IVINS – Projects to support the City of Ivins’ ongoing commercial and population growth are the talk of the town in preparation for the city’s upcoming municipal elections. In a community whose population jumped 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2012 and now rests at about 7,000, residents and city officials foresee future development.
The election, which will be held on Nov. 5, will decide four-year terms for the office of mayor and for two seats on the city council. Mayor Chris Hart, an incumbent serving his first term, will appear on the ballot uncontested. Meanwhile, three candidates will vie for two seats on city council. These include incumbents Cheyne McDonald and Steven Roberts, as well as Crystal Lewis, who moved to the city a year and a half ago.
Historic Township renovation; the mayor’s viewpoint
Among the city’s most expansive development projects of the past term has been the installation of pavement, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters on the historic township’s roads. The project was completed late in 2011.
Of all of the city’s successes during his tenure, Hart said, “I think the historic township project is maybe the one that’s made the most dramatic difference so far.”
Before the renovations, Hart said storms had the potential to cause flooding on the gravel roads. He cited the “1,000-year-storm” event of Sept. 11, 2012, as a somber affirmation of the city’s prudence in having made the road improvements. The storm would have “torn the (historic) township apart,” Hart said, but we had no issue because of the pavement and gutter system.
This same storm broke the dike at Laub Pond in nearby Santa Clara and caused monumental flooding there.
Hart also made mention of several other advantages of the project, such as it being a major step toward meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s storm water requirements for the city.
In the final analysis, Hart said, “getting that project done was a major accomplishment both in terms of appearance and in terms of safety.”
Funding the Historic Township renovation
Funding for the project was provided both by the city at large and by the creation of the Historic Township Special Assessment Area, through which property owners in the historic township must pay back the city for part of the cost of the renovations incrementally by means of assessments levied against their properties over a 20-year period.
According to the Sept. 2010 city newsletter, an evaluation of public opinion within the district found disapproval among 30 percent of property owners: “The City Council heard and considered all protests,” the newsletter said, “and determined that they were obligated to the 70 (percent) of the residents that wanted the improvements to move ahead with the process and create the SAA.”
The later decision to levy an assessment upon property owners in the Historic Township SAA to help fund the road improvement project, codified in Resolution No. 2011-25R, was made by the five-member city council in November 2011 in a unanimous vote of all council members.
But Lewis, who moved into the Historic Township SAA as the project was being completed, said some residents of the district are not having their voices heard.
Dissent; candidate Lewis viewpoint
“A lot of people out here didn’t really want the roads and sidewalks, so they don’t feel like they had a voice in stating whether or not that was to be done,” Lewis said. While some people in the historic township wanted the renovations, “the majority of people that I’ve talked to would’ve preferred not to” have had them done, she said.
Lewis expressed concern that, for whatever its benefits, the road construction has had significant adverse effects on her neighbors’ way of life. “It took away horses being able to be ridden up to the mountain,” she said, “and it took away some rights that people loved.”
To Lewis, this dissonance between city policy and the will of her neighbors means that Ivins residents need to become more involved in the public process. If residents disagree with a policy, she said, “they’ve got to state it or else it won’t be heard.” She said that she is running to provide a voice for such people.
Regarding those property owners who wished to protest the amount of their individual assessments at a moment in time when the project had already been completed, Resolution No. 2011-25R recites that “the Findings of the Board of Equalization (to determine assessment amounts) were mailed to each property owner who objected at the board hearings and the time for appealing the decision of the board has expired with no appeals having been filed.”
Support; incumbent candidates McDonald and Roberts
Both McDonald and Roberts, the incumbent council members, concurred with Hart on the value of the road renovations in the historic township.
“The sidewalks in the old township was something I was really on board with,” Roberts said.
McDonald, a lifelong Ivins resident who owns and manages an auto maintenance facility in St. George, likewise identified “the old township improvement” as one of the city’s monumental accomplishments in recent years.
At the same time, diversity of opinion ought to be valued on the city council, McDonald said. “When I look at a council member I try to look at diversity in people – they don’t have to necessarily think exactly like I do.I have my point of view and they have theirs; it’s great to balance both off each other and come up with a common sense” resolution, he said.
Roberts agreed, saying that it is good to maintain a difference of opinion on the council because there may always be a perspective that is overlooked.
In pursuit of the “right” revenue sources for Ivins going forward
Asked what will be the greatest challenge for the city in the next four years, Lewis did not hesitate in her response. “Bringing revenue,” she said.
In the wake of the economic downturn, McDonald said, the growth in revenue “was nowhere near what was typical for our city, so we definitely had to adjust, and fortunately the city was able to.”
The housing crisis that began in 2008 hit the city particularly hard, McDonald said. The amount of building permits that the city issued every month before the crisis was comparable to the amount that have since been issued each year, he added. This has put a strain on revenue because, McDonald said, the city relies heavily on property taxes.
Commercial development, it was agreed by both McDonald and Lewis, can raise revenue for the city through sales taxes in addition to property taxes.
But, Lewis said, it’s about “finding those right revenue sources.” New development must “not compromise the feel, the integrity of the city. People move here for a reason. We don’t want to have fast food restaurants on every corner and big shopping malls, and have the traffic coming through,” she said.
Hart agreed. While “one of our biggest challenges is enticing commercial development into the city,” he said, “I’m ,not interested in some of the things you find in cities with higher populations.” Instead, the mayor said he looks to fostering a “hospitality” sector in the city as well as medical and high-tech research.
“The image of the city is very important to me,” Hart said. “We’re known as a destination community, which means that we need to be something special.”
If elected to city council, Lewis said she will help identify and promote the advent of businesses that “directly help our community,” such as fitness centers and veterinary clinics.
Roberts expressed a similar view. “The community needs to grow to survive,” he said, but the city should ensure that new businesses do not bring air and noise pollution with them. Roberts said that jobs in the arts and agriculture must be preserved for those who wish to continue pursuing a living through those occupations.
Ivins resident Nicholas DePalna, 22, commended the city’s work in “keeping it low-key” and not encouraging big, high-traffic businesses to move in.
All of the incumbents in the election emphasized the establishment last May of the new Southern Utah Veterans Home as a major boon for the life of the community and an example of the “right” kind of development.
Energy policy in question
City resident Boyd Newman, 78, said that the utility bill is among his highest concerns. Ivins residents pay more for electricity and utilities than St. George residents do, Newman said.
“I think the utilities are fair,” Lewis said. “I think they’re reasonable.”
Hart said that he has been pursuing and will continue to pursue a city energy policy with a commitment to conservation. “Conservation’s a big deal for me,” he said, “conservation of water, conservation of power. I’d like to see us promote and even legislate conservation measures so that we can properly use what we do have.”
Newman expressed skepticism of conservation and renewable energy efforts in the city: “If (Hart) wants to get re-elected mayor by saving the world, he won’t get my vote.” He said he will view solar energy favorably when it is competitive with natural gas and coal.
Asked why he thinks the office of mayor will be uncontested in the upcoming election, Hart said it may be because residents think that the city is being managed well already. Or, he said laughing, “maybe it’s because they think it looks like too big a job.”
“If the fact that no one is running against me is a sign that people are content with the direction the city is going, I’m appreciative of that,” Hart said. To be serving the city, “I’m an extremely blessed individual,” he said.
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