The Times-Independent

Town considers limiting home size…

A public survey has been sent to all registered voters of Castle Valley and non-resident property owners as part of the general plan review process. Under Utah law, a review process is to occur in cities and towns every five years in Utah.

Michael Peck, chairman for the Planning and Land Use Commission, stated in the letter that accompanied the survey that the general plan is a document that serves as the basis for all town ordinances, which are our laws at the municipal level. He said “all ordinances on the books, and all new ordinances for the next five years, are supposed to take direction from the general plan. The updating of the general plan is supposed to be driven by the public.”

The survey contains about 62 questions plus some personal information about each person who sends in the anonymous questionnaire. The questions cover queries about water and septic, roads and drainage, agriculture and livestock, health and safety, quality of life, and economic questions. Also included are questions about ordinances and enforcement, community life, housing, government, and your opinion about a variety of town issues. The surveys are due by April 15.

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In a special meeting, the Castle Valley Town Council met last Thursday, March 29 to consider a temporary land use regulation restricting the maximum square footage of residential construction. A draft of the temporary moratorium was available to the council members and was adopted from a similar document created by Grand County to limit the construction of large “big box” retail businesses. Mayor Damian Bollermann stated the draft was written up and shared with the town’s attorney, Jerry Kinghorn, prior to the meeting.

During remarks by the council members, Alice Drogin stated she is not threatened by the draft and has been asking people for their opinions. She sort of likes the idea of not living in a place with large houses but wants to be sure of what people want and would like to wait and see what the survey results indicate. Valli Smouse said the surveys are due back April 15 but won’t be compiled that quickly. She added that the moratorium could be repealed in a month if that is what the council wants to do. “If it can be repealed, why do it in the first place,” Drogin said.

Councilman Jim Lindheim said he didn’t see the need for the rush and he is still confused about what the town is trying to solve. He said he didn’t see a problem with large houses and some of the language in the preamble of the document sounds like the town is in “grave danger” but he doesn’t believe the town is in danger. Councilwoman Ranna Bieschke said there are a lot of concerns about the moratorium, and it is not just a matter of limiting the size. She said she didn’t see the harm in passing it but doesn’t see the need to rush the matter either.

Comments from the audience included Dave Erley, who didn’t see a problem with approving the moratorium then waiting to see what the survey says. Steve Meleski didn’t see the harm of approval either, especially with an apparent “huge majority” in favor. Karen Nelson said the council should identify the impacts of large houses and look at the big picture. “Basically, now people can build a house from setback to setback, anything is now legal.” She didn’t think Drogin would find a large majority against it. Elaine Pinkowski said she felt bad that more people didn’t have the opportunity to sign the petition and said we have the opportunity now to do the right thing.

Joan Sangree stated that she agreed with Lindheim about there being many issues, but said we are doing it now because so many people are concerned. Jim Tharp speaking against the moratorium, stated that he has heard that large houses will raise taxes and harm the viewshed but there is no proof that these issues will come to pass. He added that it could be hurting people who have plans already in process. Personally, he thought a 10,000 square-foot house is “creepy” meaning it is too large and impersonal.

The exclusionary matter was brought up and Meleski said that he doesn’t understand “exclusionary” because we are not excluding anyone, just excluding their large house. But Lindheim said you are excluding their dream. Jack Campbell mentioned that the ones already living here will be excluded when they are taxed out of their property.

In the end, Smouse made a motion to approve the ordinance for the temporary moratorium over 5,000 square feet excluding a below-grade basement. Mayor Bollermann said some people wanted to stop all construction but this doesn’t come anywhere near that and this is middle ground. Alice wanted to exclude some words like “prevailing public interest” but didn’t pursue the matter under some opposition. Council members Bieschke, Smouse and Bollermann voted in favor and Drogin and Lindheim voted against, allowing the temporary moratorium to be adopted by a slim 3-2 majority.

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