ST. GEORGE – Thunderous applause erupted in the St. George City Council chambers Thursday after residents of the SunRiver community heard that a developer’s request to have a part of Pioneer Road approved for auto sales was withdrawn.
“We are withdrawing our application on Pioneer Road,” developer Darcy Stewart told the City Council Thursday. His words were followed by a moment of silence as it seemed to take a moment for what he just said to sink in.
“OK, well that’s a significant change,” Mayor Jon Pike said just before the applause began. The announcement appeared to bring a great sense of relief to both residents and council members.
The developers of SunRiver Group had originally made a request for the City Council to approve an ordinance change allowing for auto sales along parts of Pioneer Road and Astragalus Drive north of the Exit 2/Atkinville Interchange.
While the request for Pioneer Road was withdrawn, the City Council did approve of auto sales on a 3,400 foot stretch of Astragalus Drive. That part of the road sits on the east side of Interstate 15, parallel to Pioneer Road which is on the west side.
The possibility of a portion of Pioneer Road – namely between Bluegrass Way and the south boundary of the Riverstone community – being zoned to allow car lots wasn’t welcomed by SunRiver residents who have packed public meetings concerning the matter.
While Stewart previously stated the auto sales designation wouldn’t be used to put in actual car sales lots, but rather an RV or golf cart dealership, residents were nonetheless concerned about such a move setting a negative precedent.
Area residents also voiced concerns about increased traffic, increased light pollution and the impact to the aesthetics of the area.
Lou Porta, a SunRiver resident, said the community doesn’t need car dealerships in the area. Instead, he said, they should get service-based businesses that the communities there can take advantage of.
“We don’t need RV dealerships and car dealerships,” Porta said. “We need services out there for the 4,000 residents of SunRiver, the 478 townhomes, Riverstone and the people out on the Southern Parkway going to the airport. Some of the services we’d like to request are a gas station, coffee shops, boutiques, a bank, a few restaurants – services for the people.”
Residents of the 55-and-older SunRiver community are heavily involved in the city politically and financially, Porta said. They provide many volunteer hours in the community as well.
“I want you to know we’re not just isolated out there,” Porta said. “We are members of the St. George community.”
While a number of the SunRiver and Riverstone residents who crammed into the council chambers said they were happy with Pioneer Road being taken off the table, there were still concerns over what may happen with Astragalus Drive. Worries over lighting, aesthetics and additional traffic – such as test drives being done on nearby SunRiver streets – remained.
Both Pike and Councilman Ed Baca said the City Council and staff are looking at the city’s lighting ordinances for ways to better mitigate potential light pollution issues.
Potential changes to the lighting ordinances will likely affect future incoming businesses, Baca said.
As for aesthetics, Riverstone resident Judy Harlin called the area around the Atkinville Interchange the entrance to the city and the state, and therefore needs to be kept visibly pleasing to those passing through.
“The entrance to our state and the entrance to our city is a very valuable instrument,” Harlin said. “And what we look at as we come out of that Virgin River Gorge is really important. I would think you would want people to come out and say ‘wow’ and not come out and say ‘ew.’ Seriously, that is what we are talking about – aesthetics.”
Pike said the city wants to keep the southern entry to the city nice as well, and works hard to keep it that way.
Though the property along the withdrawn part of Pioneer Road and the yet-to-be-developed Astragalus Drive is zoned commercial, the mayor and council members noted it was also zoned as a “PD,” or planned development. This allows the City Council to review various elements of a proposed development, like lighting, landscaping and overall aesthetics, before construction begins.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, Councilman Joe Bowcutt thanked the 100-plus city residents who came to the council meeting and made an effort to make their voices heard. Others do not make the same effort, he said.
“I think it’s outstanding we get feedback and support from the citizens,” Bowcutt said. “I appreciate that you are here.”
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