Opinion: City responds to letter regarding design standards and Main Street area development
As Lehi City Planning Staff, we wanted to respond to the November 9, 2020 Letter to the Editor in the Lehi Free Press from Mr. Dave Hoyt titled, “Lehi: Are you being served or sold out?”
It’s great that our historic Main Street area is on Mr. Hoyt’s mind; it’s on ours too. We have spent a lot of time and effort trying to strengthen and revitalize it. From the Downtown Revitalization Plan of 2007 to the adoption of Historic District Design Standards to the most recent construction of the new Joseph D. Adams Public Safety Building (for which the City won a High Achievement Award from the Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association), our efforts as a City are neither naive nor crooked.
We recognize there’s a general trend of distrust in government, but we can assure the citizens of Lehi that there is honor in our Staff and our process, and we are not being “sold out for a few bucks.” We have a great Development Code that is more than just a subjective “honor system,” as Mr. Hoyt has suggested. All are welcome to read through our current regulations for the downtown in Chapter 37 of the Development Code.
In creating the Historic District Design Standards, we tried to maintain a good balance of regulating new development but not being too heavy-handed (there is also a general trend of public criticism of government over-regulation). For new construction, such as Lehi Vision Care and our new Public Safety building, there’s no question that a project would need to meet all of the standards. For remodels, that’s a different situation. Introductory language of the standards states, “For building remodels, these standards shall be applied on a case-by-case basis as reasonably applicable.” So, in the Domino’s Pizza remodel, the primary changes on that project were inside the building. They basically bought the building next to their existing structure and removed the interior wall to expand their business. There were not any extensive exterior changes other than some paint, so the combined buildings look consistent. Both buildings had stucco exteriors before the remodel, and both remain with stucco. It wasn’t “reasonably applicable” to require a complete renovation of both buildings’ exterior when all of the work was done to the inside (see before and after photos). If the remodel included a building addition or proposed some structural change to the storefront, we would have applied the standards for exterior building materials.
On Mr. Hoyt’s comments about community input, we make efforts to consider feedback. We require a public hearing when a project is at the concept plan stage (for example, the proposed Lehi Bakery expansion). While the public is welcome to submit their comments, that doesn’t necessarily mean that public consensus is required for a project to move forward. Again, we see the need for a balance. In this case, we must balance citizens’ concerns and comments with private property rights and what adopted Codes allow. In some cases, despite what an adjacent landowner might think, if a project meets the Code, the City has the duty to approve it. In response to the list of items Mr. Hoyt includes in his letter, we would offer the following comments:
1. Accurate architectural rendering of the project that follows Chapter 37 Design Standards.
This is a requirement of our Code for a final site plan submittal, but not for concept plans (since the project at that point is just that, conceptual).
2. Parking analysis and impact on surrounding businesses and residences. Whether or not a parking analysis is required is determined based on the project’s size, but yes, the City can require a parking analysis.
3. Project timeline from demolition to completion. We require phasing plans for larger phased projects, but this is not a formal requirement for smaller projects. Once the project is approved and an improvement bond is in place, the applicant has two years to complete the work.
4. Survey of Business owners, landowners, and residents within a two-block radius of the proposed project. The survey must include 75% participation with all feedback separated by positive, negative, and no response. This is not a requirement of our Code. We do require public notice to owners within 300′ for concept plans. There’s not a requirement for a certain percentage of positive participation.
Again, we can appreciate Mr. Hoyt’s comments and his vested interest in downtown. We just wanted to clarify some of the points in his letter and defend the integrity of the City’s development process and Staff.
Lehi City Community Development Department