Hurricane residents: Old West town development doesn’t fit general plan, damages small-town lifestyle

More than 250 people pack the Fine Arts Center in Hurricane for a planning commission meeting and public hearing on a proposed development in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

HURRICANE — More than 250 people packed the Fine Arts Center in Hurricane during the city’s planning commission meeting and public hearing Thursday night, where a majority of those in attendance opposed an estimated $28 million Western-themed development.

A screenshot of the site plan for the proposed Lost Trails at the Cove development in Hurricane, Utah | Image courtesy of Hurricane City planning and zoning department, St. George News | Click to enlarge 

Washington City developer Jim Thomas and his team requested an amendment to the city’s general plan map to change the zoning of an area known as The Cove. Under the general plan, The Cove is currently zoned as single-family residential. However, Thomas’ request would change the zoning to mixed use, so he could bring in a development known as “Lost Trails at the Cove,” which would have housing and a commercial Old West town area.

Read more: Developer says he’s sensitive to Hurricane residents’ concerns about proposed Old West town

Hurricane City Planning Commission ultimately made a recommendation to city council to deny Thomas’ request but not before hearing from the city’s residents.

What is “Lost Trails at the Cove?”

Washington City developer Jim Thomas (left) during his presentation of “Lost Trails at the Cove” at the planning commission meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 10, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Before the public hearing commenced, Thomas shared a video presentation of “Lost Trails at the Cove.”

Described as an active Old West town, the commercial side of the development would feature unique western shops, restaurants, an indoor dinner show with 1,200 seats, wedding chapel, Spanish gardens where wedding receptions and events could be held, a hotel with 60 western-style rooms, an RV park and equestrian center.

The Cove is located north of 600 North, at approximately 2000 west.

“We’re trying to make it as unique as possible with high-end quality entertainment,” Thomas said while presenting the video. “This is a very family-oriented business.”

The entertainment would feature shootouts with low-noise weapons and ammunition, horses and music. Besides the commercial aspect, the development would also feature approximately 700-750 homes.

In a previous interview with St. George News, Thomas said he’s done a similar project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and it’s been a dream of his for 10 years to bring the same experience to Southern Utah.

Not a dream for area residents

A woman shares her concerns about the “Lost Trails at the Cove” development during the public hearing portion of the planning commission meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The majority of Hurricane residents, who had a maximum of two minutes to speak at the meeting, opposed Thomas’ development. People lined up at the podium to share their concerns and thoughts about the development during the public hearing portion of the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours.

Comments in opposition of the development were typically met with applause. Conversely, quiet but audible booing could be heard in the crowd when others spoke in favor.

Gary Bovyer, president of Sky Mountain Home Owners Association, was one of the first to speak in opposition to the development. Sky Mountain is a community that surrounds Sky Mountain Golf Course and is next to The Cove.

Bovyer told the audience and planning commission that the majority of Sky Mountain residents moved to Hurricane for the climate, recreation, scenery, lack of congestion and low crime, and the “Lost Trails at the Cove” development would ruin what Bovyer described as “the attractive, friendly small-town lifestyle.”

“Folks are feeling threatened because of the possibility that our city government will allow a segment of the general plan to be rezoned in favor of a development that endangers those things that brought us here in the first place,” he said.

Besides disrupting a small-town lifestyle, a majority of residents who spoke brought up other concerns, such as traffic, safety of children, noise, light pollution, wildlife impacts, medical response time, trash blowing into the Virgin River, and water consumption and conservancy.

Another Sky Mountain resident said as a hiker, she’s concerned for the people and horseback riders who use the trails of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve near The Cove.

“Where this proposed development is in part of a canyon where sounds echo off the cliffs created by the Virgin River. Who knows how far the noise will travel?” she said, adding that the reserve and residents who live along the canyon would be recipients of the noise.

Hurricane residents ask people to sign petitions on the “Lost Trails at the Cove” development before the planning commission meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Many people who spoke in opposition also said the city can’t support the amount of people who would come in because of the development.

In regard to wildlife, one resident who lives near the area of the proposed development, said the noise and light pollution would drive Hurricane’s “beautiful creatures” out of the area.

At least 10 Sky Mountain residents spoke during the public hearing, as well as a lawyer hired to speak on their behalf at the meeting. Penny James-Garcia, community manager for Sky Mountain, said over 700 petitions were signed by people from over 34 communities in Hurricane. Another 165 were signed Thursday night at the meeting.

Few spoke in favor of “Lost Trails at the Cove”

While many of the comments were negative, some residents said the development is a good idea but just not for this location.

Only a few spoke in overall favor of the development at the hearing, including Brandon Beesley, who told St. George News he moved from North Dakota to help Thomas with the project.

“Everybody keeps complaining about this noise thing,” he said to the crowd. “Anything that’s going to be a show is indoors. It’s pretty much just a park is how I view it.”

One Hurricane resident, who said he moved from northern Utah around five years ago, said the development would provide job growth and worthwhile amenities. He said he’s not a fan of golf courses, referring to Sky Mountain Golf Course, and that they’re not something he would bring his family to.

“I think there needs to be something for everyone,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who talked about high end, and ‘it’s not for us.’ The golf course is not for me; it’s not for my family. However this type of attraction, since I have young children, is a place I would go to.”

