Ivins puts a stop to Spin scooters in city, rejects height exemption for Black Desert Resort

L-R: Washington County Water Conservancy District General Manager Zach Renstrom, Kayenta developer Terry Marten and Ivins Public Works Director Chuck Gillette speak at the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

IVINS — At the last meeting of the Ivins City Council, members rejected Spin electric scooters for the city as well as an exemption to the city’s height limit for the Black Desert Resort.

The Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The Sept. 2 meeting also saw a debate between another developer and the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District – a debate that ultimately resulted in the developer agreeing to withdraw a request to rezone some of his land while it is determined whether that land will be used for a new reservoir. 

The City Council also finished a six-month process to approve revisions to the city’s lighting ordinance.

Spin comes to a stop

While Santa Clara and Washington City recently joined St. George as cities that have made partnerships and embraced Spin e-scooters in their cities, Ivins has put the brakes on any expansion there following a unanimous vote. 

At their previous meeting, the council received a presentation from Spin that included assurances that geofencing perimeters would keep the scooters from being used in certain areas; however, council member Sue Gordhammer said on Sept. 2 that she had received several emails from residents expressing concern and that she had received pictures of scooters already left around town from other cities.

At the Spin Scooter docking station in front on the Town Square in St. George, Utah, July 28, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

She also said she wasn’t happy with Spin planning to have their scooters used at Snow Canyon State Park when park officials said that had not been contacted by the company. 

“I found it pretty surprising and unprofessional that they would be looking to use the park,” she said, adding that she wanted more time for public input. 

Council member Jenny Johnson replied that she didn’t see any point in “hurrying through this (decision),”  at which point council member Derek Larsen stated, “Or we can vote it down.”

Larsen expressed safety concerns, especially with the use of the scooters after sunset in a city that prides itself on its dark skies.

“We don’t have the best lighting in the world.”

The council ultimately agreed with Larsen and unanimously voted Spin down.

Black Desert Resort doesn’t get exemption

An effort by the developer of the Black Desert Resort at Entrada to have an exemption to the city’s 35-foot height limit for commercial buildings was narrowly rejected in a 3-2 vote, despite a live demonstration for council members a few days before by developer Patrick Manning utilizing a drone at the construction site.

Enlaw LLC developer Patrick Manning speaks to the Ivins City Council about Black Desert Resort at Entrada during the council’s meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Manning, owner of Enlaw LLC, said the site – which will ultimately include housing, a hotel, a golf course and a culinary village – was selected in the first place because it was 5 feet below Snow Canyon Parkway and 20 feet below the lava fields farther north. 

Black Desert Resort wouldn’t be the first place in Ivins to have an exemption. Rocky Vista University and Vista School were built with exemptions that allowed them to go above the height limit.  

No council member had outwardly expressed opposition during the Sept. 2 debate, other than council member Dennis Mehr, who said he had reservations about the development from the beginning. Mehr was also the one member of the council not to attend the drone demonstration.

One other concern was expressed by Gordhammer about the potential of the rooftop of the hotel to be used for parties and events. 

“I think people come here because we’re a quiet community, and we need to respect that,” she said. 

Manning said he was sensitive to the concerns and that he was willing to take measures such as closing off access to the roof after dusk, which appeared to appease Gordhammer. 

Diagram of the Black Desert Resort at Entrada provided by the developer showing the hotel area shaded in blue. | Photo courtesy of Enlaw, LLC, St. George News | Click to enlarge

“If you weren’t the operator, I would be voting ‘no’ because you wouldn’t have control on how it is used,” she told Manning.

However, Gordhammer ultimately vote against the exemption, joined by Mehr and council member Cheyne McDonald. Johnson and Larsen voted to grant the exemption.

Manning later told St. George News he has not given up on receiving an exemption and that he will continue to work with council members to address any concerns. 

“A concerted plan is in place with certain council members for this item to be brought back for reconsideration with changes, restrictions to the rooftop access.”

As of now, reconsideration is not on the agenda for the council’s next meeting Thursday. 

The resort has been a contentious issue in council meetings ever since the council unanimously approved work to start on the resort in July 2020. 

In April, the council rejected 3-2 providing $5 million to the resort through the creation of a special tax district. Then in July, also by a 3-2 vote, the council approved issuing a bond to the resort that will be paid through higher property taxes for Black Desert Resort residents. 

Developer battles over potential reservoir

Also at the Sept. 2 meeting, a developer’s request for a zoning change approval to build more housing at a site known as the “horse head” was withdrawn after the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District said they plan to acquire the land in question for a new reservoir.

Washington Water Conservancy District General Manager Zach Renstrom, speaks at the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Kayenta developer Terry Marten was seeking to have the land bordered by 600 West, 800 West and Old Highway 91 rezoned from agricultural-residential to more strictly residential.

But the water district’s Zach Renstrom said the district is planning to acquire the land as part of a new dam and reservoir and that rezoning the land would do nothing more than ultimately force taxpayers to pay more for the district to acquire the land from the developer. 

“If the zone change is approved, we will still buy it,” Renstrom told the council. “If it’s rezoned, the people of Ivins will just have to pay more to buy it.”

Kayenta Development Inc., manager Lance Anderson – who is also on the Ivins Planning Commission and a candidate for the Ivins City Council in the November election – responded that the zone change was not an attempt to make more money off taxpayers but to resist the creation of a reservoir and build homes in the community.

“We’re not trying to make a buck. We’ve been fighting the reservoir,” Anderson said. “To say we’re trying to force the city out of money, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish.”

He added that Kayenta has been planning to develop homes at the site for three years.

“We believed it was never going to happen until the Washington Conservancy came. They don’t have a right to do anything they want, do they?”

Renstrom said the land in question has already undergone environmental reviews that expire in 2024 and if a reservoir isn’t under substantial construction by then, it may take another 10 years for another site to receive an environmental review – time that Ivins doesn’t have with the drought.

“We’re running out of water,” Renstrom said. “If this doesn’t get built, I have no idea where Ivins is going to get its secondary water.”

Ivins City Manager Dale Coulam speaks at the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Marten rejected Renstrom’s assertion initially, saying that not enough time is being spent looking at other options and other sites for a reservoir. 

“This is a mudhole. You won’t convince me a metered reservoir will be beneficial to our community,” Marten said. “I’m being characterized as being opposed to saving water. But once you fill this with water, (the land) is not available. It won’t be available to people.”

City Manager Dale Coulam told the council that if it was serious about saving water during the drought, this was the time to do it. 

“If you’re trying to save water, rather than limiting building permits, it would be better to take action at a zoning stage where it is legislative,” Coulam said. “Your job is to protect the health and safety of residents. I don’t think there is something more essential to health and safety than water.”

After an hour that was a live negotiation between the developers, the water conservancy and the council, Marten ultimately decided to withdraw his zoning change request after what Anderson said were assurances that Kayenta will be included in conversations on the reservoir to better understand “why we have to give up our land.” 

Lighting ordinance approved

After dominating much of every council meeting since March, the Ivins City Council approved unanimously revisions to the city’s lighting ordinance after just two minutes. 

L-R: Ivins City Council members Sue Gordhammer and Derek Larsen at the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“As much of a headache this has been, we knocked it out of the park,” McDonald said.

The biggest changes to the ordinance mandates shielding for outdoor fixtures to direct light downward and places new limits on the overall brightness of outdoor lighting for residences and businesses. 

It also includes measures to ensure the safety of residents through lighting. 

“We ended up with a document very protective of the night sky and safety,” Mayor Chris Hart said. “This is an achievement as far as I’m concerned.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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