SPRINGDALE – A plan to build a parking structure in Springdale near the south entrance to Zion National Park is moving forward, despite concerns from Springdale residents.
Springdale town leaders emphasize that the proposed $2.5 million two-story structure slated to be constructed at the intersection of Balanced Rock Road and state Route 9 is still in the conceptual stages, is not “a done deal” and still needs to clear some hurdles; but that hasn’t stopped residents from voicing their concerns.
For instance, several Springdale residents showed up at the regular May 10 Town Council meeting to make their voices heard.
One of residents’ major concerns is the rockslide potential at the proposed site of the parking structure. Among those addressing the May 10 council meeting, the minutes record, was Wayne Hamilton. He said he started doing surveys on the landslide area in 1974 and discovered that the hill was moving toward the highway at the rate of a few centimeters a year and asked the town if it had fully considered the geologic risk.
Springdale Associate Planner Toni Benevento responded to Hamilton’s concern by saying the town engineer would review the geotechnical report if the zone change to build the structure is approved.
Also at that meeting, Diane McDonald said a memo from Springdale Director of Community Development Tom Dansie dated April 3, 2015, noted the Utah Geological Survey repeatedly cautioned the town about continued hazards in or around the area where the proposed structure is slated to be built. McDonald said the town’s General Plan “prohibited development of uses which would likely result in a hazardous situation due to slope instability, rock fall or excessive erosion,” according to the meeting minutes.
One resident at the meeting, Gene Gerstner, was concerned that the town is considering the parking structure prematurely, noting that neither Zion National Park’s Visitor Use Management Plan nor Springdale Town’s parking study have been completed yet. According to the minutes, Gerstner said he did not feel Springdale residents or businesses would benefit from the project, saying that commercial parking lots are empty during the day and that the structure would not promote the unique village atmosphere that the town is striving for.
Town Councilwoman Lisa Zumpft is also concerned about the geological hazards and felt that the town needs to discuss the project more and not do it haphazardly.
According to the meeting minutes, Zumpft said it “was fiscally irresponsible to put one million dollars into a project that may not be returned should a landslide occur again.”
Additionally, Zumpft felt the structure would not protect the town atmosphere and felt the public needs to have the chance to comment on the final parking management study. She was the lone dissenter in the meeting’s vote to keep moving forward on the structure.
There are some residents who support the structure. For example, Janet Twitchell Hollis came to the meeting to say she felt the structure would benefit the town. Springdale will grow whether Zion limits visitation or not, she said, and residents need to open their minds to change.
Mayor Stan Smith and the rest of the Town Council are on board with the parking structure.
“I think it’s a great project,” Smith said. “Is it perfect? No.”
Smith said it’s simply one of several strategies they’re trying to employ to reduce congestion – of so many cars parking on the side of the street or where they shouldn’t be parked.
Springdale received a $1 million grant from the Washington County Commission and plans to use it on the proposed parking structure. Another portion of the funding to pay for the structure will come from a 10-year loan, as was discussed during the council’s July 12 meeting.
The town sent out a request for proposals to construct the structure and decided on the one that it felt was the most feasible. The proposal in consideration is a conceptual drawing the city has received and is just that – conceptual, Smith said. Some fear that what is seen in the conceptual drawing is what will actually be built, Smith said, but that is far from the truth.
“It’s not the real deal,” the mayor said.
“It’s a great design but it’s not a Springdale design,” Dansie said. “It’s more appropriate for an urban area.”
Smith countered residents’ concerns about landslide potential by saying that, based on the area’s topography, rocks could fall anywhere. Another concern voiced by residents is the structure’s aesthetics, fearing that it will be an unsightly concrete behemoth, but Smith said the structure would be attractive and the design would do its best to blend into the environment.
The advantages of the parking structure, Smith said, is that visitors are parking in the location anyway and that it won’t detract from the surrounding neighbors.
Interestingly, the city is high on building the two-story parking structure but recently turned down two of three recent applications for conditional use permits by Springdale landowners to construct private parking lots. The one they did approve is a 34-space lot in back of Whiptail Grill; the lot opened a few weeks ago and is called Zion Park Lot.
