ST. GEORGE – Few things can fill a city council chamber to capacity like the prospect of unwanted commercial development popping up next to a residential community. That was the case Thursday night as around 100 SunRiver community residents flooded into the St. George City Council meeting to voice their opposition to a zone change that would make way for a five-story hotel next door.
In addition to the the proposed hotel, SunRiver residents also opposed the potential approval of auto sales being made a permitted use in the area.
Those residents left the council chambers frustrated as the City Council voted unanimously to approve the zone change. A handful got up and left before the vote was made; one man said “It’s a done deal” as he headed for the door.
The site of the proposed 120-room hotel – a Hampton Inn – is located east of the primary entry into the SunRiver 55-and-older community and will sit on the north side of Sun River Parkway, covering approximately 2.43 acres. That parcel is a part of a much larger, empty lot located between Pioneer Road and Arrowhead Canyon Drive.
“A five-story hotel is not necessarily out of place,” Councilman Ed Baca said, noting the many hotels that already exist in the city. He also said the hotels help add a needed mix to the city’s economy that also aid in keeping property taxes down.
The land on which the hotel is to be built is already zoned for that use. However, the city has a height-limit of 36 feet and the overall structure is around 62 feet. Developers asked for a height variance, which tends to be a fairly common request brought to the City Council.
The proposed height of the hotel didn’t sit well with SunRiver residents. Among the objections they expressed were that the height would allow people to look down on the surrounding neighborhoods, thus disturbing the privacy of residents. Other concerns related to increased traffic, a negative effect on property values and a potential draw for crime related to drugs and prostitution.
As well, a number of those who spoke to the City Council Thursday said that when they bought a home in SunRiver they were told that the future commercial development around SunRiver would be light. This was in reference to potential grocery stores, restaurants and retail.
“I’m really feeling very betrayed,” SunRiver resident Barbara McLaughlin said. “(The hotel) is too large. It is inappropriate.”
McLaughlin suggested developers make the hotel three-stories so it wouldn’t peer down on neighborhoods.
“The height is as it is because of economics,” developer Darcy Stewart said. “As expensive as it is the build these facilities, we looked at the numbers and something smaller was not economically feasible.”
What developers have intended for the area is to continue to make it a beautiful development, Stewart said. For the last 20 years they have worked to make SunRiver one of the finest developments in St. George, and will continue to do what is the in the best interest of SunRiver.
“I recognize this is a highly charged issue,” Stewart said. “(We’re not) trying to affect SunRiver negatively. In time, I think people will recognize this to be a good addition to the community.”
Ultimately, Baca made a motion the council approve the zone change for the hotel. That is when some in the audience started to leave, saying the conclusion was evident – it would pass; and so it did with a unanimous vote of councilmembers.
People began to file out of the council chambers, and one man called out for people to remember what the City Council had done next time council members are up for re-election.
SunRiver auto sale zones?
The possibility of auto sales being offered in the SunRiver area was another issue that drew the ire of community residents.
Due to a misunderstanding, it had been thought that the developers needed to request a zone change to allow for auto sales. This is not the case as it is already a permitted use. The property involved is zoned for auto sales but the city must approve the specific street or streets on which such sales would be permitted. The earliest that developers can address the city on this item is Oct. 11 via a Planning Commission meeting. Accordingly, the matter was tabled and no action was taken by the council.
Stewart said developers have no intention of bringing in an auto dealership. Instead, they were considering the possibility of a golf cart or recreational vehicle dealer.
Other developments within the city
The council approved a zone change on 2.95 acres located west of 2450 East and the Virgin River. The zone change helps bring the RiverWalk Village – a 55-unit apartment complex that will offer affordable housing – a step closer to fruition. The Switchpoint Community Resource Center is heavily involved in the project and will offer the same services to RiverWalk Village residents it does to clients of the resource center.
The council also approved measures related to the City View project, a mixed-use development aimed for the downtown area. It will sit between Main Street, St. George Boulevard, 100 West Street and Tabernacle Street. the project consists of a 60-room boutique hotel and two other complexes that will provide a total of 110 residential units set atop 10,000 square feet of retail space.
As a part of the approvals given by the council for the City View project, developers will be allowed to demolish the George Worthen House at 32 W. Tabernacle St.
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