Developer says ‘Lost Trails at the Cove’ is a good fit for Hurricane, but will City Council agree?

DeWynn Nelson (standing right), president of the Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce, reads questions from the audience to Washington city developer Jim Thomas during a meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 31, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

HURRICANE — An informational meeting about a controversial development in Hurricane was held Thursday night in order to give the developer a chance to explain the project and address any misinformation being spread around in advance of a Feb. 7 City Council meeting.

Washington City developer Jim Thomas presents “Lost Trails at the Cove” during an informational meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 31, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The informational meeting, which took place at the Hurricane Fine Arts Center, came nearly three weeks after a heated planning commission meeting on Jan. 10 where the majority of those in attendance opposed the “Lost Trails at the Cove” development.

Read more: Hurricane residents: Old West town development doesn’t fit general plan, damages small-town lifestyle

During the public hearing portion of that meeting, residents were allowed to voice their concerns at the podium. However, this meeting, which had less than 50 people in attendance, was different.

The Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted Thursday’s meeting. Chamber president DeWynn Nelson said in order to keep the meeting civilized, those in attendance were only allowed to submit a question by writing it down on a piece of paper, adding that there would be no opportunity for audience members to make statements.

Those questions were then read to Washington City developer Jim Thomas, and he and his team were given a chance to address them.

Thomas said he wanted to have this meeting because of how the planning commission meeting went. He told St. George News that after the meeting, he was offered a police escort out of the building to his car.

Before answering questions, Thomas and his team explained what the estimated $28 million development entails through an animated video presentation. The proposed development would bring an active Old West town filled with shops, restaurants, an indoor dinner show, a wedding chapel, Spanish gardens, a Victorian era-styled hotel, an RV park and equestrian center.

During the presentation, Thomas discussed why he’s qualified to bring this type of development to Hurricane. He’s originally from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he created a Wild West that included people in wagons being taken up through a canyon to enjoy entertainment and food.

People really, really enjoyed the taste of the Old West there,” he said of the Wyoming development. “We were able to satisfy the neighbors, satisfy a lot of the environmental groups, and we were very active in participating in protecting that canyon.”

Due to his experience with that development and others, he said he was able to learn how to direct sound downward — a concern many Hurricane residents have about the potential development.

Most of the questions from residents that were read to Thomas had to due with not only those noise concerns but also issues with traffic, property values, job opportunities and zoning.

A concept drawing of the old western town for the proposed Lost Trails at the Cove project in Hurricane, Utah | Image courtesy of project manager Larry Juarez, St. George News

One of the perks of “Lost Trails at the Cove,” Thomas said, is that it would provide anywhere from 100-150 jobs. One of the questions Thomas addressed was if he and his team would hire local residents for jobs. He said they would hire as many locals as they can, adding that there would be jobs available for high school students, college students and senior citizens.

“You should be represented in dealing with these people,” he said, referencing visitor to the location. “They should get part of the local flavor here.”

Another concern he addressed was in regard to growth. After referencing the fact that Washington County is the fastest growing community in the U.S., he said somebody is going to build on the Cove either way.

“I don’t know if you guys know it or not,” he told the audience, “but investors are lining up clear from California to come here. Your growth is coming, and I don’t know how you’re going to stop it.”

How people handle that growth needs to be responsible, he said, adding that this development would benefit the Hurricane community.

When it came to a question of how Thomas felt following the Jan. 10 planning commission meeting, his reaction seemed to indicate that it was perhaps one of the hardest topics of the evening. At the planning commission meeting, Hurricane City Mayor John Bramall publicly opposed Thomas’ request to amend the master plan to change the zoning for the Cove area to mixed use, and the Hurricane City Planning Commission ultimately made a recommendation to deny Thomas’ request.

Thomas paused for a moment before answering the question Thursday asking for his reaction to the meeting.

“We didn’t have a chance to address the questions or concerns or the accusations that came in so fast during that meeting,” he said. “I wish I would have. I think it probably would have made a difference.”

At the planning commission meeting, Penny James-Garcia, community manager for Sky Mountain — a community next to the proposed development — handed the meeting’s recorder more than 700 signed petitions that opposed “Lost Trails at the Cove.” After the planning commission meeting, St. George News was made aware of another petition that is in favor of the development.

The petition currently has more than 530 signatures.

Controlled and quality growth is exactly what we need,” the petition states. “The Cove is the type of quality needed to discourage slum growth and aging.”

Thomas and his development team will present Lost Trails at the Cove to the Hurricane City Council on Feb. 7, where a public hearing will also be held. The meeting will commence at 6 p.m. and will be held in the Fine Arts Center, located at 92 S. 100 West.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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