A resident and former member of the planning commission, said she doesn’t have an opinion of the development as of right now; however, she said the “I was here first” attitude isn’t welcome in Hurricane.

“We have welcomed all of you people with open arms to our community,” she said. “When Sky Mountain was proposed, no there wasn’t as many people here as there is tonight, but there was a lot of opposition to that.”

Thomas also decided to speak at the public hearing and addressed some of the concerns residents expressed. Due to having experience with a similar project and working with lighting before, Thomas said light pollution shouldn’t be an issue because down lighting and accent lighting would be used. He also said he would make sure to incorporate low-noise ammunition.

Close vote from planning commission

After nearly two hours of discussion, the public hearing closed and the planning commission made a recommendation.

Planning commission member Yovanda Hall made a motion to send a recommendation to city council to deny the amendment change and leave the general plan as is, which was seconded by member Mark Borowiak. Five members were for the motion, with four opposed.

While taking into considering the community’s comments, one of the main reasons most members made a recommendation against the development is because they didn’t see a compelling reason to change the general plan.

“Our general plan says that we want to preserve a rural lifestyle and small-town quality in Hurricane,” one member said. “I can find nothing in the general plan goals advocating that Hurricane should be the site of tourist attractions.”

Planning Commission Chair Ralph Ballard was one of the members to vote for the project because he said he believes the impact of the development would be less than what has been stated because of where the commercial area is located.

“Anytime something has come into The Cove, because of everybody’s love for it, it’s been shot down,” Ballard said.

Despite the planning commission making a recommendation against the development, the application will still go in front of city council, and another public hearing will be held on Feb. 7. Location is to be announced.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • Not_So_Much January 11, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Kudos to everyone who took the time to attend. Now will YOUR elected officials listen?

  • Fester January 11, 2019 at 7:52 am

    Sounds like the all too common nimbyism Americans are afflicted with. They all want that new restaurant, but not next to their lots. And the mayor and other politicians are addicted to OPM – other people’s money – so of course they want the development no matter what they pretend. After all, it’s free tax money for tossing around and buying votes today, while saddling the next generation with the deferred costs and consequences.

    Here’s an idea. If you don’t want something built on the land that is next to you, then you should purchase it yourself. I’m sure many of those people in the meeting moved here from elsewhere too, so it’s quite hypocritical to think no further development should occur.

  • beacon January 11, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Why is it so difficult to find comments on St. George News articles? It seemed that not long ago comments for an article such as this would be very easy to see. Now I can only see comments on past articles on this topic easily. Why has the system changed?

    • Paul Dail Paul Dail January 11, 2019 at 11:17 am

      Beacon, thank you for your question. However, I’m not sure what you mean. As far as I know, this is the way (and the “where”) the comments have appeared on our website for the past few years. Could you be more specific as to where you thought they used to be?

      Thanks again,
      Paul Dail
      Editor in chief

  • asianspa January 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Considering how mispriced the debt markets currently are related to housing and how rapidly the liquidity is drying up to back more debt,… this developer might want to thank the city planning council and city council if they finalize the denial for rezoning. How is that Lakes development going that the fine developer was touting and pumping so hard? It has soo much great potential they don’t even want to realize it, it is all for sale for a bargain 47 Million dollars!!! This is a pump and dump and smart money and even the dumb money has dried up,… nice try Mr. Thomas, you were a little late in the economic cycle.

    • Comment January 11, 2019 at 11:41 am

      It really does feel like a recession is coming. Everything is still based on funny money credit. Even imbecile federal employees seem unable to put away any savings. They get on TV with their sob stories about how they are on the verge of starvation, lol. Nothing really changed since the ’08 recession.

      • tazzman January 11, 2019 at 1:05 pm

        Comment, it will never change as long as our society measures growth and consumption as economic success. It will merely repeat over and over again.

  • Comment January 11, 2019 at 11:38 am

    NIMBIES! hahaha

  • mesaman January 11, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    The former member of the planning commission offers this restraint; “I was here first” attitude is not welcome here in Hurricane. Wrong, dear lady, this is precisely the attitude members of the Sky Mountain community should have. Comparing this attitude of individuals is hardly the same as a comparison that would change the landscape and serenity of the Cover forever. That area is to be enjoyed, visited, and loved and developers don’t seem to have that component in their public sensitivity.

  • utahdiablo January 11, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Remember maybe 10 years ago when that carpetbagger came to Hurricane to build the Giant 35 ft Ferris wheel ( the Eye of Zion ) and the theme park / school they were going to build?…we stuck together and ran that guy the hell out of town…time to heat up the tar and feathers again

  • stevenxfiles January 11, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you St George News for great reporting on this issue. Really well done!

    Labels like “NIMBY” are such a sad cynical attempt by greedy developers to make proud residents feel guilty for defending our wonderful natural environment and trying to protect this small town lifestyle for future generations. We love it here and want slow controlled growth for family friendly residents.

    Nobody moved here for big entertainment resorts. Go build in Mesquite or Vegas. Leave us alone!

  • jaltair January 11, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Put theme parks in Vegas or up in the Salt Lake area. Even in those places, the use of all that water use will be questioned. No theme parks in the Southern Utah area, please. I question the water park for the kids. Planners for this area are not practical, they like the money.

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