Hurricane says no to State Street median, discusses vacation rental enforcement

Hurricane City Council, Hurricane, Utah | stock image, St. George News

HURRICANE – Attendance at the Hurricane City Council meeting was better than usual Thursday night with many who own businesses on State Street between 300 West and 700 West there to see what the council would decide about a pavement rehabilitation project slated for that corridor in the near future. Mayor John Bramall allowed them to voice their disapproval of a raised median along those four blocks and the City Council listened, voting unanimously not to allow the addition of a median.

UDOT Project Director Branden Anderson tells the City Council the benefits of inserting a median along the stretch of State Street between 300 West and 700 West, Hurricane, Sept. 3, 2015| Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News
UDOT Project Director Branden Anderson tells the City Council the benefits of inserting a median along the stretch of State Street between 300 West and 700 West, Hurricane, Sept. 3, 2015| Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Utah Department of Transportation Project Manager Branden Anderson tried to make a case for inserting the median, touting its potential to improve safety by slowing down cars driving on the thoroughfare and limiting access points to make left turns, which would lessen the probability of collisions. Under the plan Anderson presented, there would have been only one access point along the median, at 520 West.

Councilwoman Pam Humphries asked Anderson if more access points could be inserted. Anderson responded by saying that adding a lot of access points defeats the purpose of a median.

According to Anderson’s information from previous studies done in the state to assess the impact of medians, ease to business access resulted in only a slight influence on motorists’ behavior.

However, to the City Council and business owners in attendance, ease of business access is very important.

With a median in place, businesses could suffer a 20 percent decline in business, Bramall said, adding that he understands the safety concerns, but would not want to unnecessarily hurt businesses along the corridor.

In the original plan, the median was to have landscaping and Humphries asked if the landscaping could be on the side of the road instead. City Engineer Arthur LeBaron said that putting landscaping in would necessitate tearing out the entire sidewalk. One thing the council did like about the median is its potential to slow down traffic, which prompted Humphries to ask LeBaron if the speed limit could be reduced along the stretch without a median in place. LeBaron said that it cannot happen arbitrarily, but it could be explored.

Near the end of the discussion, City Councilman Darin Thomas said, “I think we need to vote and just vote and not put in medians,” which elicited applause from the business owners in attendance.

Anderson responded by saying UDOT favors a median on the project, but the road resurfacing would still move on as planned, with or without a median.

Bramall polled the business owners in attendance, first asking who was in favor of a median. Not surprisingly, no hands raised after that question. When he asked who was against the median, many hands shot up. Thomas then made a motion not to include a median with the resurfacing, which passed unanimously and led to more applause.

Regulating vacation rentals

Early this year, the City Council passed an ordinance allowing for vacation rentals within city limits, but after a work meeting on Aug. 13, it enacted a moratorium on short-term rentals while it decides how best to proceed with them, especially when it comes to enforcement.

Hurricane City Planning Commission Chair Ryan Cashin discussed that very subject with the council Thursday night. Cashin’s questions to the council were how to specifically define vacation rentals, how to enforce them and what entity should enforce them.

“You can’t pass an ordinance without understanding its fiscal responsibility,” Police Chief Lynn Excell said.

While vacation rentals are new to the city, Thomas said, they are done well elsewhere and there has got to be a way to make them work in Hurricane.

“Ninety-five percent of them follow the rules,” Cashin said. “It’s the 5 percent that cause 100 percent of the problems. We’ve got to put some teeth into this ordinance.”

So far the city has allowed for 16 vacation rentals, Councilman Darin Larson said, but a couple of them have had problems, which helped lead to the moratorium.

City Manager Clark Fawcett chimed in, saying that the city should put more responsibility on the owners of the properties and there needs to be someone able to be there to meet the tenants of vacation rental properties.

“If you don’t have them there, then anything goes,” Fawcett said.

Pam Humphries agreed with Fawcett, and said if the owner of the property does not live in the county, the owner must have a third party available to be contacted in case there are problems.

Fawcett proposed a three strikes policy, with fines increasing after every “strike” until the third strike.

City Attorney Fay Reber said that after the third strike, the owner should be required to come before the City Council to plead his or her case.

Cashin said that there was a list of rules at a previous vacation rental in which he stayed that said if the occupant violated the rules and the owner received a fine, the cost of that fine would be passed on to the occupant

Bramall said Hurricane could do the same thing, to which Larson agreed.

Nothing was firmly decided in the discussion and no motion was approved on the vacation rental enforcement issue.

Bramall called for the Planning Commision to come up with recommendations, then schedule another work meeting with both the Planning Commission and City Council to discuss the issue and ultimately make decisions on the ordinance’s enforcement.

Larson suggested measures be put in place at that meeting to avoid a meeting dominated by public outcry like the last one and said he hopes for a “drilled down discussion.”

In an agenda item related to the vacation rental ordinance discussion, the council discussed its favoring allowing more residents to offer rooms in their homes for short-term rentals, supporting the idea of defining them as “residential hosting” and possibly classifying them as home-based businesses.

Other business

The City Council approved the hiring of Scott Raines as a consultant to initiate a study to assess the feasibility of the construction of the proposed Hurricane Regional Sports Complex for $5,000 a month for an initial period of six months.

The council also approved the preliminary plat for Zion Village Townhomes, a 92-unit townhome project on 11.41 acres located at approximately 200 N. 2170 West as well as the preliminary plat for the Villas at Sand Hollow Condominiums Phase 3, a 36-unit, two building project located at approximately 5248 and 5236 Villas North Drive.

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  • DRT September 4, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Well I wonder if Hurricane will actually be able to prevail on the median question, as Highway 9 is a state route. I sincerely hope that no median will be added, particularly if there is “landscaping” involved. Look how much the “beautiful median” down St. George Blvd. has lead to lane closures and traffic back ups due to maintenance of their “beautiful median.”
    Just another one of UDOT’s hair brained ideas.

  • Dexter September 4, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    LOL.! oh yeah the Blvd is a good place to test ride a new boat when it rains

  • tiff September 4, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Why in the world do we need to spend money on landscaping in the middle of the road? So in order to get to those businesses from my house, I’d have to go clear down to 700 and then back track. No thank you.

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