PAROWAN — A large unfinished mansion in Parowan that has stood empty for more than a decade may become a venue suitable for hosting weddings and other events.
The Iron County Commission recently voted unanimously to approve a zone change to A-20 for the property, thereby paving the way for it to be developed as a resort lodge.
After the commission’s April 26 vote, which followed the recommendations the county planning commission had made earlier in the month, the planning commission then approved the project’s conditional use permit during its May 6 meeting.
The 37,000-square foot building, which sits on a 20-acre lot at 995 W. Old Highway 91, was originally envisioned as a single-family residence that its owner was unable to finish due to health issues. It is listed as having seven bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms and a heated garage large enough for seven cars.
But over the past several years, the mansion has been known as a magnet for trouble, with intruders repeatedly ignoring the “no trespassing” signs and breaking into the building, causing extensive damage inside. Although many of the incidents were teenagers hanging out and causing mischief, several more serious crimes have been reported.
During the April 26 County Commission meeting, Parowan Police Chief Mike Berg and Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter both addressed the commission and talked about the high number of incidents that have been reported at or near the property, which is just outside Parowan city limits but falls within the city police department’s jurisdiction.
Berg said police have responded to at least 222 calls on the property over the past six years, included one reported rape, two sexual assaults, 24 incidents of vandalism, 16 cases of criminal mischief, 31 trespassing calls, and dozens of tobacco or alcohol citations written to juveniles.
During his remarks that followed Berg’s, Carpenter added by way of comparison that only a handful of police calls combined have been reported over the past five years at two event centers located within the county, namely The Barn at Cedar Meadows and Willow Glen Inn.
“I think, when you look at that, for an event center, the crime statistics are much, much lower than the problems that we currently have with this property that’s uninhabited and very difficult to police,” Carpenter said.
Berg said simply having an operating business at the location will make things much easier for law enforcement.
“It’s regulated, right?” he said. “Conditional use permits, zoning, law enforcement, licensing … In order to be a successful business and maintain a business license there, they’ve got to follow the rules.”
“I think that the most important thing is, we have the ability to fix a major problem for crime anyway,” Berg added. “But more importantly, we have the ability to help manage and control.”
Carpenter also addressed a concern that some local residents had brought up, concerning the fact that the application indicates events may have a maximum of 300 people in attendance.
“You’d have to really look at a traffic study to see what kind of real impact it would have,” Carpenter said. “But when you look at these events centers, neither The Barn nor Willow Glen is used that frequently. It’s mostly weekends. It’s not an every night type of deal.”
Additionally, the sheriff noted, everyone does not typically remain at the venue for the entire duration of an event such as a wedding reception.
“They come in, stay a little while, and then they leave at different times,” he said. “So, I really don’t think that the impact would be all that great.”
Regarding the traffic impact, Berg said Old Highway 91 is already a known problem area for speeders, but he and his officers have been working on ways of improving enforcement, particularly along the stretch between 1000 West and 600 West.
“The advantage (of having an event center there) is we know when the events are happening, because we’re notified of that through the state, if they are applying for a beer license or anything like that,” Berg noted. “That makes it easy for us to increase enforcement in that area for that time.”
County planner Reed Erickson said that in addition to repairing and finishing the interior of the home and making improvements to the exterior landscaping, the new owners plan to add a 6,700 square foot barn for dances and other group events to be located southeast of the main building.
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