On Wednesday afternoon after a two-week hiatus, the Cedar City Council reconvened for their weekly meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the City Office Council Chambers. The majority of items discussed were concerning the university and the area around it.
Mayor Wilson was excused from the council due to getting married just over a week ago, so council member Ron Adams was voted Mayor Pro Tempore and presided over the meeting.
The focal point of the meeting was the approval of the controversial ordinance creating the SUU Housing District (SHD) Zone, proposed and explained by City Manager Paul Bittmenn. The SHD Zone is an item that has been discussed as part of a larger solution to student housing and parking for several months.
The SHD Zone will allow local builders to better meet the housing needs of the growing student population, which is expected to gain 5,000 students in the next 10 years.
This ordinance includes a building height maximum of 50 feet for apartment buildings, as well as a fully functional fire alarm system in the basement and third-story bedrooms to improve fire safety.
Several community members expressed strong opinions about how the increase in development around this area takes value away from the town, obstructing views with towering apartments and getting rid of homes that are a part of historic Cedar City.
In support of this view, newcomer councilman Scott Phillips was the only one who voted against the ordinance in the 3-1 approval. “This is our heartbeat,” he said. “The pioneers built their homes around that university.”
Mayor Pro Tem Adams pointed out the lack of college student opinion in the council on this issue that so heavily involves them because they are busy being students.
Other community members questioned why the zone was reserved for just one area of town. “If we need to supply the college with more housing, why is it burdened on just these few neighborhoods?” Resident Shane Prestwich asked. “Why not open it up to other areas of town? Picking on just a few people is unfair.”
Expanding housing to the north or south of the city will only create a transit problem for students, as previously explained by Councilman Paul Cozzens, and will increase the parking problem as students drive to campus and park on residential streets. Having to house so close to campus encourages walking and diminishes the parking issue.
A solution to these parking issues was also approved during the meeting. City Attorney Tyler Romeril proposed a new ordinance amending the Rental License Business Ordinance and application. Under current city code, all renters are required to have a business license, and this ordinance will require the property owner to tell the city the exact number of residents in the rental and prove they have enough parking space for each occupant. Failing to do so would warrant a violation.
The first violation of these new parking requirements would result in a warning, and the second would warrant a $250 fine. Violations 3-5 would get a $500 fine and any violation after would result in a revoked business license. Phillips pointed out that it would be difficult for the police to enforce this alone, so the community will have to help in the enforcement of this restriction.
The City Council meets every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall at 10 N. Main Street. The council is open to the public.