Cedar City Council amends streetlight rules, considers Ranked Choice Voting

Cedar City at dusk, Dec. 21, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Cedar City Council members voted to amend the language about streetlight regulations in subdivisions at their weekly meeting last Wednesday.

The approved language changed chapter 32, section 9 of the Cedar City code related to the development standards and requirements for streetlights.  

The adopted ordinance now reads, “For subdivisions, streetlights in accordance with Cedar City’s engineering standards; for PUDs, streetlights in accordance with Cedar City’s engineering standards; unless prohibited by recorded CC&Rs.”

A designation of PUD – planned unit development – includes such development as townhomes or the golf course subdivision and others that have privately owned streets. CC&Rs are covenants, conditions and restrictions for subdivisions that set the rules for architecture, uses, esthetics and common area maintenance. 

Some CC&Rs allow for subdivisions that wish to enjoy dark skies to be developed without streetlights.

Before the ordinance was changed, there was no specific mentions of planned unit developments. With the new specifications, unless a subdivision falls under the PUD designation, they must follow city engineering standards requiring streetlights.

City officials prepare for the council meeting on March 10, 2021. Photo by Jeff Richards Cedar City News/St. George News

Most council members cited public safety as the main reason to support the changes; however, Councilman Tyler Melling asked what safety issue they were concerned about. 

“We do a lot of things in the name of public safety when the data don’t show that it affects public safety except in our emotions,” Melling said. “And I get it. A lot of things are based on feelings. But what does the data show us and what do our experts say?”

Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams addressed the council on the matter.

“Councilman Melling is correct,” he said. “I’m not aware of any studies out there, and we certainly don’t have any that would indicate that lighting deters crime. Anecdotally, we believe that it does. We’re concerned when we go into neighborhoods where there’s dim lighting or none at all.” 

Ultimately, the ordinance revisions passed on a 4-1 vote, with Melling casting the lone dissenting vote.

In other business, council members also discussed an issue that Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards said might come up again in council meetings in the near future and stemming from a presentation and subsequent request by Stan Lockhart. 

Lockhart is a former Provo City Council member, former chairman of the Utah Republican Party and former member of the State Board of Education. Currently he is a director of Utah Ranked Choice Voting. 

Ranked choice voting is a nonpartisan electoral reform that gives voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice.

Instead of choosing one candidate, ranked choice voting allows voters to rank all candidates according to their preference (first, second, third, et cetera). If, on the first count, a candidate earns more than 50 percent of the votes, that candidate is the winner. 

If there is no majority winner immediately, other rounds of counting are processed.

In each round, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. When a voter’s first choice is eliminated, their second choice is included in the count for the second round. This process continues until a final round determines the winner, guaranteeing that the elected candidate is a true majority winner.

In 2018, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 35, allowing municipalities to pilot ranked choice voting. Lockhart asked the Cedar City Council to consider becoming one of those pilot municipalities.

Iron County Clerk Jon Whittaker spoke after Lockhart’s presentation.

“I worry that this may undermine voter confidence if we have issues that come up. Maybe we won’t, hopefully I’m wrong,” Whittaker said. “But right now I know how to defend every part of what I do, and this takes a lot of that away from me.”

No vote was taken Wednesday. Council members need to determine if they want the city to participate in a pilot, then make a resolution and notify the state by May 10.

“It was just a matter of we needed to get this information in front of the council so you had time to digest it and think about it while there’s different deadlines,” Wilson-Edwards said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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