HURRICANE — More than 250 people packed the Fine Arts Center in Hurricane during the city’s planning commission meeting and public hearing Thursday night, where a majority of those in attendance opposed an estimated $28 million Western-themed development.
Washington City developer Jim Thomas and his team requested an amendment to the city’s general plan map to change the zoning of an area known as The Cove. Under the general plan, The Cove is currently zoned as single-family residential. However, Thomas’ request would change the zoning to mixed use, so he could bring in a development known as “Lost Trails at the Cove,” which would have housing and a commercial Old West town area.
Hurricane City Planning Commission ultimately made a recommendation to city council to deny Thomas’ request but not before hearing from the city’s residents.
What is “Lost Trails at the Cove?”
Before the public hearing commenced, Thomas shared a video presentation of “Lost Trails at the Cove.”
Described as an active Old West town, the commercial side of the development would feature unique western shops, restaurants, an indoor dinner show with 1,200 seats, wedding chapel, Spanish gardens where wedding receptions and events could be held, a hotel with 60 western-style rooms, an RV park and equestrian center.
The Cove is located north of 600 North, at approximately 2000 west.
“We’re trying to make it as unique as possible with high-end quality entertainment,” Thomas said while presenting the video. “This is a very family-oriented business.”
The entertainment would feature shootouts with low-noise weapons and ammunition, horses and music. Besides the commercial aspect, the development would also feature approximately 700-750 homes.
In a previous interview with St. George News, Thomas said he’s done a similar project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and it’s been a dream of his for 10 years to bring the same experience to Southern Utah.
Not a dream for area residents
The majority of Hurricane residents, who had a maximum of two minutes to speak at the meeting, opposed Thomas’ development. People lined up at the podium to share their concerns and thoughts about the development during the public hearing portion of the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours.
Comments in opposition of the development were typically met with applause. Conversely, quiet but audible booing could be heard in the crowd when others spoke in favor.
Gary Bovyer, president of Sky Mountain Home Owners Association, was one of the first to speak in opposition to the development. Sky Mountain is a community that surrounds Sky Mountain Golf Course and is next to The Cove.
Bovyer told the audience and planning commission that the majority of Sky Mountain residents moved to Hurricane for the climate, recreation, scenery, lack of congestion and low crime, and the “Lost Trails at the Cove” development would ruin what Bovyer described as “the attractive, friendly small-town lifestyle.”
“Folks are feeling threatened because of the possibility that our city government will allow a segment of the general plan to be rezoned in favor of a development that endangers those things that brought us here in the first place,” he said.
Besides disrupting a small-town lifestyle, a majority of residents who spoke brought up other concerns, such as traffic, safety of children, noise, light pollution, wildlife impacts, medical response time, trash blowing into the Virgin River, and water consumption and conservancy.
Another Sky Mountain resident said as a hiker, she’s concerned for the people and horseback riders who use the trails of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve near The Cove.
“Where this proposed development is in part of a canyon where sounds echo off the cliffs created by the Virgin River. Who knows how far the noise will travel?” she said, adding that the reserve and residents who live along the canyon would be recipients of the noise.
Many people who spoke in opposition also said the city can’t support the amount of people who would come in because of the development.
In regard to wildlife, one resident who lives near the area of the proposed development, said the noise and light pollution would drive Hurricane’s “beautiful creatures” out of the area.
At least 10 Sky Mountain residents spoke during the public hearing, as well as a lawyer hired to speak on their behalf at the meeting. Penny James-Garcia, community manager for Sky Mountain, said over 700 petitions were signed by people from over 34 communities in Hurricane. Another 165 were signed Thursday night at the meeting.
Few spoke in favor of “Lost Trails at the Cove”
While many of the comments were negative, some residents said the development is a good idea but just not for this location.
Only a few spoke in overall favor of the development at the hearing, including Brandon Beesley, who told St. George News he moved from North Dakota to help Thomas with the project.
“Everybody keeps complaining about this noise thing,” he said to the crowd. “Anything that’s going to be a show is indoors. It’s pretty much just a park is how I view it.”
One Hurricane resident, who said he moved from northern Utah around five years ago, said the development would provide job growth and worthwhile amenities. He said he’s not a fan of golf courses, referring to Sky Mountain Golf Course, and that they’re not something he would bring his family to.
“I think there needs to be something for everyone,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who talked about high end, and ‘it’s not for us.’ The golf course is not for me; it’s not for my family. However this type of attraction, since I have young children, is a place I would go to.”
A resident and former member of the planning commission, said she doesn’t have an opinion of the development as of right now; however, she said the “I was here first” attitude isn’t welcome in Hurricane.
“We have welcomed all of you people with open arms to our community,” she said. “When Sky Mountain was proposed, no there wasn’t as many people here as there is tonight, but there was a lot of opposition to that.”
Thomas also decided to speak at the public hearing and addressed some of the concerns residents expressed. Due to having experience with a similar project and working with lighting before, Thomas said light pollution shouldn’t be an issue because down lighting and accent lighting would be used. He also said he would make sure to incorporate low-noise ammunition.
Close vote from planning commission
After nearly two hours of discussion, the public hearing closed and the planning commission made a recommendation.
Planning commission member Yovanda Hall made a motion to send a recommendation to city council to deny the amendment change and leave the general plan as is, which was seconded by member Mark Borowiak. Five members were for the motion, with four opposed.
While taking into considering the community’s comments, one of the main reasons most members made a recommendation against the development is because they didn’t see a compelling reason to change the general plan.
“Our general plan says that we want to preserve a rural lifestyle and small-town quality in Hurricane,” one member said. “I can find nothing in the general plan goals advocating that Hurricane should be the site of tourist attractions.”
Planning Commission Chair Ralph Ballard was one of the members to vote for the project because he said he believes the impact of the development would be less than what has been stated because of where the commercial area is located.
“Anytime something has come into The Cove, because of everybody’s love for it, it’s been shot down,” Ballard said.
Despite the planning commission making a recommendation against the development, the application will still go in front of city council, and another public hearing will be held on Feb. 7. Location is to be announced.
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.