ST. GEORGE –City Council members said Thursday the state is reaching too far into municipal affairs, citing several bills before the 2016 Utah Legislature that could affect the city’s ability to enact and enforce ordinances and policy within its borders.
St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman went over a handful of the proposed bills during Thursday’s council meeting. The bills range in scope from addressing short-term rentals to beekeeping and body cameras for police to business licensing for home-based businesses.
A common complaint among the council members was that the state-level measures would erode the city’s ability to regulate these items on the local level, mirroring the ongoing state-level frustrations against alleged federal overreach.
“The idea is that the government that is the closest is the best,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.
One of the bills this legislative session proposes to enact Short-Term Rental Amendments to existing law. The bill, numbered House Bill 409, is sponsored by Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman. Specifically, if enacted, the amendments would put a moratorium on a municipality’s and county’s ability to enact or enforce ordinances regulating short-term rentals.
While the city allows for short-term rentals in specific parts of the city, and recently approved a new development by SunRiver that will have that option, the city doesn’t allow for short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.
Last year the city dealt with the issue of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods that are generally rented out to individuals through online services like Airbnb and VRBO. Some residents in neighborhoods with these rentals have brought concerns to the city about noise, trash, traffic and other negative impacts on the neighborhood overall.
“We can’t have (the state) dictating what we’re doing in our own town,” Councilman Joe Bowcutt said.
The bill has yet to be heard in a legislative committee.
Text of the proposed amendments: 2016 HB 409 – Short-Term Rental Amendments – introduced 20160223
Another measure, proposing modifications to existing laws pertaining to beekeeping, sponsored by Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, was also mentioned during the council meeting. Related to beekeeping, the bill would remove a city’s ability to regulate the size and location of a beekeeping operation.
People can keep bees within the city, Guzman said, but when beekeeping operations get too large it can negatively impact the surrounding area as the bees spread into neighboring yards.
“We have the ability to regulate that,” Pike said. “I don’t know why they want to regulate that.”
The beekeeping modifications bill was held in committee on Feb. 17.
Text of the proposed modifications: 2016 HB 115 – Beekeeping Modifications – introduced 20160125
“This is exactly what they’re complaining is happening on the federal level, and that’s the way we see it, and that’s the way we will portray it to the voters,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said.
Many of the bills reviewed during the council meeting are also being watched and opposed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, Guzman said.
Prior to the legislative review, the council heard from Jordan Sharp, Dixie State University’s chief marketing and communications officer, who came to ask the city for aid in the university’s rebranding efforts.
“We’re rebranding Dixie again – and hopefully for the last time,” Sharp said.
Last October, Dixie State began a new rebranding campaign that would give the institution a new athletic identity and accompanying mascot.
The new identity will replace the school’s current identity as the “Red Storm,” which wasn’t well received when it was adopted after Dixie State dropped the “Rebels.”
Partnering with a marketing firm and pulling together many years of research data and public input, university officials hope to create a strong brand for Dixie State that also has strong ties to aspects of Southern Utah’s climate, geography, heritage, wildlife and so forth.
In December 2015, the school’s identity committee selected six finalists that the public could vote on. Since then, three of the options have been dropped and three finalists remain that university officials are proud of, Sharp said.
The finalists are:
- Team name: Trailblazers | Mascot: A bison
- Team name: Raptors | Mascot: a raptor
- Team name: Sun Warriors | Mascot: “Apollo” the Greek god
The new identity will likely be unveiled in April as part of D-Week festivities at the university, Sharp said.
In order to help with the marketing of the new identity once it is revealed, Sharp said DSU wants to have a series of banners placed on streetlight poles located in the median on St. George Boulevard.
The proposed banners will help promote the school while also helping to promote the concept of St. George as a university town, something Sharp said Dixie State officials want to help accomplish.
“If nothing else, (the banners) tell you you’re in Dixie State town,” Pike said.
The council appeared to be largely in favor of the idea.
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