Some things to know about zoning

There have been a lot of questions about Planet Fitness moving and Momentum expanding into their space. While I don’t know what the property owners are thinking for the long-range plan of their property, I can tell you the role Millcreek plays and what parameters are in place that control and shape development in our city.

First, Millcreek doesn’t tear down any buildings. The city doesn’t own them; they are private property and the property owners are responsible for their buildings and property. Millcreek controls the zoning ordinances that govern individual properties. Private development must work within the constraints of the zoning for each specific property. You can read Millcreek’s zoning codes here.

Our City is financed by sales tax and we want to maintain the commercial base that funds our services. Salt Lake County zoning allowed multi-family housing as a conditional use in the Commercial-2 and Commercial-3 properties. The Millcreek City Council changed this to require new housing development in C-2 and C-3 zones be mixed-use with commercial space covering at least 50% of the ground floor. We also changed the mixed-use max coverage of a property, decreasing it from 80% to 60% with 40% required open space.

Because many of Millcreek’s commercial properties abut residential properties, the City Council limited commercial building heights to a maximum of 30 ft tall when they are within 100 ft of residential-zoned property.   

There is a lot of confusion about the term “conditional use” in zoning. Many people think that if a property use is designated as conditional use, then the planning commission can deny a conditional use permit if the community doesn’t like the proposed project. While we sometimes wish this was the case, Utah is a property rights state and property owners are given a lot of protections under the law.   

Utah law on conditional uses states:

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Notice section 2 says the “land use authority shall approve a conditional use if reasonable conditions are proposed” and the conditions do “not require elimination of the detrimental effects”. This makes conditional uses difficult to deny.   Our Planning Commission must be very careful to apply this correctly or the City could face litigation by the applicant claiming property rights violations.

So, what does this mean for our residents? As Millcreek has been updating our zoning ordinances, we have held several open houses to gather feedback from property owners and residents seeking input on changes. Once the feedback is processed and a draft ordinance is prepared, the ordinance is presented to all four Community Councils to receive their input and allow for more public review and feedback. The Community Council recommendations are presented to the Planning Commission and, once again, the public is invited to review the ordinance and give feedback.

After the Planning Commission presentation, the ordinance is presented to the City Council at a first reading where the City Council can give input and suggest changes to the draft ordinance. This is done at a work session (which is open to public attendance).

After the first reading, the draft ordinance is presented at a subsequent City Council meeting where a public hearing is open for residents to give feedback directly to the City Council. Following the hearing, the City Council can adopt the ordinance as presented, give direction to City staff to make changes based on the feedback received, or reject the presented ordinance.  

As you can see, we want your input! There are multiple opportunities for residents to share their perspectives and weigh in on the discussion. Throughout this process, residents are encouraged to share their input.  This can be done at the various meetings or also through email, phone calls, or other communication with City Council members if they are unable to attend any of the presentations or hearings.

Once the ordinance is adopted, then it is the job of the Planning Commission to see that it is applied correctly in evaluating each application that comes before them.

As development is proposed, Millcreek has implemented several strategies to inform residents and solicit feedback. We have increased the noticing radius for mailings to surrounding residents and we post A-frame signs on the development site to notify anyone passing by who may have an interest. We post meeting agendas on our weekly City email and on our website to identity properties that will be up for discussion. And once again, residents are invited to attend Community Council, Planning Commission, and City Council meetings to offer public comment.

Millcreek is working to give residents a voice and to allow public input to help shape and control the future of our City. I urge you to stay involved, be educated on what the City can and cannot do in regards to development, watch the emails and website for information, and then show up and share your thoughts!