St. George City Council candidates discuss northern corridor, short-term rentals, growth

(L-R) St. George City Council candidates Bette Arial, Ed Baca, Jimmie Hughes, Gregg McArthur and Craig Hammer, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Candidates for the St. George City Council addressed various topics during a forum Wednesday, including: plans related to the city’s growth, tax-incentives for incoming businesses, their position on the proposed northern corridor and short-term rentals, among other issues.

Candidate Ed Baca, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Candidate Ed Baca, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Five of the six candidates – incumbents Bette Ariel and Jimmie Hughes, along with challengers Ed Baca, Craig Hammer and Gregg McArthur – were present at the forum sponsored by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce. The sixth candidate, Bryan Thiriot, was unable to attend as he is currently in the District of Columbia addressing the Utah congressional delegation regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s draft resource management plan.

In a written statement read by the forum moderator, Thiriot said he is seeking the delegation’s support in getting a supplement to the BLM plan that coordinates with St. George.

The northern corridor

“Transportation, water access and local heritage must be represented into the BLM plan for St. George to be successful,” Thiriot said via the statement.

Candidate Gregg McArthur, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Candidate Gregg McArthur, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

County and municipal officials see the BLM’s preferred draft plan as a threat to the future of the area. They say it will lock up resources and recreation currently used and enjoyed by area residents. One of the ways the plan could negatively affect St. George, city officials have said, is through blocking access to one of the city’s water sources that resides on public land.

Officials have called the plan a betrayal of previous arrangements made between the BLM and Washington County, particularly in relation to the northern corridor, a road that would cut across the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and connect Red Hills Parkway to Interstate 15.

Each candidate for St. George City Council supports having the proposed roadway.

“This road has been planned conceptually for a long, long time, even before there was a tortoise habitat,” Hughes said. “It needs to be there. It’s a crucial part of our transportation plan.”

Candidate Craig Hammer, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Candidate Craig Hammer, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We need to be careful how we proceed,” Baca said, yet also added the northern corridor was previously agreed to. “… I think, probably, we’ll be in a position we’ll need to have (the road) … This is something we’re going to look at, and look at carefully.”

City growth and tax incentives

The candidates were asked to give their position on growth and what an outline for the short- and long-term growth impacts would be.

“Growth is life,” Arial said. “If the city isn’t growing, it’s dying … growth is vital.”

The city does have a long-range plan for the city’s growth, Arial said, and it has been unfolding over the last 20 years. Planning for the future is key, she said, and the community should be involved in the planning process.

Incumbent Jimmie Hughes, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Incumbent Jimmie Hughes, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“The key to growth … for the short term and long term is planning,” McArthur said, adding his experience as president of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce for the last five years would be an advantage in relation to the city’s continuing economic development.

The City Council can’t do the planning alone, Hammer said, the community needs to be involved.

Each of the candidates also supported the city’s use of tax incentives as a way to attract new businesses to the city.

While the city uses the incentives to bring in outside business, Baca said, the city should also apply them to local businesses and ventures.

While the city has drawn in many manufacturing-based businesses, McArthur said, he would like to see the city use the incentives to start attracting more tech-related businesses.

“I agree we ought to continue to offer those incentives,” Hammer said. “It’s a competitive world out there.”

Incumbent Bette Arial speaking at the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Incumbent Bette Arial speaking at the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce City Council candidate forum, St. George, Utah, Oct. 21, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Short-term rentals

Short-term rentals, such as those offered through websites Airbnb and VRBO that allow homeowners to rent out their homes to travelers, have become a contentious issue for some city residents.

Earlier this year an Airbnb host challenged the city’s ordinance restricting short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. This led to the city suspending enforcement of the ordinance while it reviews the matter.

“If you stayed in one, you love it, if you live next to one, it’s a pain in the rear,” Hughes said.

Objections over short-term rentals arise over the potentially negative impact visitors could have on a residential neighborhood. Concerns over how many people occupy a vacation home, plus the excess noise, traffic, trash and other potential nuisances, as well as impacts on property values, are commonplace when the subject is brought up.

McArthur said he has stayed in Airbnb homes before and enjoyed it, but in the case of St. George, he will favor the people who already live in the neighborhoods where a short-term rental may pop up.

“We should be very, very supportive of those people,” Hammer said in agreement.

While the city does have areas that are zoned for short-term rentals, the candidates seemingly favored the side of pre-existing property owners over would-be short-term landlords.

There is a need for day-to-day, that is short-term, rentals, Baca said. Whether they should be in a residential community, that’s another question, he said.

