VIRGIN – Virgin residents will vote on June 23 to determine whether an 80-acre parcel, located at approximately 500 West and state Route 9, should be allowed to remain zoned as commercial property (highway resort – HRZ) instead of its former zoning classification, rural residential (one home per acre), so that landowners Duane and Susan Munn can build a recreational vehicle park, Zion Sunset Resort.
Mayor Bruce Densley and the Town Council feel the resort would be a benefit to the town, even going against the recommendations of the town’s planning and zoning commission to give the resort their blessing. However, some town residents don’t share their elected leaders’ optimism and are concerned about the impacts the proposed resort would have on the small community along SR-9 on the way to Zion National Park, gaining enough signatures to make the rezone a referendum on the ballot.
As explained in an earlier St. George News report, the developers have even sued a group of Virgin residents for defamatory comments that have held up the process to bring the resort to fruition. On Monday afternoon, June 15, Devin Snow, an attorney for Snow, Jensen and Reece, who represents the group of residents, known as “Friends of Virgin” or “Virgin’s Future,” who oppose the RV Park, said he is filing a counterclaim to the lawsuit on behalf of his clients, but had no further comment.
Read the report here: Would-be RV Resort sues Virgin residents
Zion Sunset Resort would be a better use for the parcel than a 60-lot subdivision, which would probably be the alternative, Densley said, especially because it would increase the town’s commercial tax base and provide more employment opportunities.
Justin Heideman, an attorney from Heideman and Associates, who represents the developers, echoed Densley’s sentiment, saying the project would be a boon to the town, generating much-needed revenue – revenue for which he said most cities would beg.
The revenue generated, Heideman said, could go towards infrastructure improvements and would reduce or delay the need to raise taxes. Driving through Virgin, it is clear to him that the town needs more diversification in its economy, he said, something he feels the new resort would provide.
“People don’t understand the need for business,” Heideman said.
Approximately 3 million visitors travel through Virgin every year on SR-9 and hardly stop in town, Densley said. The proposed resort would give them another reason to stop, one of them being for camping, as the proposed resort would provide another legitimate camping option in the area, more tent sites than the Zion River Resort, the RV Park already in Virgin which, according to Densley, the developers would use as a model for their own resort.
The new resort would also offer new recreation choices, Densley said, as a fishing pond and a sport court are among the resort developers’ plans.
In addition to generating tax revenue, the new resort would be advantageous to the town when it comes to water treatment, Densley said. Instead of 60 septic tanks for 60 homes, the resort would be responsible for its own water treatment, he said. Water from the Washington County Water Conservancy District will be available for the new RV park, he said, contrary to what detractors might think.
Densley said many residents’ concerns over the proposed RV park are unfounded. For instance, some are concerned its lights would be on all night, when, in reality it would have to follow the same lighting restrictions as anyone else, Densley said. He also said the park would be built “below the ridgeline,” in his words, and a lot of it would be out of view.
Another concern is that it would ruin property values, a notion with which Densley disagrees.
In a newsletter entitled “The Virgin Referendum: Virgin’s Future, Our Choice” dated June 6, 2015, the group against the RV Park enumerated some of their concerns. One was the concern over the RV Park not following the town’s master plan, which is the main reason the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission was against it. The newsletter stated that the developer sent a letter to town residents expressing how much he loves the town.
“If he loves Virgin so much, then why not apply for an RV resort through Master Plan Overlay (MPO)?” the newsletter questioned. “An application for an RV park is allowable if made under MPO. A rezone is unnecessary.”
Another sticking point for the group against the RV park are claims that it would split the town in half.
“Instead of having resort uses on the east edge of town, Virgin will now be split with high density uses surrounded by rural residential neighborhoods,” the newsletter said.
The newsletter further stated, “The rezone amendment also (adds) the addition of new conditional uses to the zone (RV parks, camping, cabins, parks and playgrounds) which are not exclusive to the rezoned property. The become allowable uses anywhere in the HRZ designation. Of equal importance is all of the other uses in HRZ become allowable on the designated property – making many things other than RV development of one or all seven of the rezoned parcels to include hotels, motels, event centers.”
“We do value property rights,” the newsletter noted. “But as existing case law proves, the right to develop property is defined within the parameters of a local jurisdiction’s zoning rules.”
One of the referendum sponsors, Mark Savee, was contacted, but did not immediately return calls.
Heidemann said that the “Virgin’s Future” group who are behind the newsletter and have distributed fliers about their concerns are misinforming the public and are blind to what is really taking place – though their passion is admirable. Heideman urged Virgin residents to have an open mind instead of listening to the “innuendo” that has been circulating when coming to a decision about the rezone.
The developers of the proposed RV park are trying to enhance the community, Heideman said, and he doesn’t understand the rhetoric that the RV park would ruin the town as the flier distributors profess. He said the group has not taken the opportunity to become truly informed about the situation and that the developers have invited them to look at the plans and provide feedback, but they haven’t taken the developers up on the offer.
Densley said the rezone should not be a surprise to Virgin residents as it’s been discussed for over a year; there have been no shady, backdoor deals to push things through and no one on the council has anything to gain from the RV park. He and the council just think it is in the best interest of the town, he said.
Densley’s hope is that town residents look at all sides before they cast their ballots but said that he and the council will support what the town decides.
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