Right On: Not in my backyard

Image courtesy of Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — There are lots of good locations for new public facilities and private developments. But none of them are near my backyard.

“Not in my backyard” is a common homeowner reaction and the bane of those seeking permission to site a facility or development.

Looking back over the last several years in Washington County, NIMBY issues prompted strong and sometimes conflicting responses.

Put on your public official’s hat, take a step back and make a decision that balances individual interests with the greater good in the following cases.

Ivins residents are up in arms about a proposed helicopter landing site at the new, five-star Sentierre Resort adjacent to the Tuacahn amphitheater.

Many of Sentierre’s upscale clients will fly into St. George’s airport located about an hour by car from the resort. Whisking them by helicopter to the resort is faster and adds five-star cachet to the resort experience.

Nearby Ivins residents don’t want low-flying helicopters near their homes. Noise and safety concerns have motivated them to band together to voice their opposition to the Ivins City Council.

So do you support Ivins’ residents? Or are they standing in the path of progress?

I’m with the neighbors on this one. It’s hard to justify resort helicopters as serving the greater public good.

Santa Clara residents are of mixed minds about a proposed 83-acre resort-style development in the South Hills area.

The developers plan to draw bicycle and hiking enthusiasts to an upscale facility targeted at visitors from around the world.

The city’s Economic Development Commission supported the required zone change, saying it saw “tremendous opportunity for having visitors come.” Councilwoman Mary Jo Hafen said, “Have the money come to Santa Clara, not St. George.”

Yet, over 500 residents signed a petition opposing the planned 450 short-term rental units. Some of these folks clearly would not have built or bought nearby had they known what was coming.

So would you go for the tax revenue needed in what is now mostly a bedroom community? Or, like Rockville, would you opt to preserve the small town charm and cut back on city services?

With city leaders supporting the development, I guess I’ll go along with their budget concerns. Something will get built there and residents could do worse than an upscale resort.

Not to be left out, Washington City is wrestling with the prospect of a new Interstate-15 interchange feeding traffic into the city center.

Traffic congestion at the Green Springs exit is endemic and will continue to worsen in coming years. Utah Department of Transportation planners insist that a new interchange is only one option they are considering. Washington City residents are concerned that no other practical solutions exist.

Who doesn’t shop at Walmart, Costco, Home Depot or others of the myriad stores and restaurants within a block or two of the interchange? If it’s not the busiest intersection in the county, it’s painfully close.

But what about the folks living in relatively quiet residential areas near a possible freeway interchange? Should any of us build or buy a home only to find freeway traffic funneled in front of our homes or between our homes and local schools?

The Washington City Council wants to fight. Should they be able to force the rest of us to live with barely tolerable traffic? Or should we hold our tongues and bow to local government control?

I continue to be impressed with both the Utah Department of Transportation and our local transportation authorities’ ability to stay up with – and often ahead of – our road and highway needs. I’m for whatever they determine is the most cost-effective, long-term solution.

St. George isn’t exempt. A city ordinance prohibits residential rental arrangements of less than six months duration. Once again, competing interests, this time between next-door neighbors, make this a controversial topic.

Some homeowners would like to offer their homes, or in some cases a room or two, for rent on websites like Airbnb or VRBO. They could use a few extra bucks and believe a person’s home is their castle.

Their neighbors complain that all too often weekend renters host loud parties with lots of guests at all hours of the night and generally create a nuisance. They claim their property values and their sleep are adversely affected.

St. George continues to enforce its ordinance after fending off a state attempt to override local control on this issue. Some accuse the city of catering to motel owners who compete with short-term home rentals.

Are you OK with letting your neighbors rent out their homes for weekends or a week or two? Or should residential zoning prohibit this semi-commercial activity?

I’m with the city: prohibit short-term rentals.

Proponents of local government control – and I tend to be one of them – may recall Bloomington’s uproar about a drug and alcohol treatment center established there four years ago and then expanded with scant notice earlier this year.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, recognizing the NIMBY problem in locating this type of facility anywhere, required St. George to approve it.

In spite of forecasts to the contrary, St. George News found no increase in crime in the neighborhood. A general live-and-let-live attitude has developed with some residents now supporters and others neutral.

None of these are easy calls for local officials. Make your voice heard and not just when your backyard is the one under consideration.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • mmsandie December 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I remember when stone cliff area refused helicopter pad for Celine Deon. When she wanted to build a home there..this is not an emergency landing.. it’s only to make. Money for the complex. To save travel time. I wouldn,t want it.. when 8nwas in rehab 6 weeks in coral desert.. the hospital helicopter pad. Land lights and noise woke me up..

  • DB December 7, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I’m not sure many will take advantage of the ‘helicopter option’. I know it’s a different animal, but do the folks in Ivins object to LifeFlight flying overhead? LifeFlight could use the helipad in an emergency, as well.

    • bikeandfish December 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Lifeflight doesn’t need a helipad for most emergencies; they just need a relatively safe place cleared of FOD. They can land on anything from highways to sandy beaches in the backcountry depending on the situation.

      Comparing a boutique resort that would heavily advertise it helipad to an emergency helicopter service isn’t apples to apples.

      I actually think Howard did a fair analysis on this topic. The NIMBY-ism is a major issue across the country, just see the housing crisis in California, which needs to be addressed. And as he pointed out it often takes a case-by-case analysis

  • tcrider December 7, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    good article Howard,
    I will take a drug and alcohol treatment facility any day over short term rentals,
    I really wish out city planners would maybe do a city paid for field trip to maybe
    a city like Fort Collins Colorado and see how their city planners designed their city,
    no Billboards or large signs, well designed intersections and the whole city is consistent.
    The place is so popular, that the homes are ridiculously overpriced, this is what happens
    when a place is in demand big time.
    I have a feeling that home prices in this area will remain somewhat stagnant for 5-10 years
    and then when the Lake Powell pipeline gets here, nobody will be able to afford their taxes.

  • NickDanger December 7, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    When the Metro Nashville Airport Authority decided to build a new international airport in Nashville (my hometown) in the mid-80’s, there was a huge public outcry. It was built at a very convenient location for everyone, which happened to be in the midst of two of Nashville’s most-populated residential areas, Antioch and Donelson. The noise, for some, was going to be horrendous.

    So the Airport Authority spent a large portion of the bond money used to build the airport to do something a little unusual – they installed soundproof storm windows and storm doors on every house in the area, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. That sounds like a lot of money to spend to keep the protesters quiet until you consider that the airport itself was a quarter-billion dollar project. It was also simply the right thing to do.

    Point being, maybe such an arrangement could be reached in this situation. The upshot for Nashville homeowners was, the doors and windows were very effective, and the installation of them ended up balancing out the loss of property value in the area.

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