes and updates to plots along the East Zion bounds - similar concerns were expressed, similar rebuts were offered. In short, each item was approved with recommendation from Planning and Zoning staff.
The other item of major discussion was a Planned Unit Development for the subdivision by the Kanab 600 LLC. The area is currently zoned as Residential-1, and the PUD application was to allow variety within the zone. According to the meeting’s agenda, “The applicant is requesting to rezone from Residential 1 (R-1) to PUD Residential 1 (PUD R-1), PUD Multi- Residential (PUD MR) and PUD Commercial 2 (PUD C-2).” In essence, this would allow the developer more freedom in what is built within that subdivision - projects proposed included parks, aesthetic improvements, stores and gas stations. As mentioned above, C-2 includes a wide variety of commercial uses, and re-zoning for a PUD C-2 would open up parts of the subdivision for some of those uses; not all, as outlined in the PUD. However, the point was made moot by the commission - which dedicated multiple hours and multiple public comment periods to the issue - ultimately denying the zone change with conditions. The applicants, as it stands now, can adjust their plans and come back after meeting the county’s new set of conditions, or they can proceed with construction of the subdivision with uniform R-1 lots across the entirety of the property.
The planning commission also revised short term rental agreements, defining a 10-occupant maximum for an R-½ zone. The operative function of this requires any short-term rental intending more than 10 occupants at time to install sprinklers, as they meet commercial and business standards rather than residential ones - this decision brings Kane County’s requirements into line with national code. This agenda item also granted authority to the Land Use Administrator to approve conditional use permits for small residential items - such as the first five items on this meeting’s agenda. McBride offered those items as an example as to why this authority is helpful: “Those first five items were small things, the commission saw no need to add any conditions beyond what me and my staff had already offered. They didn’t change anything, but the residents still needed to wait a month for the meeting to begin their projects - this decision cuts away a little bit of government red tape to people looking to work on their property.”
After a meeting lasting beyond four hours in duration, the Planning Commission adjourned. The audio record, minutes, agenda and information packets for the Planning and Zoning meetings can all be found on the Utah Public notice website.