St. George City Council weighs Palermo Pass lots that would abut Gap Canyon

ST. GEORGE — The St. George City Council and staff stood at the dirt lot situated east of Gap Canyon on Thursday afternoon.

St. George City Council members, Mayor and staff look out at Gap Canyon, St. George, Utah, Oct. 28, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

The late afternoon sun shone in their faces as they tried to envision the 189 homes that will eventually be built along Alienta Way, which runs parallel to Gap Canyon and ends near the Bear Claw Poppy trailhead.

Mayor Michelle Randall shielded her eyes with a map that showed the plan for four premium Palermo Pass lots, which are part of the 3,200 unit, master-planned Divario development.

“I don’t want houses there,” she said to no one in particular. “But I’m not on the council.”

“The mayor has spoken,” Councilman Gregg McArthur said, joking. A wave of laughter rose then fell among the group of about 10. After a moment of silence, Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin agreed with Randall.

“If they would leave the space to the left of that dirt road, it would be fine,” Larken said, “because that could act as a buffer between Gap Canyon and those homes. But I agree. I don’t want to see houses built right there.”

Gap Canyon, as seen from Gap Canyon Pkwy. and Canyon View Drive. The proposed site for the four homes in question is above and right of center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 28, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

If the plan moves forward, the houses built on those four lots would abut Gap Canyon.

Divario’s dilemma

This visit to Gap Canyon came one week after the council pumped the brakes on the plat during their Oct. 21 meeting at City Hall. Rod Packer, a member of the Divario development team, told St. George News that the plat was originally approved by the Council in 2014.

“Those four lots are in a subdivision that will straddle Gap Canyon,” he said. “The original plan included those four lots.”

Packer said he wasn’t surprised that the council had reservations about those four lots, as they were critical of the multi-family housing that may be built where the council stood Thursday afternoon, at the intersection of Canyon View Drive and Gap Canyon Parkway. If the council votes to deny the Divario development team’s plans, the Palermo Pass subdivision may incur additional expenses.

“We’ve always tried to work with the community,” Packer said. “We’re trying to utilize what’s there and work with the land and the trails.”

L-R: Mayor Michelle Randall, Councilmen Vardell Curtis, Bryan Smethurst and Gregg McArthur discuss the proposed plat, St. George, Utah, Oct. 28, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

While Packer said that he and his partners have a good working relationship with the City Council and Planning Commission, he still has hope that they will allow the plan to move forward as it was originally presented in 2014.

“We’d like to put this plat into place,” he said. “But we are also willing to find a compromise. It’s just a matter of coming together and working things out.”

Council’s concerns

Larkin has had reservations about the multifamily apartment buildings that would overlook Gap Canyon, as well as Palermo Pass, for some time. Gap Canyon, she said, is a sacred space to many members of the community, as well as an internationally renowned climbing area.

Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin at Gap Canyon, St. George, Utah, Oct. 28, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“I think it must be preserved,” she told St. George News on Friday. “No matter where I go in the world, I’m always blown away by the geology of this area.”

Part of the council’s job, Larkin said, is to find a balance between preserving places like Gap Canyon for future citizens, while also honoring private property owners’ rights. Still, she noted that none of the council members who voted to approve that phase of the Divario plan are on the council.

At the Oct. 21 council meeting, Councilmen Jimmie Hughes and McArthur said that those four lots felt out of place. Mayor Randall expressed her reservations, as did Larkin. Friday, Larkin said that the Divario developers have been accommodating, and she appreciates it.

“Certain spaces must be protected,” she said. “Those four homes could change the way we see that space forever, as the homes built in Snow Canyon have.”

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

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