City council candidates discuss growth, future of Ivins

Ivins City Council candidates addressed a crowd at the Ivins Veterans Home Tuesday, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 27, 2015 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

IVINS – Ivins City Council candidates spoke to a packed room at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins Tuesday, discussing various issues including the city’s budget, water supply, citizen involvement and the recently updated general plan.

The meet-the-candidates night was hosted by the Ivins American Legion Post 711. Five Ivins City residents are competing for three City Council seats in the 2015 municipal general election set for Nov. 3: Dennis Mehr, Jenny L. Johnson, Crystal Lewis, Ron Densley and Lance Anderson.

All five expressed their fondness for the small community and their desire to guide growth in a way that doesn’t change what residents love about their city.

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Crystal Lewis

“I love Ivins. This is my paradise, my peaceful place,” candidate Crystal Lewis said. “And I hope it is for everybody else. I really want to keep it that way.”

Lewis believes there is too much of a disconnect between Ivins residents and city government, and she promises that she would listen to all points of view. City Council actions need to be analyzed five, 10 or more years into the future to avoid compromising the integrity of Ivins, she said.

More multiunit lower income housing is needed, she said, to accommodate the economic diversity in the city.

Lewis believes that new developments like the medical school, Family Dollar and others are a good thing and will help keep property taxes down. She also believes, she said, that a small area should be zoned for restaurants or other businesses that could take advantage of the flow of visitors to Snow Canyon State Park and the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.

Jenny Johnson

Candidate Jenny Johnson wants to share her time and love of the community, she said. While she agrees with what officials have done with the master plan, there is always room for improvement, and council members need to remain flexible to changing needs in the future.

“I think that it’s important to have an open mind,” she said, “and not always go in set on getting things your own way.”

Johnson said listening fully to an opposing point of view can be beneficial.

Money is an issue in every aspect of life and government is no exception, she said. Johnson said Ivins lacks some of the small shops, restaurants and amenities that could bring in more tax revenue, and that she believes the medical center will bring some of those to Ivins “because the demand is there.”

Ron Densley

Densley, the only incumbent, is proud of his accomplishments during the four years he has been in office and wants to continue. The biggest project is widening of the road through Snow Canyon to accommodate pedestrians as well as bikers and vehicles, he said.

The council has tried to isolate new development from other parts of town to maintain “that hometown feeling,” he said, developments such as the medical school, Kayenta, Tuacahn and Red Mountain Spa.

“We’re an arts community, and we want to keep that alive and going,” he said.

Densley said while listening to constituents is important, it is vital to keep the needs of the whole community in mind.

The best way to keep property taxes low is by prioritizing needs, Densley said. The city came through the recession in good shape with good financial planning.

“You afford what you can,” he said “and not just what you want.”

Densley also noted that the city does an excellent job of obtaining grants to pay for a lot of projects that residents mistakenly believe are funded by tax dollars.

Dennis Mehr

Mehr believes the city is headed in a great direction, he said, and it should continue following the general plan.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can plan for the future,” Mehr said, “and that’s what we do with our general plan and our land use plan and the ordinances … so we all know together as a community where we’re headed.”

While the community is diverse, residents share some basic values and core beliefs, Mehr said, including having a safe community and enjoying the open space and beautiful vistas.

“In the end, we all want the same things, and getting to that point is where the listening comes in,” he said, “and trying to take the time to understand where people are coming from.”

Lance Anderson

Perception is important when working with groups of people to reach a consensus, Anderson said, because usually a lack of information is at the root of problems.

“From an integrity standpoint, we are who we are,” Anderson said. “This community is way too small to tell somebody something and think you’re going to get away with it … what we say and what we do is who we are.”

From his perspective in development, Anderson said, it’s important to remember impact fees are designed to not affect existing residents but rather to pay the costs of new building.

“I think our city does a very good job,”  he said. Anderson remembers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, living on 100 East, roads were made of dirt and water flowed down a 2-foot wash in front of his house.

“Then they made chip-seal roads, and then they got sewer,” he said. “And the staff we have now got the roads paved.”

With the current infrastructure in place, for example, the Fire Department has received very few calls for drainage problems, he said.

“We’ve got to be careful with property tax, but at the same time, property tax helps pay for our schools to teach our children,” Anderson said.

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