Resources – candidate websites

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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8 Comments

  • beacon October 22, 2015 at 8:33 am

    It’s sad to have candidates with such short memories or who have spend so little time studying the issues and instead rely on those who are providing false information. The article says, “Officials have called the plan a betrayal of previous arrangements made between the BLM and Washington County, particularly in relation to the northern corridor, a road that would cut across the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and connect Red Hills Parkway to Interstate 15.” There is no betrayal here other than on the part of officials who know the real history and the agreements that were made in the 90s to protect the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve – now mostly an NCA – so that development could occur outside that area. Yes, the Reserve/NCA is also for recreation, but that is not its primary purpose. Already the effects of social trails in the Reserve are showing how little respect citizens have for the area. As for the proposed road (Northern Corridor, the former director of the Reserve is clear that a road was never planned when the Reserve was established. It may have been, prior to that time, on the books locally but was not part of the Habitat Conservation Plan when drafted. The HCP clearly references “roadless” areas. The Nov. 2007 Red Hills Parkway Environmental Assessment dealt with this road from I-15 (MP13) to Red Hills Parkway and states clearly that the road was rejected by St. Geo City and UDOT due to the challenges it would face. To have leaders who are lacking in knowledge and the backbone to stand up for past agreements and think outside the box on how to deal with St. George and Washington County’s future, is not what this area needs. Sad really.

  • sagemoon October 22, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Thank you for keeping us in the loop when we can’t attend these functions in person.

  • Brian October 22, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    If you look at the map (http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Northern-Corridor-ALT-D.png), the black road makes sense, and barely skirts the preserve. The yellow road makes ZERO sense (unless you’re trying to turn St. George into a 1 million plus thriving metropolis, which I vigorously oppose) and goes right through the middle of the preserve. I don’t care what the agreement was umpteen years ago, we have to do what is right, with what we know now. The yellow road is a horrible idea and doesn’t even do a good job of meeting the objectives of the road. Seriously, what are they thinking? Have the the people that came up with that plan even been to southern Utah?

    • KarenS October 22, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      The road marked in black IS the road the local leaders want and it does go through the middle of where most people enjoy the reserve. If you look at a map of the Reserve it goes right through the Lowlands area which is where most hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikes travel. It comes off the Red Hills Parkway and intersects I-15 at the Washington Parkway east of Washington. The commenter named BEACON is correct. The local leaders have short memories or no memories at all of what they saw was agreed to in the past. No roads in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve!

    • beacon October 22, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      The black road you reference is the exact road that would NOT be in keeping with earlier agreements, agreements that must be kept or serious legal ramifications may, probably will ensue. Are there no leaders, potential or existing, with any integrity? The road would cost about $116 million tax dollars to service a small area of this county when the projected growth is headed to the southern and southeastern areas according to the transportation reports. The existing Red Hill Parkway is the road that should be kept and the planners sent back to the drawing boards to figure out how to deal with the traffic. Decisions to continue placing more public activities along the road just to ensure it become overwhelmed with traffic and thus necessitate a new road are decisions that should be challenged head on. It’s a small price to pay to set aside and protect the 62,000 acres (40,000 of it NCA) while the remaining 300,000 acres of this county continue to be developed. And, by the way, the people who came up with the plan (BLM employees) are citizens of Washington County, too!

      • Brian October 23, 2015 at 11:32 am

        Then don’t do either road, but the yellow road is INSANE. However, it looks like there are reasonable possibilities for a road that achieves the goals of the black road, while still preserving the integrity of the reserve. Afterall, many roads already go through the reserve, including red hills parkway and highway 18. If you look at the big map (http://www.redcliffsdesertreserve.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/02/Red-Cliffs-Desert-Reserve-Trails-Map1.pdf) you could come off of Red Hills Parkway near City Creek, and go either just north or just south of T-Bone Mesa, then follow the Middleton power line over. That would only intersect a single trail, and that would happen right next to existing development. Eventually Red Hills Parkway is going to be saturated and a northern corridor is going to be necessary. I’d love for St. George to stay the same size it is now (or smaller), but the reality is it will continue to grow whether we like it or not, even without any efforts to promote that growth. Something is needed, or will be, and the yellow road is nuts.

        • beacon October 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

          Since there are actually 3 yellow roads on the RMP’s Map 2-46, I’m not sure which yellow road is insane, as you say. Yes, as you say there are roads already going through the Reserve, hence even more reason for protection. This was an agreement made in good faith by leaders who in the 90s already knew about the then explosive growth in Washington County, and yet, made that agreement. Planners need to go back to the table and come up with other methods to deal with traffic. The 62,000 acres set aside for the Reserve, now NCA, are “mitigation” for the remaining WC to be developed. To take more for any road at this point begs the question, how would you mitigate for that, i.e., how would you provide additional habitat to make up for that taking of habitat? In fact, a road will just put additional stresses on the area. Anytime you provide more/easier access by people, the effects will be felt. Perhaps leaders back in the 90s should have done a better job of securing the road they say has been on the books for decades. They did not. Probably because they knew that was a game changer and deal killer. Now we must live by their decision and figure out how to make it work. As for Red Hills Parkway becoming saturated, with all the activities put there to draw people, that is certainly going to happen. More bad decisions by leaders who already knew that road would be a problem.

          • Ryan October 29, 2015 at 12:18 pm

            I have actually taken parts of the yellow road and it would provide many different viewpoints into the reserve that are not currently easily accessible. It is most likely cost prohibitive anyway. I do get frustrated when there are public lands that aren’t really accessible. There is a road right up the middle of Snow Canyon and I am glad it is there. While I agree that more roads is not always the answer, planning ahead is critical.

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