Hildale City officials continue moving forward to approve or deny a planned Airbnb resort

This file photo shows Hildale nestled at the base of the Red Rock Cliff mountains, with its sister city, Colorado City, Ariz., prominently in the foreground, Hildale, Utah, Dec. 16, 2014 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Hildale city officials continue to grapple with what their city may look like in the future. Will development proceed logically and deliberately, or will the town’s growth remain unchanged?

On Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission, in a 3-0 vote – with commissioners Charles Hammon, Lawrence Stubbs and Tracy Barlow absent and Vice-Chair Elissa Wall abstaining – decided to forward its recommendation for the City Council to approve the re-zoning of 985 N. Juniper St. from residential agricultural-1 to recreational resort.

Although the vote marks a further step in the legal process for property owner “Richard” Lee Barlow’s desire to obtain a business license – with council approval – to transform his property into a multi-unit Airbnb resort, it also applies to any similar developments.

According to Vice-Chair Walls, the proposed project began in early 2018.

The latest development in the process occurred May 9, with the Hildale City Council unanimously agreeing to revise its recreational zoning regulations, paving the way for Barlow to request the rezoning of his property. The changes include a reduction in the minimum acreage required for resort development from 5 to 3.5 acres and a decrease in the allowable number of units per acre from 15 to 8, resulting in a maximum of 28 units on a 3.5-acre parcel.

To alleviate the concerns of his community, which has just over 1,100 residents, Barlow said that his development is not intended to become a massive resort community. Barlow mentioned that his proposed development would be “significantly under the density limit.” Upon completion, Barlow anticipates four or perhaps five units per acre.

“We have been working with the applicant to try to find ways to gain the proper compliance necessary to issue (a business license),” said City Manager Eric Duthie during the planning commission meeting.

With the rezone in place, Barlow is now required to bring all city identified concerns of his property into compliance within 60 days of notice; however, city staff has already taken a proactive approach by working with the applicant to identify concerns.

Hildale City Manager Eric Duthie, date and location not specified| Photo courtesy Hildale City, St. George News

“We’ve addressed the existing structures (on that property), and how that will be resolved,” Duthie added. “We’ve addressed the existing infrastructure (along with public works and first responders’ concerns) … The applicant knows and agrees that all development standards must be held. The applicant (agrees to the city’s terms). …I’ve checked all the boxes, so now the decision is up to you.”

In the absence of Chairman Hammon, Vice-Chair Wall took the reins of what would be more than a 90-minute-long discussion including concerns from four Hildale residents.

One of the most ardent opponents of the proposed Airbnb development on Juniper Street has been former City Council Member Jerod Nicol.

“I appreciate everyone (including city staff) bringing their time and effort into this. It’s a big deal,” Nicol said. “There’s a reason why I’ve done all this homework. We are all passionate about this. It’s not if people are right or wrong, it’s just we are all passionate, we are all putting out on the table.”

Prior to the vote, Barlow’s brother and representative Jeff Barlow addressed the commission.

“It’s a little bit of a shame that these things have to get so controversial, so personal, but that’s the only way that cities are built,” Barlow said. “(One of the common themes) that I keep hearing is sort of that fear the outsiders will come into our community, put our children at risk, (but) I think that’s an old mindset that at some point we as a people will have to move past. We live in a beautiful area and to allow people what we have here – in a respectful and limited basis – is perfectly appropriate.”

In hindsight, Barlow added, he wished his brother would have sought out more collaboration with his neighbors.

“I think this is the absolute perfect area for something like this,” he said. “The word resort scares us because we envision three-story buildings and balconies (but) each of these units are a studio, they’re tiny … If we ask local residents ‘do you want this kind of stuff,’ the answer is typically going to be ‘no, we want it to be small town, houses forever, stop everybody from building. We want it to stay like it is.’ That’s not realistic.”

Barlow said he believes his brother has found the right balance between development on his property “in the right area” and something that is in keeping with Hildale’s small-town sensibilities.

The next step in the legal process for Lee Barlow to secure a business license is for the city council – during future meetings – to approve, modify, deny or table the planning commission’s continuing recommendations prior to any final vote to issue building or business permits.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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