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Planners Set Record With Three-Hour Meeting

by Lynn Kutter | January 5, 2022 at 10:35 a.m.

FARMINGTON -- Farmington Planning Commission held a three-hour meeting last week, its longest meeting ever, and approved the preliminary plats for two housing developments, a new cell tower, storage units and rezoned land for a new office building.

In all, commissioners had seven items to consider on the agenda for the Dec. 28 meeting, with a room full of people at the meeting, and others on Zoom, asking questions, making comments or voicing opposition to some of the items.

No one was left in the room for the last item considered by the commission, Phase 2 of Summerfield subdivision located on the west side of Hunter Street.

The commission approved the preliminary plat for Phase 2, 193 residential lots on 85 acres. Phase 1, which is now under construction, will have 112 lots on 55 acres.

Most people were at the meeting to comment on a request to rezone land adjacent to the entrance to Twin Falls subdivision, along U.S. Highway 62, from R-1, residential single-family, to R-O, residential office, and on a large scale development plan for Avance Storage, located at 700 W. Main St.

Rezoning Request

The commission unanimously approved the request from Jerry Coyle with Coyle Enterprises in Prairie Grove to rezone the land to R-O. This request now goes before Farmington City Council on Jan. 10 for final approval.

Coyle initially requested to rezone the land to C-2, and the notification letters to adjacent property owners showed that as the request. Later, Coyle asked to downgrade the request to an R-O zone.

Mark Beavers, who represented Coyles at the commission meeting, said Coyles decided to change the request because an R-O zone is more restrictive for development and to help appease any concerns.

"I believe there was some confusion as to what was going on the property," Beavers said. "There were a lot of rumors flying around."

Many residents in Twin Falls said they were concerned about a commercial building adjacent to the entrance to the subdivision and how it would affect property values. Several said they chose to live in Farmington and in Twin Falls because it is the nicest subdivision in Farmington.

Beavers said the land is under contract by an attorney who now works for the Everett Law Firm at 12217 U.S. Highway 62 in Farmington, an office building on the other side of the entrance to Twin Falls. This attorney wants to have his own practice, Beavers said.

He assured the property owners the new law office built by Coyle would have a similar look as the other attorney office, which also was built by Coyle.

"I want to put to rest it will not be a metal building," Beavers told the planning commission and those at the meeting in person and on Zoom. "It will match the residential property behind it."

City Business Manager Melissa McCarville said the land had been zoned commercial previously and then was rezoned to residential. She noted no one would build a home there next to the 62 Highway. An R-O zone is much less evasive, she added.

Commissioner Judy Horne also told property owners that an R-O zone was their "safest" zone, as far as what is allowed if the law office is not built and then something else comes before the commission in the future.

Storage Units Approved

The commission also unanimously approved the large scale development plan presented by Jake Chavis with Bates & Associates for the storage units on 7.93 acres. The plan shows a 4,500-square feet office building in the front along U.S. 62, four 20-foot by 10-foot buildings with storage units, two climate controlled storage buildings, and parking for RVs in the middle of the complex.

As part of the plan, the owner is giving the city an easement in the back of the property for the future extension of Grace Lane to connect to Rheas Mill Road. This extension is on the city's master transportation plan.

The city's engineer, Chris Brackett, said the city looked at two possible locations for this easement for the future road. One went through the middle of the project and the other option was on the back of the property.

Brackett, who no longer is with Olsson Inc., but has his own firm, KMS Engineering Integrity, said the city agrees with the easement in the back. The city is not requesting any street improvements on that easement, Brackett said, because it does not know when the road will be built.

One of the concerns from residents about the development was flooding that occurs west of the property along the highway. Brackett said the development has a detention pond for drainage and that he agreed with what the drainage plans are showing.

External Array Denied

In other action, the commission denied a request for a variance to allow external antennas for a telecommunications tower at the southeast corner of North Kimberley and Lossing streets. Commissioners Jay Moore and Chad Ball voted in favor of the variance and commissioners Keith Macedo, Gerry Harris and Judy Horne voted against it.

The city's ordinance for cell towers prohibits external antennas.

City Attorney Steve Tennant first addressed the commission about the variant and was vehemently against it.

"We're not opposed to towers but they can be some of the ugliest things on the face of this earth," Tennant said to Greg Farris, who was presenting the variance request for SCI Wireless.

Tennant said the city's ordinance for a monopole cell tower with internal antennas is meant to protect the integrity of the people's property around the cell tower.

"If we vary from our ordinance, I mean 100%, then why do we even have an ordinance," he said.

Farris said external antennas provide more power and allow more carriers. He predicted Farmington will need multiple monopole cell towers for 5G technology to get what could be accomplished with external antennas on one tower.

After the variance request failed, the commission voted to grant a conditional use permit for the tower. It will be located in a wooded area away from the road, Farris said. The monopole will be 150 feet tall with a lightning rod on top and have a fence surrounding the structure.

The commission also unanimously denied a variance from MRS Enterprises, LLC, to waive street improvements for Bethel Elm Subdivision, located southeast of the intersection of Little Elm and Bethel Blacktop roads. It then approved the preliminary plat for the subdivision, which shows all the road improvements on the plan: sidewalks and curb and gutter along the development side of both roads.

The preliminary plat shows 12 single-family residential lots that range in size from one acre to three areas on 25.16 acres. Each of the homes would have a driveway coming off either Little Elm Road or Bethel Blacktop Road.

This development is outside the city limits in the city's one-mile planning area so it also has to be approved by Washington County.

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