St. George City Council approves zone change, hillside development permit for hotel on Blackridge Drive

ST. GEORGE — At first glance, the piece of land situated at the northwest corner of Blackridge Drive and 250 West in St. George doesn’t look like much. The red soil is dotted with boulders and abandoned couches, recliners and an oven, among other bits of refuse.

The piece of land at the northwest corner of Blackridge Drive and 250 West, St. George, Utah, Nov. 19, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

It also happens to be in a landslide area. Reports to city officials state that “movement and heave” are a concern “due to expansive soil and bedrock.”

But the applicant for a zoning change request of the site, Oscar Covarrubias of Black Ridge Development LLC, sees it as the future site of a five-story, 146-room hotel, replete with amenities like a pool, gym and miniature golf course, among others.

The St. George City Council voted unanimously to approve the hillside development, as well as a zone change for the 17-acre property during their regularly scheduled Nov. 18 meeting. Previous to the approval, the conversation centered on the water that may collect on the property and the ways it may affect structures and roads built on the site.

Councilman Gregg McArthur also disclosed a conflict of interest, as he was a real-estate agent involved with the sale of the property. While he said he was concerned about the hillside portion of the property, he remained optimistic.

“It’s very cut up,” McArthur said during the meeting. “It’s a messed up piece of property. I think the property would benefit from the project.”

Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin asked whether “the property should be impermeable.” As the soil becomes increasingly saturated, the reports stated, the potential for landslides increases. The Hillside Review Board, as well as the Planning Commission, suggested that the area be landscaped with desert plants, which would require minimal watering.

Wayne Rogers, a senior engineer at Applied Geotech, said during the meeting that because the soil is clay, it sucks the water down.

“That’s what we want to avoid,” he said. “This is the same problem we had at the airport, with the runway.”

“If we keep the water draining offsite,” he continued, “our risk goes way down.”

As for the pool, the applicants said there will be a lining around it, so potential leaks would be drained and moved off the property. The applicants said they will also employ a system that will monitor water use. An alarm would sound if water levels reached dangerous levels.

Larkin wondered if, ultimately, the benefits are worth the risks involved with the project, but McArthur said that given the price tag of the hotel, he believed the developers would be cautious.

“This hotel has to cost $40, $50 million,” he said. “I think they would be very concerned … and do everything to protect their interests. They have every incentive to do that.”

St. George News reached out to Covarrubias for additional comment but did not hear back by the time this article published.

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

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