Can there be a compromise between business and beautification on the Boulevard?

The building of Japan Massage, hidden by the trees in the median on St. George Boulevard, St. George, Utah, July 20, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Ever since the city of St. George implemented the St. George Boulevard beautification project 11 years ago, some businesses on the street have complained that trees are blocking the view of their business and want them trimmed or removed entirely. However, even trimming the trees can prove to be complicated. 

While many people enjoy the visual effect that the beautification effort has brought to the street, some St. George Boulevard businesses don’t think the city is doing enough to maintain the project.

Hal Hiatt, owner of Patches of Iris and Violets, thinks the city does a great job with the upkeep of the median but does not think they’re doing what they should be along the sidewalks.

“Maintenance is great on the center island,” Hiatt said, “but on the sides I don’t think they’re doing what they should be doing at all.”

The city has planted several different kinds of trees, including a desert orchid tree that makes a mess in front of his business, Hiatt said, and  the lights are out in several of the lamps down the street.

“It just doesn’t look consistent,” he said, “and that’s what they pitched us when they decided to do it.”

The lamp in front of his business has been out since six months after it was put in. Despite several calls to the city, no one has replaced the bulb in the 11 years since it’s been burnt out.

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Before photo (left) shows section of St. George Boulevard before beautification project, date not specified. After photo (right) shows the same section of the Boulevard 11 years later, July 27, 2018 | Before photo courtesy of the city of St. George. After photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Kent Sevy, co-owner of M&S Turquoise on St. George Boulevard, likes the idea of city beautification but doesn’t understand why the city planted trees directly in front of his business’ sign.

“We had a lot of people who were negative about it (the project); I’m not one. I love to see a pretty city,” Sevy said. “I just thought it was really ridiculous that they put trees right in front of our sign.”

Sevy hasn’t made a formal complaint, but he has spoken to the city about a possible solution. The city said they cannot remove any live, healthy trees.

Business owners have had complaints about the trees on the boulevard for years. In 2014, the Sands Motel had an issue when the city wouldn’t remove a tree blocking its historic sign. This is after city representatives told him that if it became a problem, they would remove it.

“I feel like St. George Boulevard is a jungle,” Sands Motel owner Sam Patel said. “They did a little too much with their landscaping and some of these trees are getting out of control.”

Read More: Sands Motel owner protests city tree blocking historic sign

A cone marks the location where a tree was blocking the sign in front of the Sands Motel, St. George, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

The city recently replaced the tree in front of the sign, but then it died and was removed. Patel is not sure what will happen with it next but said he assumes they will plant another one.

In the past, Patel said, he has reached out to several city departments and many of them have either directed him to another department or said they submitted a request.

“It looks good but there’s some issues with the city,” Patel said. “They’re sometimes hard to work with. Every time we’ve asked them to do anything with the trees, trim them or do anything, they’ve always just said no.”

Overall, their interactions with the city have been positive, Patel said, and have even improved over the last several years. However, any issues he has brought up related to the trees on St. George Boulevard have been met with resistance.

“They’ve never worked with us on trying to get anything resolved,” Patel said.

Marc Mortensen, the support services director for St. George who also played a part in implementing the beautification, said the city works to maintain the trees by trimming them several times a year and upon request. However, they cannot always trim the trees because if overdone, it could kill the tree. This still leaves some businesses frustrated, a fact which Mortensen acknowledged. 

“We’re trimming the tree as best we can, and some businesses may not think it’s acceptable enough to meet their standards,” Mortensen said. “They’re thinking of their sign; we’re thinking of that tree.”

Mortensen said the city has a city forester – as well as a shade tree board – that reviews trimming requests and makes decisions related to the trees in town. The city plants trees for both aesthetic purposes and to keep the heat index down.

“Shade comes at a premium in the desert,” Mortensen said, “so we place a lot of value on those trees while at the same time respecting the fact that businesses have a business to operate.”

Before the renovations began, the Utah Department of Transportation officials held meetings to share their plans with business owners and to answer questions and receive input.

“We try to be as friendly to the businesses as we can,” said Shane Moore, St. George parks manager and urban forester.

The recently trimmed trees in front of the Wendy’s restaurant on St. George Boulevard, St. George, Utah, June 27, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Mark Hodges, founder of Arbor Tech, a professional tree care and landscaping company and former St. George city forester, believes there is a solution that allows both business and beautification to be successful.

The manager of the Wendy’s restaurant on the boulevard contacted Hodges about trimming the trees in front of the business, which had become overgrown, blocking visibility and causing poor lighting. The cluster of trees had also become the location of a transient camp.

Hodges called the city’s forestry department, whose agent met him there and determined that the trees had become a safety concern as well as a hindrance to the business and granted permission to trim some branches. 

“It was a win, win, win,” Hodges said. “The business got a win – got a better view for their business; the trees won – they didn’t get removed; and the city won too – the trees got to stay and they got their beautification.”

