Southern Utah News Articles
Planning Commission denies LaQuinta height variance request
An overflow crowd of Kanab residents at the Kanab Planning Commission (KPC) meeting on Tuesday, August 16, heard a presentation by architect Kim Campbell, representing the La Quinta Hotel chain, describing their plans for a hotel in Kanab.
Unfortunately for many attendees, access to Kane County’s courtroom, previously used when crowds exceeded the commission chamber’s capacity, was being denied for security reasons, per City Manager Joe Decker.
La Quinta bought 1.79 acres of L-shaped vacant land surrounding the Pizza Hut on Hwy 89A on the south side of Kanab. “Our building plan is the Del Sol prototype that is the iconic La Quinta hotel seen everywhere in the country,” explained Campbell.
Specifically, he came to the KPC meeting to ask for a variance to Kanab’s Land Use Ordinance height restriction of 45 feet. This roof height, which was actually extended to 48 feet with the parapet at the new Hampton Inn, generated lengthy controversy in 2015 when Hampton Inn’s management insisted upon a fourth story and the KPC and Kanab City Council eventually acquiesced.
“To fit La Quinta’s design, the same one we have nearby in Page and Cedar City,” said Campbell, “We need a height of 64 feet, 2 inches on the main wall of the building nearest the highway, and 56 feet, 3 inches on the other side to have the stairwell access to the roof.” The central area roof height would be 50 feet in the proposed 94-room structure.
This request generated a slew of public comments, starting with Francis Battista saying, “Kanab has a vanishing resource in its views of its natural setting and we have the responsibility to preserve it. This ugly building blocks and detracts the views to the Vermilion Cliffs that makes Kanab’s setting unique.”
Tim Clarke asked the KPC not to make the same mistake again, referring to the height change made to accommodate the Hampton Inn last year.
Caralee Woods demonstrated how drivers entering Kanab would have to crane their necks to see the La Quinta sign that high up on the facade. “People book their motel rooms online anymore and you don’t need a sign 60 feet in the air to lure people into your motel,” she insisted.
Gregory Castle felt the building was against the basic appeal that Kanab has for tourists and residents alike. “Why can’t the Kanab model be more like the La Quinta in Springdale?” he queried.
Steve Hogseth believed Kanab’s residents were not listened to during the debate over the Hampton Inn’s height extension. “Where do we draw the line?” he asked.
Karen Dallett from Page, Executive Director of the Glen Canyon Natural History Association, stated that the rapid building of multi-story hotels was destroying the view sheds in Page. “Be an inspirational community, not an aspirational one,” she intoned.
Rich Csenge warned that a loss of common ground (referring to the views Kanab’s residents have of the surrounding red cliffs) is a loss for us all.
Jim Walls and Robert Dycus both stated they didn’t feel Kanab needed to bend established ordinances or issue conditional use permits to accommodate these chain motels anymore.
Charlie Saba stated, “You can’t mitigate height – there is just no way to modify it.”
Rosalie Coleman felt that if the city is not following their established ordinances, they better get busy revising Kanab’s General Plan.
At the close of the Public Comment session, KPC member Marty Ott commented, saying, “Kanab is a unique city and motel rooms can be had without compromising the appeal it has for everyone.”
Another member of the KPC, Melvin Watson, who also owns the McDonald’s in Kanab, felt Kanab needs to capture as much of the tourist traffic as it can. However, limiting the height to the current standard would not reduce the number of rooms La Quinta plans for the hotel.
Campbell responded to these citizen comments by saying, “I like my town (St. George) too. La Quinta wanted to build their standard iconic hotel design in Kanab, as it has in most other parts of the country.”
“But,” he quickly continued, “I have a compromise proposal for the commission. We can lower the main facade height to 56 feet 3 inches, the same as the stairwell height on the other end of the building.” This is still 8 feet 3 inches above the current limitation of 48 feet.
