Sands Motel owner protests city tree blocking historic sign

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.

Original Sands Motel sign from 1953, 581 St. George Blvd., St. George Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
Original Sands Motel sign from 1953, 581 St. George Blvd., St. George Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

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.

Looking westbound on St. George Blvd. just east of the Sands Motel, St. George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
Looking westbound on St. George Blvd. just east of the Sands Motel, St. George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

“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.”

View of Sands Motel from St. George Blvd., and 400 East. St. George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News
View of Sands Motel from St. George Blvd., and 500 East. St. George, Utah, June 11, 2014 | Photo by Rhonda Tommer, St. George News

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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  • Tracie June 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I love that sign. We have so few original signs left.

  • Brian June 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    There are a bunch of places where you can’t see to pull out in traffic because of the trees, making them a safety hazard. I’m all for beautification, but safety needs to come first, and I’d love to see more that doesn’t require so much maintenance and water. Why did they need a plant every 6 inches on Red Hills Parkway? Rocks and boulders would have been just fine. Who designed that center strip, the people that got paid to put it in, the people that supplied the trees and bushes, or the people that get paid to maintain it? Or are they all the same people?

  • Easy E June 13, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I vote for the tree. Unless its causing traffic problems or something, the business owner needs to get a life.

  • THAT GUY June 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    The need to tear down that flea bag motel it is full of druggies, prostitutes, and criminals. Just look at how many have been arrested there.

  • Easy E June 13, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I disagree with Brian. I drive by red hills parkway and enjoy the plants in the median. Especially the purple penstemon that bloom in the spring. Most are desert plants that do not require much water. Sand sage, red yucca, Mondells, Santolina. They should use more creosote, cacti, and other natives to make it even less water needy.

  • Maggie June 13, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Perhaps the owner of the motel should think about fixing up a wee bit. His place looks a bit on the junky side.
    I would never have brought it up because I think ok it is his business and if that is the way you want your business to be seen fine with me , but now that he brought it up, the tree looks better.

  • San June 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I agree with the business owner…and also noticed the beautiful old sign is not visible as you approach anymore. The tree needs to go. The City’s first obligation is to the employees and tax revenue that are earned by the success of that historic business. Besides that, I really love the sign! It shows that this town has been around for a while, successful for generations. Just move the tree….they planted the wrong ones for that area…it won’t be the last to go. It is just the first and therefore; the fight is on.

  • Harold June 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I agree that the city has gone way too far by allowing these trees to grow and to be placed too close to business signs. This whole issue of beautification before safety is out of hand and its time the city gets the message. The over grown bushes, shrubs and trees also cause visibility problems for traffic on the boulevard, and because they are very poorly maintained they look like a wild jungle growing in the middle of the road.

    • Stihl June 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      I think the city maintains the Boulevard strip rather well. Kudos to them.
      City crews are out there regularly.
      You just haven’t been paying attention.
      (And yes, the hotel owner has an inflated opinion of the nature of his property, imho.)

  • meme June 14, 2014 at 2:12 am

    I agree with That Guy! Just because it is old ( and crappy) does NOT make it Historic.

  • flowergirl June 14, 2014 at 7:23 am

    agree with the Guy…tear down the whole place

  • JOSH DALTON June 14, 2014 at 8:02 am

    We do need trees! But I elect we just relocate this tree to a place that lacks shade.

  • May June 14, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Historic? NOT! Nostalgic? Yes….

  • Britt June 14, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I would much rather have the trees!!!!! The trees will grow tall in the coming years so it’s a patience thing!!! I mean really most of those companies look trashy and the landscaping beautifies the entire boulevard!!!!!!!!

  • St George Resident June 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    90% of your hotels on St George Blvd should be looked at not just Sands for there run down establishments and allowing druggies, prostitutes, and criminals. Take a crane and knock all the hotels down that aren’t any better than Sands

  • EL JEFE June 16, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I too, have an issue with the landscaping on the Blvd. I have come close to getting hit by oncoming traffic that was not visible due to the bushes and trees that go largely ill-maintained. When I have to pull out almost to the middle of the road just to see if is clear, I am putting myself at risk of oncoming traffic. Therefore, I am putting the City of St. George on notice that should I get hit and/or have an accident due to this matter….you will be hearing from my legal representative as to proper compensation for any and all claims against the City, due to “your landscaping” of the Blvd.

  • Maya's Nana June 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Congratulations to the city for taking the first step to correct an eyesore(s) of “historic” hotels. They are an embarassment to the City of St. George. I would hope that Mr. Patel and his associates either close all his properties or spend a considerable amount of money to bring these buildings into the 21st century.

    St. George is a city that has worked hard to establish its great reputation…people who care about the future of St. George. As for the Patel family, don’t adhere to their pressure.

  • Betty June 17, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    The nice thing about large vegetation in the medians on the Blvd & Red Hills Pkwy is the police traveling in the opposite direction can’t clock you. (shhhh… It’s a little know secret)

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