Spanish Valley plan approved after San Juan commission rejects planners

Property rights concerns underlie controversy

San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy

Master planning in Spanish Valley was the major focus of a marathon meeting of the San Juan County Commission on Nov. 19.

In the end and by a 2-1 vote, Commissioners rejected the recommendations of the San Juan County Planning and Zoning Commission and adopted a preliminary plan that had been submitted to the Planning Commission by Landmark Design.

Earlier in the meeting, Mark Vlasic, of Landmark Design, stated that the preliminary plan had a number of errors, including zoning changes to several existing commercial properties.

County Administrator Mack McDonald explained that the Sept. 13 initial recommendation by Landmark Design “didn’t include changes to the map, or the language that the Planning Commission wanted.”

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes motioned that a map outlining the zones be amended to meet state law and protect the existing property rights.

That is the only change that was made to the preliminary plan first introduced to the Planning Commission on September 13.

After a number of public hearings and other meetings, the Planning Commission had submitted a recommendation to the Commission.

Commissioner Grayeyes expressed frustration with the planning commission recommendation, stating, “The P&Z Commission should have done their job three or four months ago instead of pushing their agenda at the eleventh hour.”

Commissioner Bruce Adams defended the work of the Planning Commission, stating, “They have been pretty diligent in trying to assess and find out how these things are going to affect these other private property owners.

“They are volunteers, and meet once or twice a month. I think they have tried to do their job. They have not been willy-nilly in trying to address what Landmark has come up with.”

After several attempts at finding a resolution, Grayeyes’ motion was seconded by Commission Kenneth Maryboy and passed by a 2-1 vote.

Commissioners heard public comments from more than 20 local residents about ten separate draft ordinances that had been forwarded from the Planning and Zoning Committee.

The draft ordinances covered a broad spectrum of issues related to Spanish Valley development, including the creation of six districts, and additional requirements related to landscaping, lighting, signs, and overnight accommodations.

Under consideration was a Spanish Valley Residential District, a Planned Community District, a Residential Flex Plan Community District, a Highway Flex Planned Community District, and a Highway Commercial District.

Requirements were outlined for Water Efficient Landscape, Outdoor Lighting and Sign Illumination, Signs and Displays, and for an Overnight Accommodations Overlay District.

The Planning Commission had made a number of adjustments to the initial recommendations and recommended the elimination of the ordinances related to signs and overnight accommodations.

County Attorney Kendall Laws pointed out that thousands of acres of land in Spanish Valley are held by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). SITLA is planning to initiate a significant development effort on these lands and may not be bound by the county planning restrictions.

During the public hearing portion of the Commission meeting, Elise Ehler of SITLA stated, “In general, SITLA supports what Landmark has proposed as a good starting point.”

Ehler said that SITLA would have their own “rigorous ordinance” for signs and displays, in addition to other development guidelines.

A number of Spanish Valley residents requested that the Commissioners adopt the initial Landmark Plan submitted in September.

William Loves stated, “The current ordinances (recommended by the Planning Commission) gutted what the people want. They are an atrocity. Pushing amendments through at this time is wrong.”

Ryan Holyoak spoke to the Commission on behalf of LeGrand Johnson, which owns significant commercial properties in Spanish Valley.

Holyoak said, “We have examined this land use code and we find it in violation of the law.

The adjustments made by the Planning Commission address the problem.

“State law does not allow changing of our zoning,” said Holyoak. “Our rights must be protected.”

Later, Holyoak said, “This Commission is against litigation, but if you pass something that is against the law, it will invite litigation. They (the initial Landmark recommendations) obviously made mistakes in supporting something that is against the law.

Vlasic, of Landmark Design, said he totally agrees that the properties should remain as currently zoned, adding, “It is state law.”

Trent Schafer and Scoot Flannery, two members of the Planning Commission, addressed the Commission to explain some of the recommended changes.

“What was presented to us we truly believed that private property rights were being taken away,” said Schafer. “We received 50 to 60 letters stating that the zoning was changing.”

Flannery said that the Planning Commission “have heard many voices that echo support for the plan.”

Flannery stated that several aspects of the initial Landmark recommendations were either too specific or too vague.

Flannery said that vague issues included measurements, flood plain and bank definitions for a proposed protected space along Pack Creek

He added that the proposed sign requirements and housing overlays were too specific, and too extreme.

“The Spanish Valley members of the Planning Commission spent significant time talking to Flannery. “I encourage that the Commission accept the recommendations of the Planning Commission.”

“We listened to a lot of people,” said Schafer. “We listened to both sides, that is how we came up with the decisions that we made.”

Several comments in favor of the Planning Commission recommendations stated that the proposed plan included the vast majority of recommendations from Landmark.

Commissioner Maryboy disagreed, adding that it seemed like a large portion of the initial recommendation had been stricken from the Planning Commission proposal.