Richard Madsen, owner of Zion Tow, was one of the property owners proposing a private parking lot that the Springdale Town Council turned down. He has 11 acres on the north side of town adjacent to Majestic View Lodge on the east side of state Route 9. He proposed to construct a lot with 100 spaces large enough to park recreational vehicles, if needed, because he said there is really nowhere adequate for RVs to park in Springdale and the town hasn’t done anything to address the influx of RVs and there is no stipulation on the size the spaces have to be.
The mayor actually made a motion to approve Madsen’s lot, Madsen said, but no one seconded the motion. Further, he said, when Town Councilman Mark Chambers made the motion to deny it, Smith was the only vote against it whereas all five – councilmen and mayor – voted to approve the Whiptail Grill’s parking.
Madsen said his property is an ideal spot because drivers on SR-9 would hardly see it because of the way it sits.
Madsen’s sister, Melanie Madsen Thatcher, is the owner of the first private parking lot the Town Council approved, approximately 2 1/2 years ago, located on Lion Boulevard. Madsen, a Springdale native, has helped his sister manage the lot, which he feels gives him an advantage over other potential parking-lot owners who don’t have that experience.
Madsen said if it was willing, Springdale could put together a public-private venture on his property for a 600-lot parking lot that could be built for approximately $1 million.
One of Springdale’s reasons for not considering such a proposal is because it feels it would overload the shuttle system, Madsen said. His solution to that would be to run his own shuttle from the lot on his property.
All five town council members voted to approve Whiptail Grill’s conditional use permit during the same meeting that Madsen’s was denied, Madsen said.
Madsen said he doesn’t understand why the council did not approve his lot since he feels his property is ideal, having no adjoining private residences, and its closest neighbor is 1,000 feet away.
“I thought it was a slam dunk,” Madsen said, adding that the reasons the council denied his application were ridiculous. “The double standard is incredible up here. It’s been frustrating.”
Late last year, the town discussed going into a joint venture with one of Madsen’s neighbors, Madsen said, but that plan is on hold because the property owner did not apply for a conditional use permit before the council placed a moratorium on them.
“They have their own agenda,” Madsen said of Springdale Town. “They want to line their pockets.”
As an example, Madsen cited an offer by Parks Transportation Inc., the company that operates the Zion transportation system, to lease Springdale trailers for the town’s shuttle busses to double their capacity, but Springdale declined, which he sees as proof that Springdale doesn’t want to fork out much money to help solve the problem.
He is not giving up, Madsen said. He may appeal the decision, might join a lawsuit from one of the other property owners, Allan Staker, who was also denied a private parking lot, or he might join forces with Majestic View Lodge’s new owners on a joint venture.
Dansie said detractors of the parking structure and the direction the city is going to address parking and overcrowding issues have valid points and that he and the city value those complaints.
“It’s what makes the process work,” Dansie said of the feedback they are receiving from community members. If better options are available, he said, they should be pursued.
Even though there are many who are not excited about the parking structure, Dansie said it is a way to take some parked cars off the street, help safety and keep a semblance of a small-town feel.
To help the city go in the right direction in solving its parking issues, Springdale commissioned a parking study being completed by San Diego-based consultants Dixon and Associates. As part of the study, Dansie said, the consulting group has counted cars on busy weekends; held well-attended public open houses (40-50 people have shown up); and met one-on-one with stakeholders in the community, including business owners, town council and planning commission members and National Park Service personnel.
Not coincidentally, Springdale’s efforts to alleviate its traffic and parking concerns coincide with Zion National Park’s efforts to formulate a Visitor Use Management Plan to address its growing visitation, Dansie said, making for two solutions from the two different entities struggling with issues associated with unprecedented visitor growth.
Read more: This is what Zion National Park might do to solve overcrowding issues; how to comment – July 18, 2017
Dixon and Associates will present its findings at the Aug. 9 Town Council meeting.
Dansie stressed that Springdale does not think the parking structure will be the be-all and end-all solution to the city’s parking and traffic issues. It’s just one of a whole host of strategies the town will try to employ to address the issue.
Read more: 2016 St. George News Series “Zion National Park traffic jam”
- Zion National Park traffic jam: A closer look at the overcrowding problem
- Zion National Park traffic jam: A look at official ideas for better parking, access
- Zion National Park traffic jam: A look at busing considerations, shuttle upgrades
- Zion National Park traffic jam: A look at ideas for limiting number of visitors
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.