Candidates wrestle issues balancing Zion Park Gateway, ‘village atmosphere’ in Springdale

SPRINGDALE – After an eight year term in office, Springdale Mayor Pat Cluff will turn over the leadership of this international tourist destination to a new mayor. Now that the primary election is over, two candidates are competing for the job:  Mark Chambers and Stan Smith. Smith is the front-runner, having received 46 percent of the vote to Chambers’ 34 percent in the primary election.

Since there are only 312 registered voters in Springdale, every vote is critical. Springdale holds its elections by mail and according to an election results report issued by Springdale Town Clerk Fay Cope, 44 percent of Springdale voters participated in the primary election. For comparison, less than 15 percent voted in the most recent primary election statewide.

Both mayoral candidates are invested in Springdale’s future as the gateway to Zion National Park and both are in the same business. Mark Chambers operates the Under the Eaves Bed and Breakfast in the center of town. Stan Smith manages the Bumbleberry Inn, a traditional stopping place in Springdale for generations. Smith’s Bumbleberry Inn is located just across from Chambers’ Under the Eaves on Zion Park Boulevard.

Nearly 3,000,000 visitors stream through Springdale every year. Dozens of restaurants, hotels, gift shops and art galleries contribute a lot more to the tax receipts than would normally come from a town of fewer than 600 residents. Thus, all of Washington County has a stake in this election.

Mayoral candidates address Springdale’s top issues

Both mayoral candidates were asked what issue they thought is most important to the people in Springdale.

The top issue is “keeping Springdale the unique town that it is,” Smith said. “Nobody wants a lot of changes, one way or the other.”

“I have lived here for 41 years and served as either president or vice president of just about every organization in town, as well as being on the Planning Commission and the Town Council,” Smith said.  He agreed, he said, that there are big problems that would need to be solved.

During a recent joint appearance of all three primary election candidates, water was one of those big issues.

Recent growth in Springdale might require a major investment to keep enough water going to Springdale homes and businesses,Town Council member and erstwhile mayoral candidate Kathy LaFave said. LaFave placed third in the primaries according to preliminary results, putting her out of the mayoral race as it now stands.  “We have recently learned that we might have to upgrade our facilities in as little as one year from now,” she said.

Smith disagreed, “I don’t have enough information right now to know that. ‘Now’ would be a knee jerk reaction.”

Chambers said he agrees that water is a huge issue. “We’re learning that the big new hotels are placing such a demand on our water that we will have to upgrade our facilities much sooner than we thought due to state requirements,” he said.

Chambers also pointed to an upcoming requirement to replace all the streetlights by 2016 in Springdale as part of a “dark sky” initiative designed to preserve Springdale’s unique natural setting.

Both candidates proceeding to the general election for mayor said they agree with the strong sentiment in Springdale to preserve the town’s “village atmosphere.” When Springdale residents were asked to rate the town’s “village atmosphere” and “village scale” on a scale from 1 to 5, this goal received a score slightly over 4.5. The goal is in the town’s “general plan,” and town ordinances have been enacted to support it.

A long running lawsuit to prevent a Subway franchise “formula restaurant” from opening in town also has the support of both Smith and Chambers. The case is due for a decision soon, and both said that if the town loses, difficult decisions will have to be made about what to do next to salvage as much as possible from a new wave of franchise restaurants that will probably want to open outlets in the town.

Town Council diversity

“It’s nice to have a variety of people running,” Springdale resident Tim Killen said about the town council race in which two positions will be filled from four candidates.

Two of the council candidates are retired residents of Springdale, one is a young mother. The fourth candidate did not respond to multiple requests from St. George News.

Retired Springdale resident Adrian Player is currently a member of the Town Council. He was appointed to fill out the term of a member who resigned. Player said that he has fulfilled the main requirement he was asked about when he was appointed: “At that time,” he said, “their main concern was that I stay for the full two-year term remaining, and not get angry and quit.”

“I believe that the current rate of growth in Springdale should be the primary concern of our citizens,” Player said, echoing the same concerns as the candidates for mayor. “Our infrastructure barely supports our current population, and the increasing hotel situation is placing demands on the water and sewer systems that need to be addressed soon.”

Player raised an issue that other candidates did not. “I feel our citizens need to … attend more Town Council meetings and get involved and educated about the problems,” he said. “During our budget meetings for this year, we had no citizens in attendance. Some of the decisions made by the council might have been different if there was direct impact and input during the meetings.”

Bill Weyer has a long family history in Springdale and is running for council because his friends encouraged him to run. His family has been part of Springdale for 20 or 30 years.

He believes he is “in tune with the issues of the town and the needs that the town has,” Weyer said.

Like other candidates, Weyer said he believes that the top concern of Springdale citizens is “growth and how that growth is managed.” After becoming a member of the Planning Commission earlier this year he said he decided that he had an obligation to support his community and make sure the growth is managed the way citizens want it to be.

Tiffany Suerig Farnsworth might be at the opposite pole from Player and Weyher. A mother of two small children, Farnsworth said she “wanted to be involved in the town that her children are growing up in.”

Farnsworth is already contributing to Springdale. She has been a member of the Community Council that is responsible for allocating funds from a state trust fund for three years.

Farnsworth agreed with the other candidates that the current growth of Springdale must be confronted. “We do need to grow slower and remain small longer,” she said.

A lack of affordable housing is one of the bad effects of growth, Farnsworth said.

St. George News made many attempts to interview and receive comments from council candidate Jack Fotheringham without success.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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