Hurricane discusses revisions to vacation rentals; solidifies support for Tuacahn

Hurricane City Council, Hurricane City Council chambers, Hurricane, Utah, Nov. 29, 2015 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

HURRICANE – The main event at the Hurricane City Council Meeting Thursday evening was further discussion of revisions to the city’s vacation rental ordinance, which initially passed in February of this year but has since been a source of contention. Currently, there is a moratorium on the ordinance until Dec. 20 or when revisions are approved, whichever comes earlier. Revisions did not meet approval on Thursday so the moratorium will continue.

Some of the Hurricane Planning Commission’s main recommendations are to limit vacation rentals to 1,000 feet from each other and limit the number of occupants to 10 or fewer to meet international fire code. Several people voiced their concerns and suggestions over such revisions during the public forum on the issue.

Kendall Clements of Escape Properties PLLC, which oversees many vacation rentals throughout Washington County, recommended that the ordinance allow for three people per bedroom, which, he said, does not overload the property; for example, he said, 18 people in a six-bedroom home would not be too many. Clements also said vacation rentals should be allowed closer than 1,000 feet from each other.

Lynn Walsh, a Dixie Springs resident, voiced his opposition to the ordinance. Vacation rentals can be noisy, he said, and create traffic hazards if too many cars are parked along the street. If there is a problem, there is supposed to be someone to call.  He has called responsible parties for vacation rentals that have caused problems in his neighborhood, he said, and nothing happened. In conclusion, Walsh said vacation rentals compromise neighborhoods expected to be single family residential. Several citizens didn’t take the mic, but said they agreed with Walsh’s stance.

Another Hurricane resident, Kevan Adams, who is a strong proponent of vacation rentals, said that setting a fixed distance between them is not the answer and that there are several places within the city where a cluster of vacation rentals would be ideal.

Opening the council’s discussion of the issue after the public forum, Councilwoman Pam Humphries said she agrees with Adams – clusters might be a better idea than a specific distance apart.

Councilman Darin Larson said he thinks 1,000 feet is too great a distance and that the planning commission and council should reassess the ordinance. Larson further explained that neighbors who are against vacation rentals in their neighborhood could prevent those wanting to exercise their property rights, turning homes into vacation rentals, from doing so.

Councilman Darin Thomas said the city prides itself on being the Gateway to Zion, but it needs to back that up with more options for accommodations.

Speaking from his own experience, Thomas said, with a family of six, it’s more cost-effective to book a vacation rental than a motel room.

Both Pam Humphries and Thomas said the vacation rental ordinance has created a quagmire with people wanting to exercise their property rights in opposite ways. Mayor John Bramall agreed; the Council must find a way to balance property rights on both sides, he said.

City Attorney Fay Reber interjected, siding with Larson; there needs to be more discussion on the issue, he said, explaining that if setting a distance between rentals is the direction they take that they must decide on how that distance is measured, among other things.

Later, Councilman Kevin Tervort made a motion to “approve the ordinance as it stands,” which Pam Humphries seconded. The other three council members did not agree, voting down the motion 3-2. Immediately after, Larson made a motion to table it for now and further discuss it, including the distance issue, and other options at a later meeting. The Council approved that motion with a 3-2 vote, Tervort and Pam Humphries being the dissenters.

Another controversial issue associated with the City Council of late (especially by its incoming council members, Kevin Thomas and Cheryl Reeve) is its pledge of financial support to Tuacahn Center for the Arts. The topic came up for discussion at Thursday’s meeting.

Jeff Fisher, Tuacahn’s development director, came to the meeting seeking a document to solidify the council’s commitment of funds to help secure the bond being used to pay for upgrades to its 20-year-old facilities and a new arts center, emphasizing that the timing is urgent because of the need to close on the bonds by Dec. 1 so construction can start on schedule.

The money the council earmarked to aid Tuacahn in August is slated to come from its recreation, arts and park, or RAP, tax revenues. Kevin Thomas, in attendance at the meeting, voiced his concern that the council committed to supporting Tuacahn for 20 years, but the RAP tax is set to expire in 10 years; so he questioned where the money would come from if the RAP tax does not pass again.

Current council members countered Kevin Thomas by explaining that City Manager Clark Fawcett supports the deal and that residents will see the benefit of the RAP tax and likely approve it again in another 10 years.

Councilwoman Ethelyn Humphries reminded the council that it committed to funding Tuacahn for 20 years even without the RAP tax and that the council has, in the past, pledged financial support to other causes without knowing exactly where the money would come from. It has always worked out, she said.

Ultimately, the council re-upped on its support of Tuacahn, voting 4-1 in favor with Pam Humphries the lone dissenter.

Fisher said he appreciates the council’s faith in his organization and promised it would do great things with the funds.

Other business

The council approved the engineering contract for the project design for 400 South (between 100 East and 300 West) and 300 North (between 200 West and state Route 9) to Civil Science, a contract worth $199,588, Hurricane City Engineer Arthur LeBaron said. Work on 400 South should begin in the spring of 2016, LeBaron said, with 300 North slated for next fiscal year.

The council approved an updated preliminary plat for the Retreat at Sand Hollow Resort and approved the preliminary plat for the Villas at Canyon View, a six-unit town house subdivision located at the corner of 600 North and 2480 West.

It also heard a presentation from Julie Gillins of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, stating the district’s goal to reduce water consumption by 40 gallons per person, per day, from 325 to 285 gallons, by 2060. The district plans to achieve it by advocating high efficiency fixtures, school retrofits as wells as efficient water budgeting and monitoring, among other strategies.

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