January 20, 2009
Minutes of the Centerville City Council work session held Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 5:50 p.m. in the Centerville City Council Chambers, 250 North Main, Centerville, Utah.
Mayor: Ronald G. Russell
Council Members: Justin Y. Allen
STAFF PRESENT Steve Thacker, City Manager
INFILL DEVELOPMENT, HILLSIDE DEVELOPMENT and DEBRIS FLOW HAZARD AREA
Cory Snyder, Community Development Director, said he provided two (2) documents that should help the Council understand the many issues regarding infill development, hillside development, the flood zone hazard area, and how they relate. These documents also review the many definitions of infill development and housing options, including a map of underutilized land within the city.
Mr. Snyder said there are many aspects of infill that could be addressed across the city, but it has become apparent that the greatest concern with regard to infill is a Special Flood Hazard Area (Zone A) below Centerville (Deuel Creek) Canyon. This area includes many homes that were built between the 1930s and 40s. There have been several applications for expansion or construction of basements for homes in this area. These applications are subject to significant regulations (FEMA) and cost. Homeowners become frustrated with these regulations and ask for variances, which when granted can put them at significant risk. If a debris flow were to damage their homes it is not likely they would be able to rebuild. Staff has looked at some possible solutions and believes that the concept of infill needs to harmonize with the flood-plain area and FEMA regulations. He said a debris flow may never happen, but it would be foolish not to plan for that possibility. In the meantime, residents are dealing with the burden of strict ordinances and regulations.
Mayor Russell said it seems the basic questions are, what can be done to eliminate or reduce the damage of a debris flow within Zone A and how can these efforts be funded?
Fred Campbell, City Engineer, said they are currently studying this area to determine the actual size of debris basin needed to control or slow a debris flow. According to older studies the recommended size of debris basin would cost approximately $7 million. It is possible to build a smaller debris basin, but it would not be as effective. Staff has discussed several options for funding this project; it may even be possible to secure some funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, but it is not likely the entire amount can be raised. He explained the best option may be to raise the homes in this area and require only non-living spaces (i.e., garages, storage, etc.) below the homes. This would allow a space for debris to flow, but is costly and not popular with builders or homeowners.
Randy Randall, Public Works Director, suggested selling the City’s land just south of this site and use the funds to build the debris basin. The drawback is that this property is on the hillside and currently no hillside development is allowed. The City would have to create a plan for hillside development. He said staff also discussed charging a development impact fee within Zone A or creating a special improvement district to generate funds.
Mr. Snyder said another option is to allow units to move out of the most dangerous area, creating a no-build green zone. This may require buy outs and density adjustments.
Kim Boyd, Drainage Utility Supervisor, said it costs approximately $1,000 a year for an individual homeowner to purchase flood insurance. Currently, only 21 of the homes in this area carry FEMA insurance. This does not include homes that may carry private insurance.
Councilman Wright said he would like to deal with both issues--infill across the city and the flood plain. Once the flood plain issue is resolved, the City infill policies can be applied as needed to the flood plain area as well. Mr. Snyder said this could be done, but questioned if the City is ready to allow for greater densities. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with delicately. Perhaps infill should only be allowed in mixed-use areas, such as the Main Street Corridor. He said infill can be looked at across the board, but it may be better to start in a smaller area and go from there. The City may not be ready for single-family infill.
Councilman Averett said infill can potentially create a lot of conflict in neighborhoods. For example, when one neighbor is allowed a flag lot, another neighbor may feel their quality of life has been disturbed because of increased parking, congestion, or density.
Councilwoman Lindstrom said she was originally interested in looking at the preservation of historical sites. She said she is mostly concerned with bash and builds and would like to have some language in the code dealing with this issue. She does not want to see a large new home built next to a small older home. She feels this is an issue that is not neighborhood specific and could apply to the majority of the city. She said she is just starting to understand the flood plain issue and believes it needs to be resolved first, but does not want the infill discussions to stop.
Mr. Snyder said historic preservation would require regulations regarding design, style, size, etc. for a specific area. Councilman Allen said he is not comfortable designating a historic zone. He said the city is already varied and it would be hard to determine an historic zone.
Councilman Cutler said he would be interested in getting feedback from residents living within Zone A. Would they be in favor of an impact fee or a special improvement district? He said the City also needs to research other forms of funding, i.e., grants, Federal money, County cooperation, etc.
One resident (lives in Zone A) said he would rather put money toward a debris basin than toward flood insurance. Another resident (also living in Zone A) thanked the Council for discussing this issue. He said a debris basin would be a direct benefit to citizens and funding should be found for this project.
Councilman Averett said a debris basin would benefit the entire citizenry in Centerville. Even though a debris flow would affect Zone A directly, any flooding would continue on down through the city, causing numerous problems. He said an impact fee could be applied across the board, perhaps a smaller fee for those residents outside Zone A and a slightly greater fee for those inside Zone A.
Mr. Snyder said the City could use their property for development. A master plan could be created that would address a mixture of housing, including affordable, and also help pay for the debris basin. This would benefit the city as a whole.
Councilman Wright questioned what responsibility the County has with the debris basin, as it is on their property. He also agreed the use of City property to help fund a debris basin may be appropriate. Councilman Allen suggested asking the County for their property. This would then increase the amount of property the City owns, allowing for greater development and more funding.
Mayor Russell said there are a lot of questions that still need to be discussed. He said the debris flow study needs to be completed. The City can then look at what funding options are available and what steps need to be taken. He said both infill and hillside development have always been controversial and there may or may not be support. Each type of infill will need to be looked at carefully. He believes both flag lots and hillside development will be strongly opposed in the community. Mayor Russell also said the County does not have the resources to make the debris basin a reality. This is why the City is looking at their options.
Councilman Cutler agreed the flood zone needs to be dealt with first, but said discussions regarding other infill options could continue as well.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:55 p.m.