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The Preston City Council was updated on the COVID-19 vaccination program in Franklin County at their Jan. 25 meeting. (See related story on Page A6.)

The progress the city’s planning and zoning commission (P&Z) has made on several ordinances and the city’s comprehensive plan was then presented to the council by P&Z chairman Fred Titensor.

State law requires that a city’s ordinances be in accordance with its comprehensive plan. Because Preston City’s current comprehensive plan, from 2003, “doesn’t have the same vision as we have now,” it is being updated along with several ordinances.

The commission gave updates on some of them: a parking ordinance, a multi-family housing ordinance and an animal rights ordinance, said Titensor.

One of the reasons new businesses have not relocated to the empty storefront on State Street has to do with a lack of parking. The new ordinance proposes a “buyout,” in which the city council would collect a fee that can be used to develop and purchase additional parking stalls for businesses that don’t currently have them. “We don’t have a parking shortage, just an ordinance that is preventing the businesses from coming,” said Titensor.

In regards to multi-family housing, the commission suggests that the city allow up to eight units on a minimum of one acre without requiring a special permit from the council.

The need for affordable housing “has been a topic that needs particular attention as growth and development has increased in the whole valley,” said Titensor. There are also requirements that govern entrances to streets.

“We don’t want a bunch of multi-family housing trying to enter on one street. We believe there’s a community element and a structure support element to consider,” said Titensor. “We are trying to control ... the feel of Preston.”

Accessory dwelling units, “mother-in-law housing” would also be allowed as long as the property owner lives in one of the structures and the lot is at least 28,000 square feet, said Titensor. The accessory home could be either attached to the home or a separate structure.

“We believe multi-family housing has its place, but we believe the accessory dwelling units give a little bit preferential treatment to existing property owners in some areas in town that could use some development,” he said.

The P&Z has decided to separate animal rights from the various zones of the community. In the proposed ordinance, they would be tied to property size and the quantity of animals the property can support.

“We worked with the local extension agents and FFA advisors to identify a proper headcount. ... I believe our animal rights ordinance will be more lenient and more understanding of what’s happening in our community, than ever before,” he said.

Councilman Todd Thoma asked if residents would retain the animal rights that they currently have.

“I would like to tell you yes, but then we’ll find some small verbage where it has (changed). I can not find a more lenient plan.... There is a grandfathering clause that would help someone who has does have a larger herd they’ve been supporting on their property,” Titensor said.

The city’s map, which is about 35 years old, is “the most dangerous spot in the entire comprehensive plan for safety and security and forward look for where Preston needs to go,” said Titensor.

“We have this word, transitional, that if anyone living in a transitional zone, if they are not nervous, they should be. Because it basically says, ‘Well, we weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen with this in the 1970s so we are just going to let anything go and we’re going to run it by the planning and zoning and see if we can get it through.’ Transitional has now evolved to where I can drive and find residential areas, and developed HOAs and it is still called transitional. So our first priority is to identify what has already been said and done,” he said.

Over the next two months, the commission plans to canvas the community “to see what is ... obviously already there.” Then with the city engineer and other stakeholders, the commission will evaluate if an area has the infrastructure for additional housing.

“This is a pretty big undertaking. We left the toughest for last and are working through it. It will be nice to say we have dealt with all ordinances and the map as well,” he said. He also noted that the comprehensive plan is a working document that needs to be updated on an annual basis, “not a 30-year basis.”

“I appreciate your thoroughness and research on this. I’m excited to have a more comprehensive plant to rely on in the future,” said Councilmember Allyson Wadsworth.

In other business, a variance request for Dixon Beckstead at 220 West 200 South was denied.

A minor subdivision requested by Tim Golightly on Fourth South and State State Street was approved.

Business licenses

Business licenses for the following were also approved:

• Dulcet Hearing LLC, 37 South State Street, which purchased Miracle Ear and will continue conducting that business as is, except for the name change.

• Aspen Air Design, LLC, by Virginia Edelfson of Malad, who just wants to be able to do work with customers in the city. There will be no storefront.

• Crystalyn Beauty, by Crystalyn Spackman, at 562 Aspen Circle, Preston.

• Hair by Krista, by Krista Hooley, at 276 East 11th North, Preston.

“We are always happy to see new business requests,” said Mayor Dan Keller.

Airport runway update

The final matter of business was reviewing the city’s role in a grant that will be used to improve the Preston airport’s runway.

The airport is co-owned by Preston City and Franklin County, which approved the plan two weeks ago and signed it on Jan. 25. The grant is for $5,505,000 with a match of $412,875 to be provided by the city/county partnership. That amount is payable with in-kind labor and materials, said Robert Swainston, who represented the county at the city council meeting.

Preston city has already budgeted $150,000 towards meeting its portion of the match. It is expected the runway will be replaced by late summer 2022. The runway will be realigned where its angles towards the highway, be extended 50 feet and have new lighting along its length.

The airport’s safety is very antiquated, said councilman Terry Larsen. “It’s not good for planes coming in and out.” He also noted the benefit of improving the airport for businesses relocated in town which have headquarters elsewhere. “From a commercial standpoint, it’s a benefit in trying to attract more businesses,” he said.

“We are getting a lot” for the city’s portion of the grant, said Wadsworth.

“Its an unbelievable project, quite frankly, for a community of our size, to have the FAA invest $5 million in it,” said Mayor Keller.

The council approved a motion allowing the mayor to sign the grant for the city.

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