Contentious Ivins RV park proposal remains unresolved

Ivins City Hall - StGeorgeNews.com
Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 3, 2016 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

IVINS — Two families are at a stalemate over an application to re-zone a residential property to allow for an RV park.

The area for a proposed Zone Change of 24.52 acres from Residential/Agricultural to RV Resort located on the south side of Highway 91 at approximately 100 West, Ivins, Utah, June, 2016 | Map courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News
The area for a proposed zone change of 24.52 acres from Residential/Agricultural to RV Resort located on the south side of Highway 91 at approximately 100 West, Ivins, Utah, June, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

The Ivins City Council held a public hearing Thursday evening on the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny a proposed zone change of 24.52 acres from Residential/Agricultural to RV Resort located on the south side of Highway 91 at approximately 100 West in Ivins.

The City Council had previously indicated it was in favor of the ordinance, despite the Planning Commission’s recommendation for denial. However, the project is facing several stumbling blocks, including public opposition and a legal challenge by a neighboring resident.

The zone change would need to pass a variety of criteria such as public interest, compatibility with nearby properties and community benefit. The council previously determined the amendment would be in line with all of the criteria, save for the necessity for a transition zone — the issue at stake in the families’ dispute.

Families at odds

“If you’re going to have a plan, if you’re going to enforce a zoning ordinance, then it’s going to be according to law that takes into account our interest, because we’re part of this community,” Gary Pendleton said to the council.

Pendleton, an attorney, neighbors the property and filed a lawsuit in protest of the proposal going forward without the transition zone.

A map shows a proposed Zone Change of 24.52 acres from Residential/Agricultural to RV Resort located on the south side of Highway 91 at approximately 100 West, Ivins, Utah | Map courtesy of Ivins City Council, St. George News
A map shows a proposed zone change of 24.52 acres from Residential/Agricultural to RV Resort located on the south side of Highway 91 at approximately 100 West, Ivins, Utah | Map courtesy of Ivins City Council, St. George News | Click on image to enlarge.

Pendleton and his family previously met privately with the owners of the property, the Graf family, insisting on a 300-foot buffer zone between his property and the proposed RV park. However, the Grafs said the RV park would be infeasible with such a large buffer.

Since then, the families have not been able to come to a resolution, turning to the city and courts.

The proposed RV park is just off of Old Highway 91 near the entrance to the city.

“Most of the people that stay in these types of places make a lot more money than I do and have motor coaches that are worth more than my house a lot of times. So, this is not a trashy trailer park, in my mind it’s something the city has worked hard to make sure it wouldn’t be that,” Jon Graf, the proposal’s applicant, said of the clientele they intend to attract to the park.

“I will be honest … it just feels very transient … just doesn’t feel comfortable, it doesn’t feel awesome to live next door, to raise a family,” Mariah Perez said.

Perez, who is Pendleton’s daughter and also owns a home next to the property, said the city would have already approved the ordinance without accommodating the need for a transition zone if her father hadn’t stepped in as an attorney.

“I am offended by the concept that the city council would take the position that it can change the general plan even if it harms us, even if it’s not in the public interest, even if it’s not compatible with the existing general plan. I think that’s asinine,” Pendleton said.

Public opposition

Several residents rose to speak during the public comment period.

“I’m sitting here thinking, gosh, I pay taxes, I have a lot I bought in Ivins, and I wouldn’t want an RV park next to me. Particularly one where you’re changing the zoning to allow something that doesn’t need to be in our city,” Ivins resident Marybeth Beck said.

Beck said she was off put by the proposed park’s location near the entrance of Ivins, making it the first thing travelers see when entering the city.

Another resident, Lisa Rutherford, said she was concerned about bicyclists being obstructed by RV traffic after the city’s recent efforts to make the area more biker friendly.

A few other people stood to express their opposition to the proposed RV park, and no one who took the stand said they were in favor. One person conceded that if it were passed, a transition zone would be necessary.

Conflicted council

City Manager/Attorney Dale Coulam advised the council to carefully consider any decision on the matter since legal appeals by Pendleton were still potentially looming.

“Legally, there is nothing that says you cannot proceed with making a zone change at this time,” Coulam said. “It’s a matter of whether you think it’s prudent to move forward and change the zone at this time knowing that there is a risk on appeal that the decision of land use might be overturned.”

Additionally, Coulam pointed out that if the matter were not resolved in court, it would go to public referendum which would not occur until the next municipal election in 2017.

The council is obligated to act in some way since we have an application before us,” Mayor Chris Hart said, noting the council had only 45 days to approve or deny the application.

However he pleaded with the families to continue discussions.

