City officials discuss potential rules for mobile businesses in St. George

ST. GEORGE — The city may soon have new rules governing “mobile businesses” that will allow St. George resident Zac Stucki to create a mobile barbershop he proposed over a year ago. However, he and a member of the City Council feel more needs to be done to address the city code that originally blocked Stucki’s business plans.

In this file photo, St. George resident Zachary Stucki speaks to the St. George City Council about his opposition to city ordinances that prohibits businesses not expressly detailed in zoning code, St. George, Utah, April 14, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“I think they entirely missed the point of what’s going on,” Stucki said.

During a work meeting held Thursday afternoon, the City Council and staff continued discussion that began in April surrounding how to address Stucki’s situation. He was denied a business license by the city in 2021 due to the type of business he wanted to create not being on a pre-existing list of permissible land uses.

Since a mobile barbershop-style business did not expressly exist in the city code, it was not an allowable use. Both have taken issue with Stucki and Councilwoman Michelle Tanner with how the city handles new enterprises that may not be on the city’s list of approved land uses

The council’s April meeting concluded with the City Council instructing staff to review the city code and propose amendments that would allow for a mobile business such as the one Stucki proposed. The results of that review were shared with the council Thursday.

Stucki’s proposed business – a barbershop contained within a modified truck that would operate in a similar fashion to a food truck – would be classified as a “mobile business” under the amended code.

Such a business would be defined as “a commercial business for which the point of sale and operation is located entirely within a vehicle, trailer, or other mobile structure and not affixed to the land and capable of movement and relocation on a daily basis.”

St. George City Councilwoman Michelle Tanner watches a presentation given during a work meeting, St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Mobile businesses are differentiated from “mobile services,” which are described as businesses that go to a customer’s home or business and perform some sort of service like landscaping, pet grooming, car detailing and so on.

A list of operational requirements for mobile businesses was also highlighted in the meeting. Among the requirements is an annual inspection from the police chief, providing the city with a map of where the mobile business will be set up from day-to-day and providing means for litter disposal for customers and removing any trash before heading to a new location.

Limits are also proposed for how long a mobile business may be at a certain location. This translates to no more than 12 hours for a single day, no more than five consecutive days in seven at the same location, and no more than 14 days out of 28 in the same location.

“Why do we want to be specific with those numbers?” Tanner asked, adding she felt the city was potentially creating more hoops someone has to jump through in order to get a mobile business approved and remain operational. “Why make it harder on our entrepreneurs?”

Member of the St. George City Council and staff during a work meeting, St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

A reason given for the time restriction was to ensure a mobile business vendor didn’t end up making a temporary location a semi-permanent.

Additional standards and restrictions were proposed that dealt with where a mobile business can operate in the city, where it can set up on private property, parking needs and other issues.

While council members appeared pleased with the direction the proposed ordinance amendments were going, Tanner brought it back to the original land issue code she and Stucki say needs to change.

“I know I’ve brought this up before, but I see the business license issue of the mobile barbershop being more (related to the permissible land use issue) that says, essentially, we’re prohibiting everything unless we say so,” Tanner said

One of the attorneys for the city present at the meeting told Tanner that the current set up of the land use ordinance was the “best way to go” for legal reasons. Tanner replied that while she understood it protected the city in some ways, it still didn’t sit well with her from a “fundamental, freedom stand point.”

“We could go through and say what we don’t want in the zone and do it opposite of the way we’re doing it right now?” she said.

There wasn’t much discussion beyond that as the City Council meeting moved on to another agenda item.

Member of the St. George City Council and staff during a work meeting, St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Acting City Manager John Willis said the ordinance amendments could end up before the city’s planning commission for consideration and public comment during its Dec. 15 meeting.

As for Stucki’s thoughts on the matter, he said he was grateful the City Council and staff were working on a way to allow him to create his business.

The code amendments will then go to the City Council for approval or denial. If approved, they will be on the books for two years as a testing period. The ordinance amendments will ether be renewed at that time are allowed to expire.

“I really appreciate the city being willing to start the conversation,” he said. “I appreciate they’re doing the job because they get a lot of people like me who are upset and have cantankerous attitudes.”

Still, Stucki remained critical of the land use ordinance that originally saw his application for a business license denied.

“They are trying to do something, but again, they are missing the point,” he said. “This is a matter of principle to me… I want to make sure we’re creating a better community for everybody – a community that isn’t a nanny state. That’s why I was here today. This needs to change.”

Tanner further clarified her position on the issue in an email to St. George News Friday.
We have a need to change City Code section 10-1-3 (A) which states “Any use of land that is not plainly designated as an allowed use in the zone is prohibited.” The burden should not be placed on the citizens to prove their liberty to the government, but rather the burden must be placed on the government to justify its restrictions on the people.
Rather than placing arbitrary numbers, such as a mobile business only being able to operate 5 days a week, I would advocate that we only place restrictions on things we can demonstrate place a risk to public safety or infringes upon the liberty of another. I support the free market and believe government should limit itself in these areas as much as possible.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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