ST. GEORGE – Sam Patel, co-owner of Sands Motel, 581 E. St. George Blvd., has lodged a complaint with the City of St. George over a tree that is planted in front of what he calls his historic Sands Motel sign while the City of St. George defends the landscaping on the boulevard as a benefit and encouragement to traditional pedestrian use of the sidewalks.
Patel and his family own six motels in St. George, as well as many other establishments across Utah.
Sands Motel opened its doors in 1953. The Patels have owned it since 1990, Patel said.
Beautification of St. George Boulevard – impacts considered
Before renovation of St. George Boulevard started in 2005, Utah Department of Transportation held meetings with business owners and shared blueprints of the renovation plans. Business owners along St. George Boulevard had the opportunity to ask questions and give input during those meetings.
Patel noticed two minor problems with the plans and asked UDOT representatives to make some minor changes, which they agreed to, he said.
One problem was the plans showed a tree planted in the middle of the driveway to the Coronada Inn & Suites, 559 E. St. George Blvd., a business also owned by the Patels. Patel pointed out the problem and the planting of that tree was removed from the plans, he said.
The other issue was concerning a tree that was planted directly in front of the landmark Sands Motel sign directly east of Coronada Inn & Suites, Patel said.
“When we pointed out the problem with the tree at the Coronada, they removed that tree from the plans,” Patel said. “Then when we said that there was a tree that would block our sign at the Sands, they said they would remove that one from the plans, too.”
During the beautification phase of the project there was a tree planted in front of the sign, Patel said. He explained to the foreman of the job that it was agreed with UDOT that there would not be a tree there and the foreman said he would ask his boss about it, he said.
“They promised us at that time that if this tree ever causes a problem they would take care of it,” Patel said. The tree was very small at the time. Patel was told the tree would not grow big enough to affect the sign. Over the past couple of years the tree has grown to a height and breadth that does block a portion of the sign for those traveling west on St. George Boulevard.
This has created confusion for customers who cannot find the Sands Motel because of the blocked sign, or who come to the Sands Motel office to check in thinking its the office of the Coronada Inn & Suites, Patel said.
Patel has contacted several agencies to try to have the tree removed, or at the very least, trimmed. He contacted the Utah Division of Forestry, St. George Parks Division and St. George Streets Division. After getting no where he contacted then Mayor Dan McArthur, he said.
Patel has also contacted current mayor, Jon Pike. Patel and Pike have exchanged several emails over the past few months.
“Mayor Pike originally said he would work with us on doing something about the tree,” Patel said. But in more recent emails Pike has since backed away from the issue and has not offered any help, Patel said.
Vick Patel, also a co-owner of the Sands Motel, said that the sign is of a historic nature and that people used to drive by and stop all the time to take pictures of it.
“Now, with the tree blocking the sign, people can’t see it. We used to have five or six people a day stop by and take pictures,” he said. “We want to work with the city,” Sam Patel said. “We bring a lot of revenue to the city, we have a big chunk of it. We want to have a friendly relationship with them.”
A response from the city
“The urban style landscaping on St. George Boulevard, including trees on public sidewalks, represents the city’s return to traditional planning along the downtown arterial street, Assistant to the City Manager Marc Mortensen said. “This type of ‘streetscape’ encourages St. George area residents and visitors to explore the downtown area on foot while having a traffic-calming effect on vehicles in the roadway.”
The types of trees selected for the boulevard were done so on the basis that they provide shade, could withstand the roadside environment and buffer pedestrians from the motorists while minimizing obstructions to business signage, Mortensen said.
During the winter months the trees are dormant and do not have leaves on them. Occasionally the city gets business owners calling in the spring who express concerns when the trees start to green up, Mortensen said.
“We handle those calls on a case by case basis.”
Overall the response to the St. George Boulevard renovation has been positive, Mortensen said.
“We’ve received far more compliments than complaints in regards to the landscaping.”
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