“You drew a line in the sand, and you drew a line in the sand,” Hart said in reference to the two families’ positions.

“This council does not want to fly in the face of its residents or create a situation that doesn’t appear fair,” the mayor said. “If there is a way that can be done, I’m just going to suggest to you that that’s the only way it’s going to happen, I think.”

Hart volunteered to be present for any future discussions between the families.

All but one council member was in favor of the proposed RV park.

“I’m in favor of it. I think that it will be a great benefit to the city as a whole. It’s a great location for it in my opinion,” council member Cheyne McDonald said.

However, he expressed frustration about the proceedings.

“I’m a bit frustrated with the kind of ‘he said, she said’ that’s been going on tonight,” McDonald said, “I hate that we kind of got caught in the middle of that issue.”

The lone dissenter, Councilman Dennis Mehr, instead recommended denying the application based on the planning commission’s recommendation.

“Just as an observation, as a government agency it seems we’re trying to get into problem solving mode and yet we need to acknowledge we created the problem by going against the planning commission recommendation in the beginning,” Mehr said.

It seems a core problem in our society that we often look to government to solve our problems, and I think we can do better,” the councilman said. “So, I applaud Mayor Hart in trying to encourage the families to work it out.”

Ultimately, the council opted to table the matter for a future council meeting, while acknowledging to the involved parties that they recognize that time is of the essence.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Jon December 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    We are excited to have the opportunity to bring Hidden Springs RV resort to this area.
    Our vision is to bring a high end motor coach resort for families visiting our area to have a place to stay.
    We are catering to a range of people from families visiting the area for events such as soccer, baseball, football, marathons, triathlons, people traveling through our area to visit the the national parks, to seniors commonly known as “Snowbirds” who want to get out of the cold and stay for the winter.
    Hidden Springs will not have any permanant residents, it will create a beautiful place for people to enjoy the outdoors of Ivins and surrounding areas. We have had the property in our family for over 100 years and we are interested in preserving the integrity of the property and keeping it in our family. With the extraordinary growth that is happening in southern Utah and along highway 91 we see Hidden Springs Resort as a wonderful way to accomplish keeping the piece of property in tact and in our family.
    It is interesting that the article stated that we often look to government to solve our problems, we actually wish the city and the neighbors would get out of our way so that as personal property owners we could do what we deem necessary with our personal property to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as per the constitution. We have played by the city’s rules and we are into this process over a year now and thousands of dollars spent. The neighbors have taken arbitrary legal action against the city to control what the outcome would be and portray themselves as the victims, when in reality we are the injured party because our personal property rights have been violated and halted.
    We would invite those citizen who are in favor of personal property rights and who may support a project like Hidden Springs RV Resort to comment below or email Ivins City council and Mayor Chris Hart with your comments and support. Thank you.

    • holger December 3, 2016 at 8:27 am

      “… a high end motor coach resort for families…”. It’s an RV park. I think everyone has seen RV parks, and never have I seen one that could be considered a high end resort. Don’t try and paint this other than anything it is not. It is a place for transient folks to park their hulking vehicles in plain sight of all who pass by.

      Curious why so many of the Council members are going against the recommendation of the Planning Commission. Mayor Hart I understand, because he has no vision for the city. But what about the others? Why would they intentionally choose to visually trash the entrance to the city? Have you influenced them in some way? One can’t help but wonder if there has been some “lobbying” going on.

    • GFS December 6, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      Mr Graf, personal property owners cannot do any and everything they please with their property. Their are laws and ordinances for a reason. They are also there to protect the citizens that live in the community too. You say you have followed all the city rules and from what it appears, the neighbors to your family property have followed all the rules and laws as well. So I am not sure why you are trying to play the victim card.

  • hiker75 December 3, 2016 at 7:31 am

    No, I do not want a RV Resort on 91 in Ivins. Only one City Council member agrees with Planning Commission’s recommendation to decline the application. So, the two families are directed to work it out… other residents do not matter! Except for one council member who respects the opinion of the planning commission and other residents, the city does not care. Sounds like the mayor has made up his mind that this will be approved. Hope the lawsuit moves forward. I guess the city figures they will make a lot more money with the transient room tax. For them, it all comes down to revenue!

