WASHINGTON CITY — In the general plan for Washington City approved in 2017, civic leaders stated the city “has the land and water resources to grow from its current estimated population of approximately 15,000 to a community of 80,000 or more.”

A closed down Main Street in Washington City, Utah, July 20, 2023 | Photo by Haven Scott, St. George News

That research predicted continuous pressure to expand the systems necessary to support growth, such as new roads, water, sewer, schools, churches, parks and trails.

According to the US Census Bureau estimates, in 2022 Washington City’s population stood at 32,709, with a growth rate of more than 8% annually.

Population has increased by over 26% since the previous census data with a population of 28,721 in 2020.

With three of the five Washington City Council seats open for the upcoming election, St. George News asked each of the candidates their views on three topics: public relations, ideas for traffic problems and plans for affordable housing. What follows are the candidates’ bios with their direct responses to these topics. Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity purposes.

New challengers

Troy Belliston moved to Washington County in 1984 as a youth and graduated from Pine View High School in 1992. After serving with the US Army 1st Armored Division, and later with the 101st Airborne Division, he has worked in construction and project development while raising two children with his wife, Kimberly.

Troy Belliston is running for City Council in Washington City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Troy Belliston for City Council, St. George News

Awareness: I would restore public hearings where the current City Council has eliminated them. Public involvement is critical in the decision-making process and the council needs to be open about the decisions that they are contemplating. Our current city policy towards public hearings for general plan and zone changes can be summed up in this statement: “Trust us, we will watch your comments over YouTube.” For me, that is bad policy and it needs to be corrected immediately.

Traffic: It often seems as if a city is playing catch-up with regard to traffic infrastructure and roads, but the reality is the opposite. Currently, we need a connection through from Costco to Washington Fields in order to help alleviate the pressure across the Telegraph and Green Springs intersections. This new road is already in the planning stages.

I’ll commit to keep forecasting with our traffic engineers and planning organizations for areas of weakness in our roadways and traffic flows and future demands that will be placed in our infrastructure system.

Affordable housing: I’ve long advocated a tiered permit and impact fee schedule. I believe that if we are to get serious about dealing with affordable housing, we need to first look inwards to the fees and costs that we as a city require of our builders and new homeowners and how we assess those fees.

The more that we require our builders put into newly built homes, the more we drive those costs up for our first-time homebuyers and young families who just need a break and an opportunity to provide for their families. Adding tens of thousands of dollars in code requirements in order to save $10, $20, or $40 in utilities is prohibiting our young families from homeownership.

Ed Tracy is running for City Council in Washington City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Ed Tracy for City Council, St. George News

Ed Tracy is a United States Air Force veteran of 12 years and a father to four children. He serves as the president and CEO of the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, and a board member for Washington City’s Cotton Days and the Washington County Fair.

Awareness: Economic development, one of my strengths and what I do full-time for the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, brings jobs, higher wages, and contributes to our tax base to help fund public services.

Traffic: Smart growth begins with good infrastructure. We should ensure that our roads are in good condition and that traffic lights are put in place to protect our citizens, especially youth. Additionally, we should ensure that our public services are properly equipped to meet the challenges associated with growth.

Affordable housing: An impressive amount of good planning for growth has already taken place; we should understand that. Growth for Washington City is necessary. I want to put people’s minds at ease, understanding that future growth will propel Washington City to the forefront of Washington County. Equitable employment opportunities for all.

The incumbents

Ben Martinsen has been serving on the City Council for almost two years and previously served on the Washington City Planning Commission for eight years. He is currently a board member of the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, on the Interfaith Council and a member of the Lions Club.

Ben Martinsen addresses the Washington City Council, Washington City, Utah, Jan. 18, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Awareness: We could have community meetings around specific questions or concerns. With some structure, these meetings become more about considering concerns, questions, and potential mitigations. Breakout groups could also allow for more detailed conversations among community members and council members; with controversial proposals, these small-group discussions can also encourage productive dialogue.

I have pushed for this with our general plan update that needs to happen sooner than later. Partnering with organizations, such as advocacy groups or faith-based groups, could help to lead meetings. We could incorporate engagement into existing events or meetings that happen throughout the community. By doing this, we can go where the community is, rather than making the community come to us.

Traffic: Continuing to invest in active transportation infrastructure: this can help to reduce the number of cars on the road. This can include building bike lanes and pedestrian walkways and improving sidewalks and crosswalks. Build more mixed-use, transit-oriented and higher-density developments. This could help to reduce the number of cars on the road as it would provide residents with closer shopping, and other amenities, within walking, biking or scootering distance.

