Smoke rises over Urban Renewal, Mike’s smoke shop at City Council meeting

Defense Attorney Ryan Holdaway makes his case at the St. George City Council Meeting, St. George, Utah, June 5, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Several items on Thursday night’s St. George City Council Meeting caused a stir in town hall, though two items in particular, pertaining to businesses, took center stage: Urban Renewal and Mike’s Smoke, Cigar & Gifts.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, current tenant and partial owner of Urban Renewal Jenny Larson took the stand and discussed the importance of preserving the stewardship of the downtown historic district. There seems to be a disconnect of intentions and ideals pertaining to the preservation of downtown St. George, Larson said.

She asked for the council’s help in delaying further projects concerning the Urban Renewal property as well as choices that may deplete the charm of downtown through excess commercialization.

“Jewels alone do not make an outfit,” she said. Her speech was met with a steady round of applause.

Property landlord Aston Stow’s manager, Brooks Pace, apologized for dragging the mayor and others “into this brouhaha.”

Forty years ago, downtown St. George was nearly decrepit, Pace said, but there has been an active group of historic preservationists who have upheld the area’s historic significance and charm.

Pace said it’s unrealistic “for some new group to come in and think they are going to re-create downtown,” adding, “they are just shooting themselves in the foot.”

The current tenants at Urban Renewal were granted free rent throughout the duration of an impending renovation project, which would, in sum, create a three-story complex with a parking structure in the back, on property owned by the city. There is a 5-1 ratio of residents who agree with this project, Pace said.

“On this particular issue, it is a process that goes back to 1988,” St. George City Mayor Jon Pike said. “Nothing is going to be crammed though, and we will go through the process.”

Some other comments from the public included a hope that a compromise would be made and the sentiment that no one wants to see the demise of Urban Renewal.

The agenda item relating to the revocation of the business license of Mike’s Smoke, Cigar & Gifts was bumped ahead of commission planning ordinances. The discussion surrounded the arrest of Kyle Best, who was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute spice, which is a class-A misdemeanor.

On Jan. 28, 2013, a business license revocation was sent to Mike’s Smoke, Cigar & Gifts on the basis of Best selling a specific brand of spice known as “Reborn” through the shop. Best recently pleaded no contest as part of a plea in abeyance, which is similar to pleading guilty. A second license revocation was sent in April of this year, leading to a discrepancy, as a new revocation would mean the business license is being revoked twice for the same crime.

“The license was revoked April 10, 2014. There’s no license to revoke. Until it’s reinstated that status hasn’t changed,” defense attorney Ryan Holdaway said. “April 2014 doesn’t identify any new criminal act.”

“People can get multiple revocations of driver’s licenses,” Paula Houston, deputy city attorney, said. “For the city to perform a second revocation on a business license is completely legal.”

To which Holdaway replied: “The key aspect is to remember that you can’t have your driver’s license revoked for the same crime. There has to be something new. A guilty plea may be a new fact but it’s not a new crime.”

The council agreed to take the issue under advisement at this time.

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  • Observer June 6, 2014 at 1:21 am

    I hope the Council Meeting 6/5/2014 was video taped. The Honorable Mayor Pike used kind and caring words until it came to Jenny Larsen’s turn to have three minutes to address the Mayor and Councilors. Not only did the Mayors demeanor change but even the tone of his voice when he had to say her name!

  • San June 6, 2014 at 6:15 am

    I think that Urban Renewal has a bee in their urban bonnet. There is no emergency, it seems, and yet this was a 2 column newspaper article and now the topic of valuable city council time. If my landlord told me that I had 3 years before a proposed renovation might be explored….might…and that I’d have free rent and other considerations as compensation, I think I’d be working with that landlord. Trying to hog-tie them with injunctions is not going to make for good relations later. The sky is not falling, nothing seems to be going through approval hearings. All they did, from what I read, is get an engineer to weigh in on what it would take to blend old with new, create a proposal. What is the big panic? Ultimately, if UR wants control of their environment, then they probably need to seek out one of the vacant buildings on the Blvd, which are offered for sale.

  • Christine June 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I think the disconnect she is talking about is what SHE thinks the building should be and what the owner wants. I’m still mad they painted it black, what kind of historical preservation is that?

  • Bree June 6, 2014 at 8:16 am

    One more time, Urban Renewal needs to realize this would help the business not hurt it. All it really means is dealing with some construction mess during the renovation and moving into a modern new structure. The old buildings are an eyesore, there is nothing historic about any of them. Maybe a ‘Hip’ thought would be “Go with the flow”. Change is good.

  • Rick June 6, 2014 at 8:44 am

    “Nothing will be crammed through” said Pike. Unless it is developers who are friends of mine and Esplins. Pike seems to think the people of St George are sheeple who think his word his gold. Nothing has changes at all in St George expect the figurehead, still a spineless good ole boy city!

  • Tom June 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I agree with Bree! There is nothing historic about a square building and charcoal colored paint is the furthest thing from historic that i can think of…
    1. it’s a conceptual idea
    2. The conceptual idea was to leave the “historic” building and vertically add to it 3. The complaint is from a Tenant not an owner
    4. Brooks (the owner) developed Ancestor Square, which I’m sure most people agree looks a lot better than the existing building in question.

    I thought the conceptual plan looked great and hope the owner and city pursue the idea!

  • Troy June 7, 2014 at 11:14 am

    A renovation would probably make the Urban Renewal look like another fake department store. We already have the mall and no one goes there.

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