  • mmsandie December 3, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I think the idea is great, beautiful location, it sounds like the council and town are trying to please everyone, there is always one person to spoil the process, when you buy a lot anywhere , you don,t own the land around it and cannot control the use of space, that’s why you live in an association…and I don,t think one person should dictate the use of land, it would help with taxes , and people who stayed would she how beautiful our state is. Everyone would win..I,ve seen back east where one home owner wouldn,t budge, the ended up builder the mall around him and now he sits in a paved yard.. It’s not the end of the world.. Look at the people in Chicago who can,t go out if their homes or they,ll get shot…
    Give in,you,ll like the landscaping, and views still and maybe meet new people from all over usa visiting…
    I,m sure they.ll make it nice

    • zp96 December 3, 2016 at 10:19 am

      there was no land use designation for RV resort in Ivins prior to the land owner coming up with the idea for the resort. The ordinance to allow the family to submit an application for the zoning change from residential or commercial to RV resort was only able to occur after a new zoning ordinance was created to meet the property owner’s personal financial plans. The majority of city council has pursued this ordinance over the planning commission’s recommendations to not pursue. At the various public hearings that have been held over the last year, I can only recall one person who was not the applicant give any positive comment at all to the resort and that comment was lukewarm at best.
      The city council promoted the idea of pursuing the RV resort application citing the revenue the transient room tax would bring. If that was really true, then why to they build the ordinance to allow 30 percent of the RV resort to be waived from that tax/revenue opportunity.
      While the neighbor in question might prefer to have no RV resort there at all, they would consider if a transition zone was allowed. The property owner is unwilling to consider having less RV pads as he states would not be financially viable. The realty is that the land in question may not be best suited for a financially viable project. It’s unfortunate the city drafted an ordinance to meet one property owner’s needs instead of pursuing an ordinance for the city’s needs at large.

  • tcrider December 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Is this the same bottom feeding developer that wanted to put up the apartment buildings a while back? Why do these scum
    want to ruin it for all the local residents that actually live in the area?

  • news ready December 3, 2016 at 10:52 am

    As an RV owner living in Ivins, I can say that I don’t think this is a good location for an RV park and I personally wouldn’t want to live anywhere nearby. When we travel we try to stay only in the nicest, “Premier” rated RV parks—a very small percentage of the parks. Nearly all parks rely on long term residents to help cover costs. These residents take temporary employment, often construction jobs, and have no stake or interest in the community or their neighbors. Their RV sites are often unsightly and all parks tend to group them together by the highway or a back corner. Even Premier parks are often zoned in isolated areas or near industrial centers. Premier parks overcome these locations by creating walled in properties with lots of amenities like swimming pools, tennis courts, club houses and sometimes much more. They are also securely gated with 24 hour guards and staff. Will this be that kind of park? I sincerely doubt it. I also worry about this proposed park being on highway 91. I occasionally have to drive my motorhome on 91 and I don’t enjoy it. It’s way to narrow with minimal shoulders and people often exceed the speed limit. Frequent RV’s on this road will encourage motorists to try and pass and serious accidents will be the result. And for sure, cyclists won’t want any part of this. The Planning Commission was right. This park should not be approved.

  • .... December 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Ok no problem out up a mini Wal-Mart and put a Starbucks inside and put up a other temple and let people park they’re RVs in the back

  • Aliceyn December 3, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    And how does Santa Clara feel about high end motor coaches traveling through their city ? Will they use Pioneer Parkway or Santa Clara’s other Main Street- a 2 lane business & residential neighborhood? Or are these high end motor coaches going to go through Ivins up to Snow Canyon Parkway? A high end motor coach park would be better located near the freeway for easy traveling access. When moving to Utah 25 years ago I specifically did not choose Ivins because the only things there were 2 neighborhoods & trailer parks. I was told Ivins was the “arm pit of St George” and I could see it. Once the school was built – housing developments were built. More streets were paved and sidewalks put in. Ivins a very nice place and now as 9 year resident I can’t believe the city is willing to go backward. Mr Developer, this is not a contest as to who has owned the property the longest. I know your neighbor has been there many, many years. This is about his family property too – there will be families living next to your trailer park. You, however; will be living somewhere else…. ( Joyce- please keep us informed about this and the next city meetings. Thanks)

  • lvnthedrm December 5, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    The main family involved have been landowners just as long as the developer, yet they actually live on the property! They too want to pursue their right to happiness and changing zoning doesn’t fit in with that, it infringes on their rights. As a resident of ivins I am totally opposed to this RV park and hope it goes to vote so I can vote against it! I hate the thought of an RV park as one of the first things you see when you enter Ivins. It seems to me if you cozy up to the right people in ivins they will ignore the planning commission and do what they want!

  • Bob December 6, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I was out of town and not able to attend the meeting, so if these items were addressed I apologize. Have there been discussions of infrastructure upgrades and who will pay for them (sewer, water, electrical hook ups, increased law enforcement for high density living, wider roads with turnouts to accommodate RV and trailer traffic)?
    Also, as others have pointed out, it will be necessary for the owner to have year-around tenants to gain income during the off seasons. Which means this is will be a “trailer park,” not an RV resort.

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