Affordable housing: Encouraging mixed-income developments can help to create more affordable housing options. Mixed-income developments can include a range of housing types, from affordable housing to market-rate housing, and can help to create more diverse and inclusive communities. It can also include different styles of offerings such as entry-level townhomes, patio homes or condos.

Partnering with nonprofit organizations to help them to provide options. Nonprofit organizations can provide financing, technical assistance and other resources to help build affordable housing. This would also include sending individuals and families to work with these organizations, not the city.

Craig Coats moved to the area in 2000 to attend college and stayed to raise a family. He previously served on the Planning Commission for three years and the City Council for four. He has been working in Washington City for 19 years as a land surveyor.

Craig Coats is running for City Council in Washington City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Craig Coats for City Council, St. George News

Awareness: We do lots of great things to incorporate the community members. One of the best things is I like to talk with residents. A lot of people want to express their thoughts and advice to you during public events. I have always felt when you get to know someone — that is when you can see their side of the situation — the best thing we can do is listen to all types of concerns and see what makes the most sense. We also must work with the staff and determine how to incorporate the decisions.

Traffic: Washington City has grown a lot over the past few years. I guess everyone has found out how great this area is. While growth does cause concerns and problems for traffic, the city is constantly monitoring the traffic and determining how to move traffic around. We have added stoplights and widened roadways as needed.

Affordable housing: Affordable housing is a huge concern for the state and city. We must be creative with how we provide housing for the next generation. We need to look outside of the standard practices. One example I have is we are looking for more cost-effective land to help keep the costs down. We also need to work with developers to create these affordable housing sections within the development. If we can work together and get more affordable housing, we will be able to make this a better place for people to live.

Kurt Ivie was raised in Southern Utah, taught at Washington Elementary School for 32 years and coached baseball at Dixie High School for 30. He has served on the Washington City Council for the last four years and also serves as chairman for the St. George Children’s Museum and on Utah Tech University’s and Dove Center’s board of directors.

Kurt Ivie is running for City Council in Washington City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Kurt Ivie for City Council, St. George News

Awareness: In a technological world and ever busier lives, we must utilize information where citizens are available to receive it. A lot of that is electronic-based. Public opinion polls, focus groups and neighborhood visits from the mayor and City Council are very effective. They also provide much-needed dialog as part of the process.

I have made myself approachable and available to the citizens because I know that is fundamental in serving them, and not yourself. My responsibility is not simply to represent the city’s position to those who live here but to represent the resident’s position to the city.

Traffic: As the Five County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s mobility board vice chair, I have access to firsthand information that puts the city at the table where county road decisions are being made. The key to continued success is to be ahead of the need and collaborate with partners. Specifically, we need to revolutionize traffic light management, restrict parking near busy intersections, encourage alternative routes and the use of traffic calming devices, continue to improve our Sun-Tran bus service, and zoning and density play a part as well.

Affordable housing: I have learned while serving on the Utah Land Use task force that housing is key to creating positive life outcomes and the overall prosperity of any community. Forming a city housing authority to work with developers, nonprofits and government agencies has benefits. Another solution is to bring in businesses that offer pay that provides opportunities for home ownership.

This last year, they announced a new industrial warehousing project called ARA projected to bring 2,000 jobs and pay above the threshold. We must look at this issue twofold — cheaper housing and competitive pay. We must work on both to be successful.

Ballots in the mail

Ballots have started arriving in mailboxes throughout Iron County on Tuesday, one week before the Nov. 2 general election. Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 26, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Ballots are mailed to active, registered voters 21 days prior to an election, according to Utah State Law. If you are a registered voter and do not receive your ballot in the mail, contact the Washington County Elections Office at 435-301-7248.

You may either drop your completed ballot in the mail or return to any ballot drop box in Washington County. Locations for drop boxes can be found by clicking here.

Residents who lose or spoil their ballot can call the Washington County Elections Office to set up an appointment to pick up a new one at their office, or you may vote in person during early voting or on Election Day.

Early voting

Dixie Convention Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George.

Tuesday, Nov. 14 — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 16 — Noon to 4 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 17 — Noon to 4 p.m.

Hurricane Community Center, 63 S. 100 West, Hurricane.

Tuesday, Nov. 14 — Noon to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 — Noon to 4 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 16 — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 17 — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Valid voter identification is required. Registration by provisional ballot will be available at both locations.

Election Day

The Utah municipal general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 21. A polling location for all Washington City precincts will be located at: Dixie Convention Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for voters to return their ballots or vote in person. Voters must be a citizen of the United States; residents of the voting precinct in which they are voting; and 18 years of age or older by the general election in order to participate. Voter identification will be required.

For additional information, visit vote.utah.gov or contact Washington City Recorder Tara Pentz at 435-656-6308 or by email.  Any changes to the polling location will be posted on Washington City’s website.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.