Southern Utah News Articles
Noel says county taxpayers not paying for his legal fees, coming out of his expense account
Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) has entered into a contract with golf architect David McLay Kidd to design a new 18-hole golf course at the Jackson Flat Reservoir.
Kidd presented the KCWCD Board with several conceptual golf course designs last week. The new Kanab golf will be a “links course” that incorporates the natural landscape with few man-made additions.
KCWCD is looking to obtain 40 acres of BLM land at the old gravel site on the Utah-Arizona border through a Recreational Public Purpose (RP&P) sale or lease. Mike Noel, Executive Director of KCWCD, mentioned that “David McLay Kidd had done this before – turning gravel pits into a beautiful golf course that people can enjoy.”
Noel said that they have been studying the golf industry for many years, and “we think it will bring in funds to the public and to the Water Conservancy District.” KCWCD has approached the Kane County Commissioners to use TRT (Transient Room Tax) funds to build the golf course.
“Mike Noel wants to use TRT money to finance his multi-million dollar golf course,” said Sky Chaney, President of the Taxpayer Association of Kane County. “TRT money should be used on projects that benefit the community, and I doubt that most people would want to pay the green fees for this luxury golf course.”
The green fees at the Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon, a course designed by Kidd, are $295-$345 in peak season, and $105-$165 in the winter months.
According to Noel, Kidd believes that KCWCD has plenty of water for the golf course based on his design. Regarding the water rights, Noel explained that when KCWCD “bought the Jackson Flat area, we bought water rights along with it. It is about 400 acre-feet water rights with the assumption that those water rights belonged to the people of Kane County.” In Noel’s estimation “the golf course will use about half of that.”
Noel had conversations with Kanab City Mayor Robert Houston about building a sewage treatment facility to replace the sewage ponds south of the Ranchos. The treated (secondary) water could be used for the golf course. The Lake Powell National Golf Course in Page, Arizona, uses treated sewage water to irrigate its grass.
Board member Ben Clarkson mentioned that the new golf course would use less water per acre than the old Kanab Coral Cliffs Golf Course. Clarkson explained that the soil at Coral Cliffs is heavily clay and requires more water to grow grass on than the sandy soil at the reservoir site would.
The new Kanab golf course would be a destination golf course. Destination golf courses are often located in scenic areas that offer higher-end lodging and dining options to attract visitors from out of town.
Most visitors to Kanab stay only one night, but destination visitors often stay multiple days. Best Friends Animal Society is one of Kanab’s main destination attractions. Over 10,000 visitors came to Kanab in 2019 to volunteer at Best Friends. Visiting volunteers typically stay between three and seven days to help care for the animals. Many visiting volunteers return year after year.
Multi-day visitors on average spend more money in local restaurants and shops than pass-through visitors who arrive in the evening and leave early the following morning. This brings more money, jobs and tax revenue to the local community.
The golf season in Kanab is around 300 days.
In addition to the golf course, KCWCD is moving ahead with several other recreational projects. A beach volleyball court is being built next to the boat ramp and bathrooms at the Jackson Flat Reservoir.
KCWCD is putting in outdoor workout stations on the Sherry Belle Trail. Walkers, joggers and anyone else will be able to do sit-ups, pull-ups, leg raises, and much more. The workout stations will provide a free, and Covid-19 safer, workout alternative. There will also be a playground for children.
KCWCD recently extended the concrete boat ramp by another 30 feet and dredged out sand. This will allow boaters to use the ramp all year round and when the water level is low.
The water in the Jackson Flat reservoir is up to 42 percent of capacity from 38 percent earlier this fall. But even with the recent rain and snow, the water level is still well below last year’s level of 56 percent.
The reservoir also offers unique bird watching recreation. This month a large flock of Canada geese can be seen at the reservoir’s inlets. Two snow geese were also spotted last week. Snow geese are rarely seen in Kane County.
At Duck Creek, KCWCD employees have been working long hours on a water project. The Duck Creek Fire Department was out of water, as the well they relied on ran dry. KCWCD put water lines in to provide water.
At the meeting on November 12, the board approved a two percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for KCWCD employees, to be retroactive to July 1. The board had held off with the COLA increase in June because of budget uncertainties related to COVID-19.
The state of Utah and many municipals have experienced budget shortfalls this year as the Utah economy slowed and people lost their jobs.
Another effect of COVID-19 has been a change in the structure of work as more people are working remotely. This has allowed people to relocate from urban areas to places like Kane County. “What happened,” as noted by Noel, “is people moved out of the cities, and our business got more busy.”
Another budget item discussed at last month’s board meeting was $5,650 in legal expenses. At the October board meeting, the Board of Directors approved paying the legal expenses of Noel stemming from a stalking injunction against Will James, a former Kanab tour company owner.
Noel sought the stalking injunction following the Kanab City Council’s public hearing on the proposed frac sand mine in July 2019. The board also approved payment for future legal expenses related to the appeal of the case.
Noel clarified “that the funds will not be taken from any of the taxpayers’ funds. These funds will come from my expense account, which has accumulated over the last year and a half. There is more than enough within that account to take care of all of the legal expenses.”