Helper city plans to update existing zoning ordinances
Helper officials recently gave the go ahead to city planning and zoning committee members to move forward with a significant rewrite of the municipality's zoning ordinances.
At a public meeting in mid-August, the Helper council agreed to allow conditional use permits within the city.
Helper is currently operating on zoning ordinances which date back to a period before conditional use permits were common.
In other cities and counties in the area, conditional use permits provide property owners with a greater level of flexibility as far as planned uses for their property.
At the same time, civic leaders retain the ability to regulate certain activities.
"We're quite a ways behind in our zoning regulations right now," said Councilmember Dean Armstrong.
Helper's current ordinance structure lists activities which are allowed within each zone.
The guidelines apply across the board to all property owners within a zone.
If livestock is allowed within a zone, all landowners can have livestock in that zone.
Similarly, if businesses are restricted within the zone, all property owners are restricted from operating businesses.
Armstrong proposed to the council that the existing process be changed to a conditional use structure.
Under the conditional use structure, zoning ordinances would contain two lists.
One list would be generally allowable activities for a zone.
In a residential zone, the ordinance may list housing requirements and restrictions, how driveways are positioned and the type of fencing allowed around the property.
The requirements and restrictions would function much like the current system, where if the activity is on the list, it is allowed for all property owners.
In a separate list of conditionally permitted items, the city can choose to dictate certain activities that may generally be compatible with the zone, but may require a certain amount of oversight.
Armstrong said the system would have certain advantages over current ordinances, which give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down to each activity.
For example, if a residential property owner wanted to start a day care, under current ordinances, the activity may or may not be allowed, with no flexibility. But under the new structure, the owner may find that home-operated businesses are not on the list of allowed uses within the zone, but is listed on the list of conditional uses for the zone. In that case the property owners would need to meet with planning officials and meet certain criteria before opening the business. Other property owners would need to go through a similar process if they wish to engage in an activity listed as a conditional use.
Armstrong said that the conditional use structure could help the city's economy by allowing more latitude for property owners. It also allows the city to control certain activities.
For instance, the city is currently finishing the comment period for a change to its industrial zoning ordinance. Under the old ordinance, mining, excavating, drilling and similar activities were all allowed. The new ordinance removes those activities from the list of permitted uses for industrial zones.
Under the proposed plan, the city would list these activities as conditional uses within the zone. At that point, if an industrial property owner wanted to start drilling for oil or gas, they could do so once they received approval from the city.
This allows property owners to use their property to the best of their ability, but give oversight to the city. It also allows city planning officials with the latitude to address specific issues with each property owner. During the approval process, owners and city officials could address those issues and find individualized ways to address them.
Armstrong also explained that the planning and zoning committee is planning to grandfather current property uses into the new ordinances. The ordinances would then apply to all changes in use of property and would come into full effect if property is sold or otherwise changes ownership.
In an unrelated matter, Councilmember Dean Armstrong reported that WW Clyde rescinded its request for approval on a gravel pit on property owned by Robert Hoggatt. The construction company has opted to perform its gravel excavation and rock crushing activities on property owned by Utah Railway in an area zoned for those types of activities.