Monticello City Council rejects proposed zone change, discusses pool, airport, and golf course

By Joe Boyle
Staff Writer
Members of the Monticello City Council received an audit report, rejected a proposed zone change, and received an update on the city pool at their March 20 meeting.
The council received an audit review from Mike Miles of Aycock, Miles & Associates. The stated opinion found that Monticello City complied, in all material respects, with the state compliance requirements for the year ended June 30, 2022.
Six findings in the audit required correction by the city. While most have already been corrected, one still needs action as the City’s general fund unrestricted fund balance exceeds the Utah Code limitation of 35 percent of general fund revenues.
The audit recommends the City Council reduce their unrestricted net equity by reducing revenues, increasing expenditures, or transferring funds to a capital projects fund to be assigned to future construction projects.
At the meeting, Councilman Nathan Chamberlain asked if there is any information in the report that might warrant a sanitation rate increase for residences.
Miles said there isn’t necessarily anything in the audit that shows a need for an increase in rates, but if the city wants to avoid dipping into savings for future projects an increase in rates would help prevent this. The entire 54-page report can be found on the city website.
At the meeting, the council also learned there will be around a $5 increase in cost this summer to play golf at the Hideout Golf course. A season pass for an adult will also see a $50 increase, going from $375 to $425.
This increase in price comes from the recommendation of Hideout golf pro Jeff Simon.
There will also be an increase to the park rental fees. It will now cost $35 to rent the space, with a $25 deposit that will be returned if the space is cleaned and left in good condition.
Slight changes have been made to the cost to visit the city pool, including new, cheaper fees for patrons who just want to use the pickleball courts.
The city is preparing to open the pool for the first time in a few years. City Manager Kaeden Kulow reports the city had Northern Electric adjust the power flow in the building, as it is suspected that a higher voltage may have been related to the burning out of the previous pool boiler, which has since been replaced.
Councilman Ron Skinner proposed the idea of possibly offering free swim nights to the community to try and make up for the pool being closed for the past two summers. The capacity limit of the pool complicates this, but the city has discussed other ways to give back to the community, such as discount swim day and free treats. 
Members of the Monticello City Council also discussed a proposed contract for a Fixed Base Operator at the airport. The city has been in discussion with Elliott Arthur since October.
Arthur is the President of NorthEast Planes Aviation, a company located in Laramie, Wyoming offering flight training and maintenance since 2006.
Kulow presented the proposal from Arthur, including renting of the city office space for $250 a month, waiving the fuel fee up to 20,000 gallons after that point five cents per gallon paid to the city, as well as a $2,000 a month management fee for the first six-12 months paid to Arthur with that dropping to $1,000 for the remainder of the five-year contract.
Management duties would include snow removal, vegetation, and animal management.
Kulow outlined the positives of the deal, including fulfilling Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for the number of planes at the airport, as well as giving airport management to an entity with decades of experience in the aviation world.
Concerns for the contract include the unknowns on the performance of maintenance duties, as well as the upfront out-of-pocket costs for the city. Kulow did note the move could bring positive economic impacts over the long term.
Joining the meeting by phone, Arthur emphasized again the main thrust for the operation is not simply the management of the airport but hosting a scenic tour business out of the airport.
Comparing pricing in Moab, Arthur believes the business can make a profit offering air tours of the area while using connections to his flight school to keep young up-and-coming aviators employed.
Outside of tourist season, Arthur envisions keeping a few pilots employed and offering air-taxi services in the off-season, with both ventures aimed at bringing positive economic impacts to Monticello.
Members of the council seemed amenable to the deal with a proposed contract to be presented at the March 28 meeting, after the San Juan Record print deadline.
In other airport news, the city also reported the successful installation of a new Automated Weather Observing System.
Discussion of the need to purchase new city vehicles led the council to discuss providing the airport with a “courtesy car” for pilots to use when landing on the city airstrip.
Members of the council expressed concern over issues of liability in regard to a potential accident. The council decided to table the vote for further discussion. 
Members of the Monticello City Council also discussed, and ultimately voted to reject, a proposed zone change in the city. 
Council continued their discussion regarding a proposed zone change from residential one (R1) to residential two (R2) for properties on the east side of 100 West, from Uranium Drive to 100 North.
In addition to feedback received at a February 28 public hearing, members of the city council, city staff, and the planning commission reported hearing mixed reviews from residents regarding the proposed change to R2.
The proposed R2 zone in the area has more flexibility than R1, which is mostly limited to single-family housing. The proposed zone would allow for higher-density residential units such as duplexes and apartments. Also allowed in R2 zones are short-term rentals.
Planning Chair Lee Bennett outlined the discussion regarding the proposed zone change.
“As it presently stands, the city is a little bit short of acreage for residential use,” said Bennett. “Whether it’s R1 or R2. R2 is a use that allows a broader spectrum of residential types of buildings. Sometimes R2 is considered a buffer zone between a commercial zone area and an R1 zoned area. The location you’ve proposed to rezone kind of fits that bill. There’s nothing statutorily that says you must have a buffer zone.”
Planning commission member Mary Cokenour added the city can’t build businesses if it can’t house employees.
“We have to look at the community as a whole and how we’re going to slowly build up the community that is tighter, but profitable,” said Cokenour. “Not like Moab or Durango or all those other places but we don’t want to become like Cisco, where everybody’s moved away because there’s nothing to do.”
Chamberlain pointed out that while he’s heard that residents want higher density they also don’t want short-term rentals, which he noted you can’t have one, without the other. 
Chamberlain also noted there is a lot of property currently in the city zone R2 that is currently undeveloped.
Council member George Rice noted that some currently R2 zoned areas are more easily adaptable for some infrastructure.
Bennett shared that the Utah legislature does allow for more restrictions on short-term rentals such as limiting the number of units within a spaced certain area.
Bennett added she also heard from someone in the construction world that regardless of zoning, the city may have trouble getting construction companies to build multi-family housing anywhere in the city due to the remote nature of the town.
Bennett did report that she, along with other city officials, are working on a newly formed county task force to address workforce housing needs in the county, providing resources such as planning documents to help the city address a large need.
Members of the council voted to deny the proposed zone change, with council members Chamberlain, Rice, Skinner, and Kevin Dunn voting to reject the zone change, and Councilmember Kim Henderson abstaining from the vote.
The council also approved the appointment of Jeremy Hoggard to the City Planning Commission.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the proposed hotel planned by Jared Berrett was approved by the council. Among the requests include consideration to enter a Community Reinvestment Agency (CRA) for Blighted Property, a connecting cart path, permitting and allowing up to a four-story hotel to be built and a letter of support for Empire Electric to place powerlines underground.
There are still concerns over fire safety and protocol for the proposed four-story building, but the vote to approve was still unanimous. 

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