It was finally time for the KPC to decide on La Quinta’s request. Before they could do so, Kanab City Attorney Jeff Stott warned the commission members that they had to include their specific reasons for denying their request, if they decided to do so.
“You have to delineate how allowing the greater than 48 feet height would be detrimental to Kanab and you can cite Kanab’s General Plan provisions in doing so – like whether or not the proposed building is in harmony with the intent and purpose of the plan as far as aesthetics or adverse impacts are concerned.”
With that admonishment, the KPC unanimously voted to deny La Quinta’s request for a variance to the 45 feet roof height and 48 feet parapet height restriction. La Quinta was welcome to come back to the KPC at a later date with a complying proposal.
Rich Csenge choreographed a presentation espousing the aesthetic and economic benefits for Kanab by adopting measures to enhance and preserve dark skies above the city. He showed a video done by Kevin Poe, the Dark Ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park, how Tucson, Arizona, has taken steps to reduce light pollution to a level of a much smaller city. Photos shown of the rapidly encroaching loss of dark skies across the U.S. since 1950 were dramatic.
Csenge said, “Most people in America and many foreign countries have never seen the Milky Way and never will because they live where light pollution obliterates the night sky.”
Victor Cooper added, “Dark skies are free and need to be preserved and appreciated for the economic asset it is to this community year round.”
KPC member Melvin Watson brought up the security issue that many businesses and homeowners are concerned with. “How do we protect ourselves, the park, pool and K-Town Plaza without lighting?” he asked.
Csenge replied by saying that downward directed lighting has been shown to be more effective for security purposes than lighting which throws light outward producing glares. He presented photos of good and bad lighting scenarios in Kanab, singling out the parking lot lights at the new Comfort Suites hotel as an example of excessive glare.
Karen Dallett commented how the City of Page is supporting efforts to preserve dark skies as it realizes what she termed “the astro-economic benefit of doing so.” She continued saying, “A poll conducted in Page found that 70 percent of tourists desired dark skies and it is expected that the city will formulate ordinances within the next three months to address that goal.”
KPC member Arlon Chamberlain felt that incorporating LED lighting in new and remodel building projects in Kanab would be one way to achieve appropriate lighting.
Marty Ott believes there are intrinsic and economic reasons for advancing dark skies.
The discussion led to the KPC asking the Kanab Beautification Committee to come up with recommendations regarding lighting that they could consider at a future meeting.
Kanab City Land Use Manager Mike Reynolds briefed the KPC on the growing problems with private vacation rental base properties in Kanab.
Resident Adam Rogers described his ongoing frustrations with a next-door neighbor’s short-term rental business. “The rental outlier is 15 feet from my house,” he related, “and I hear conversations at 4 a.m. about going to Bryce or the North Rim by these vacationers that party at all hours. I’ve tried to sell my house that is located in a residential, not commercial area of town, to no avail. Buyers see this B and B type of activity and are turned away.”
Reynolds acknowledged that accessory buildings have been put on lots, garages converted to rental units and extra bedrooms rented out to people visiting the area. “Accessory buildings need only be two feet from the property line, rather than the 15 feet required by the main house,” he said.
City ordinances state that if there is more than one residence on a lot, the owner of that lot must live in one of them. “Complaints about overextended rentals fall on the city and need to be addressed,” Reynolds remarked. “City licensing of this type of business is required, but out of 186 known operations of this type, only 25 percent have a business license.”
“So this means that the city is also losing tax revenue,” conjectured Sue Markham. City Manager Joe Decker estimated lost tax revenue at $100,000 last year.
Kanab B and B owner Laura Beesley stated, “B and B’s are licensed and have standards of operation that we comply with, whereas many of these other operations don’t. But we must be proactive rather than punitive and inform people of the city’s requirements.”
Decker said that his office is in the process of doing just that, saying, “It’s not fair that some people are complying with the regulations and others in the same business are not.”