County Commission discusses Spanish Valley zoning, mid-year budget and state annexation law

A proposal to amend the Spanish Valley Zoning and Planning map stalled at the August 18 meeting of the San Juan County Commission. The current Planning and Zoning map for the area located in the northern-most portion of the county, adjacent to Moab, was adopted in November 2019.

A request was made by the county commission to the planning commission to relook at the map and make some changes. The planning commission sent along their recommendations to the commission.

County Administrator Mack McDonald explained after they passed the November 2019 zoning map there were several businesses and commercial properties that had lost their zoning as commercial.

Before November 2019 1,000 feet of land on either side of Highway 191 was zoned commercial. McDonald explained that Landmark, the company contracted to come up with the zoning map, created flex zones in order to create a buffer in some areas.

The planning commission modifications used the creek system to make boundaries through the map and restored some commercial zoning to those that were changed by the November 2019 resolution.

The changes addressed included an expansion of the highway commercial zone into some areas that are currently highway flex zone and planned community zones as well as some additional agriculture zoned area.

A public hearing was held as part of the commission request to consider the issue. Several Spanish Valley residents spoke against the proposed update, and one resident spoke in favor.

Commissioner Bruce Adams moved to accept the planning commission recommendation, but the motion died for a lack of second from Commissioner Willie Grayeyes. Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy was not in attendance.

Grayeyes said he was hesitant to change the zoning because he believes it would negatively impact the people who live there.

“The [Spanish Valley residents] have grown roots over the years, so here comes a company that wants to change it. I don’t agree with that.”

With a split vote, the county commission did not provide further direction for how the planning commission ought to proceed.

At the August 18 meeting, the commission also approved mid-year budget changes. The commission had originally planned to possibly raise property taxes within the county and thereby increase county revenue, but that plan was scrapped after COVID-19 hit.

The overall budget increase was $1,397,393, including about a half million added to the general fund, the EMS fund, and the Road Capital Fund. The budget of the library fund and public health funds saw a decrease.

The increase in the funds largely came from the CARES Act. The county received $737,050 to the general fund alone. Other budgets in the county also received CARES funds and more is expected. The EMS fund increase also came due to a grant received by the county.

Decreases in the library and public health budgets come because the county changed course and is not collecting raised property taxes this year.

The overall expenses also saw an increase of $2,570,091, including $1.6 million to the Road Capital Fund.

County Clerk John David Nielson says the increase to the Road Capital Fund is due to the sale of equipment that wasn’t planned for, the transfer of funds to the general fund, and a loan to the Spanish Valley Special Service District, which will be paid over the coming years.

Additionally, the county cut expenses throughout most departments including travel reimbursements, office supplies, and continuing education.

The county also passed a resolution to repeal a bill passed by the Utah State Legislature in March. The bill removed consent requirements regarding annexations.

A landowner wishes to become part of a city can petition the city to expand their boundaries to include the land. Annexation of land must be approved by landowners and the municipalities annexing the land.

Previous to March, if a city wishing to expand boundaries into a different county would need the county permission. The bill passed in March changed that.

The issue played out in Wasatch County, where the town of Hideout attempted to annex unincorporated land in Summit County and place it in the Wasatch County town. A similar issue had the potential to arise in Spanish Valley, although there is no apparent evidence of Moab or Spanish Valley landowners attempting the maneuver.

The San Juan County Commission unanimously voiced support of the bill that would restore the requirement of a county to provide consent to give up land into another county. That bill, HB6007, passed in special session on August 20, effectively repealing the change made in March.

The elected legislators representing San Juan County aligned with the San Juan County Commission on the issue. Senator David Hinkins and Representative Phil Lyman voted for HB6007.

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