Some people complain that they don’t want beautification, Hodges said. Because the trees are in front of their business they want them removed entirely. But Hodges said he would rather see the city and the businesses work together on a compromise as they did at Wendy’s.

“It’s great to see those wins, you know,” Hodges said.

However, hiring an outside contractor to trim city trees is not common practice. In fact, only city arborists are supposed to trim the trees. In the case of Wendy’s, the employee who approved the trimming only agreed to allow them to cut a few dead branches.

Moore said had they gone through the shade tree board, the city would have trimmed the trees, and Mortensen said the contractor trimmed more than was approved, raising the canopy too high and putting the trees in a stressful state. 

Moore said the city wants to have a good relationship with the businesses on the street. If a business owner has a concern regarding the beautification, they should come to the parks department, and they will do what it can to address the concern.

“We try to work really well with the business owners,” Moore said. “Our goal is to work with them, not against them.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • statusquo July 28, 2018 at 8:32 am

    It is a dilemma. Signs bring in business and trees block signs. Personally I think the city could change the sign ordinance to require signage to be less obnoxious visually.

    • desertgirl July 29, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Problem with your suggestion is the old what is visually obnoxious, as you put it, is different to each person.

  • AnnieMated July 28, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    I have been against this project from the beginning. I don’t care one whit about the heat index when I have to drive another two blocks and make a U-turn so I can enter my favorite business. I won’t even mention what it’s like to make a left on to the boulevard from any side street.

    • desertgirl July 29, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Agree with you AnnieMatted. Often find myself having to make a complete turn onto a street and back to the boulevard.

    • Mike P July 31, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Left turns should be Illegal in So. Utah. No one know how to make ’em !

  • beacon July 28, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    When the decision was being made about how to deal with St. George Blvd traffic, having the boulevard be one way and Tabernacle be one way the other way was discussed, which would have moved traffic more efficiently, but was dismissed for the current plan. Leaders argued, as I recall, that it would be bad for businesses, but then they’ve come along and put up vegetation that not only blocks business signs but also, at some locations, reduces drivers’ ability see traffic. Not to mention that as we deal with water conservation issues, leaders are adding to the problem by planting vegetation that requires water, no matter how minimal that water might be. Given this transportation decision we would do well to be wary of other transportation decisions and plans.

  • Shorm July 28, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve never struggled to see the signs of any of the businesses mentioned. Most cities have raised medians on main roads, but our city has cared enough to make the medians look nice isntead of being total eye sores. Every business I visit on the boulevard is easy to access, you just have to pay attention and know where to turn or which cross street to use.

    • AnnieMated July 28, 2018 at 8:49 pm

      Really shorm? How many of the city managers are you related to?

      • Shorm July 29, 2018 at 2:51 pm

        Since there’s only 1 City manager…0.

  • jaltair July 28, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    I can remember how ost businesses hated the “beautification” project when it started., saying “people couldn’t make left turns to get into the businesses.

    It is much nicer looking now, but in my opinion, the city should have put in desert vegetation (like up on Red Hills Parkway). That would have beautified the city and also made it less dangerous to drive. As far as in front of the stores, desert vegetation would have worked nicely and wouldn’t be hiding the signs.

    It just seems that the city is working against itself with drought conditions. The vegetation could be re-looked at The golf courses, city parks, streets and homes all with lots of grass and trees, we live in the desert and not along the Mississippi.

  • mmsandie July 29, 2018 at 3:44 am

    The town did a great job with the boulevard.. if that was one wa6, and tabernacle one way, how confusing t9 tourists or people getting off the highway.. if a business is good you don,t need a sign.. trees are needed for shade.. it’s so hot here I wish parking lots out trees up to park under..
    businesses come and go,, maybe the boulevard isn,t a place for a9me like cra dealers.. I think near m and s Jewlery , t(e trees are beautiful and when down town is finished they will benefit,, even when they have celebrations downtown, the little lights in the trees in that area are beautiful, when they f8 I shed the new build8ngs in that area, ma d s turquoise will be happy.. you can,t please everyone..
    but I stay off Bluff now for sure.. it’ s a mess.. I stayed out of the gorge for 6 yrs during construction and survived the backroad..

    • ladybugavenger July 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Good to have you back! This cryptogram is challenging.

  • RadRabbit July 29, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Not much uglier than a bunch of empty stores that went out of business cause no one knew they were there.

  • dogmatic July 29, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Down town is dead, beautification is like putting lipstick on a pig.
    The problem is that the store owners have a boring venue. I haven’t been there sense they shut down Blue Bunny’s.

    • Striker4 July 29, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      I don’t go downtown because there isn’t a business I go to there for anything I do

      • Real Life July 29, 2018 at 7:02 pm

        What you do? Lol, because there is no store that sells pipes for smoking pills. Get out of your mommy’s basement, get off the dope, and get a job!

  • Scott July 30, 2018 at 11:28 am

    I’ve been very impressed with the beautification project. If we’re determined to add hundreds of thousands of people to St. George, traffic problems are only going to get worse. Wouldn’t we rather have a visually aesthetic community than suburban sprawl?

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