By Myrna Trauntvein
Two requests from property owners were presented to the Planning Commission and then recommended, by them, to the city council.
Seth Atkinson, Nephi City Administrator, said city staff had prepared a report o share with council members that attempted to examine the pros and cons of considering properties to be added to the annexation area map.
Pros for adding properties to the annexation area map are: it opens options for the council to examine why a property may be a good fit for annexation to the city.
“It may be helpful to take a step back and look at broader reasons for why Nephi City may be receiving requests for island annexations since the state legislature began allowing them in the 2020 legislative session,” said Atkinson.
Properties can be included as part of long-term planning processes to assist with identifying desirable growth (e.g. Conceptual Zoning, General Plan growth zones, Economic Development, Transportation, etc.) Annexation Level 3 potentially may be used to meet demands for residential, commercial and industrial growth.
“The city council can determine where growth can occur among the more options that are available by using the levels in the Annexation Area Map,” said Atkinson. “They can respond to inquiries about available land for economic development purposes more quickly.”
Adding Level 3 requests to the map could encourage development that has the capability of occurring in the county to locate within the city limits and avoid utility connections to other providers.
Once a property has made the investments to connect to other utility providers, they are much less likely to make the same investments to connect to city utilities. This could lead to the potential for an island of non-annexed property within the city limits as the city grows around these types of properties.
“This may lead to disorderly growth with pockets of non-annexed properties in the middle of the city limits,” said Atkinson. “It also leads to additional impacts on city services without paying the taxes to help offset these costs. This issue of development within the county but outside of the city limits should be explored further and discussions between the county and city leadership should occur to avoid these situations.”
Once a development moves through the levels and is ready for annexation, it allows the city to require developments to meet city code and also would give the city control over where easements, streets, and utilities will be placed. If developments occur in the county, the city has no control over these things.
There are also several reasons why it may not be a good idea to add properties to the Annexation Area Map.
Cons of adding properties to the annexation map are: that it can potentially give property owners false hope about being annexed if there are significant issues or obstacles that prevent a property from moving through the Annexation Area Map Levels.
“It creates additional commitments to staff time when more properties are added to the Annexation Area Map in order to study potential issues to annexation,” said Atkinson. “It expands scope of work on long term planning efforts that can lead to additional costs for these plans.”
It could lead to “patchy” growth patterns if island annexations are allowed by the council away from city limits. While this in and of itself is not a problem aside from looking disjointed on a map, it can be a problem if utilities are extended too far from the city limits.
The city does not have to pay for the extensions, as those fall on the developer, but will need to pay the costs to maintain those extensions.
This may be cost effective for a large commercial or industrial user or a sizable residential development but not for smaller developments. And this could encourage additional property owners to ask to be included in the city’s annexation area map.
Because of the demand for additional housing and for business growth, development will most likely occur one way or another.
In other words, if the city does not annex, the county may approve the proposed development. This means that growth may be “patchy” or “spotty” whether properties are added to the Annexation Area Map or not.
The Council could choose to: A) allow growth to only occur in areas inside of the current boundaries of the Annexation Area Map.
“This would decrease the level of staff time spent looking at these properties, limit the amount of spending for master plans to just the current area, and send a message to property owners in the surrounding area that the city is not looking to expand their Annexation Area Map boundary at this time,” he said. “It would allow the staff to focus just on the areas that have been currently identified before looking at any expansions.”
The risks with this approach include 1) development in areas of the unincorporated county that may or may not meet city codes; 2) placement of utilities, streets, and easements that may or may not be in places that the city would prefer; 3) it would be unlikely that a development or the city would want to pay the costs associated with bringing in a development into the city limits, thus leading to potential islands of non-annexed property surrounded by the city limits as the city limits migrate to the development.
Or the council may choose: B) Include annexation area requests into the annexation area boundary. This means that the properties could be studied and moved through the levels or stay within a level based on the merits of each development.
“This would allow staff to examine any potential issues, identify challenges to having a property annexed and determine how those obstacles could be overcome rather than having growth occur and trying to find a way to integrate the developments into the city in the future.”
It could provide options for the council when looking at opportunities to allow annexation for economic development or other purposes.
Once properties move through the levels and address any issues or challenges, developments would meet long term planning requirements, utilities and easements would be placed where the city would prefer, and city code requirements would be met.
“It also means that annexed developments would pay taxes toward impacts that they would have on our services,” said Atkinson. “There is probably an approximate maximum distance from the current city limits where the benefits of examining a property for annexation are far less than the costs.”
There should be some kind of feasibility study conducted to determine what this distance should be and what factors lead to determining this distance.
Risks include 1) Property owners near the Annexation Area Map inundating the staff and council with requests for inclusion into the Annexation Area Map; 2) Planning efforts would need to be expanded to include larger areas for consideration which may increase costs; 3) Limits staff time on how much analysis could be done on any one property if the Annexation Area Map is expanded; 4) Development may occur in a spotty pattern and may extend utilities inefficiently.
“The staff would like you to provide feedback to staff on how to proceed with future requests for inclusion into the Annexation Area Map,” said Atkinson.