St George pauses approving new events as community impact assessed – St George News


ST. GEORGE – Are parts of St. George experiencing a sense of event fatigue? The City Council hopes to answer these questions and others as it strives to strike a balance between the many special events the city allows and the impact it will have on the local community.

City Council of St. George, St. George, Utah, March 16, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

To determine the answer, approvals for new special events hosted by the City of St. George on public property will be suspended for the next six months. In the meantime, city officials want to gather information and hear from various stakeholders on how best to meet the needs of the community while remaining an event-friendly city.

The temporary suspension of special events permits passed the City Council by a 3-1 vote Thursday night, with Councilwoman Danielle Larkin voting against. Councilor Gregg McArthur was absent as he was out of town.

“There are concerns about overuse of parks and the abundance of our super-successful special events at our parks,” Assistant City Attorney Ryan Doolie told the City Council during a regular session.

Overuse of city property — particularly in places like Town Square in downtown St. George — has long been a concern for city employees and councillors. Issues related to weed not being able to recover between events have prompted the city to limit the number of events held there.

The result is a variety of events that are expanding to other city-owned venues such as nearby Vernon Worthen Park.

In this file photo, families gather Monday in Vernon Worthen Park for Independence Day celebrations, St. George, Utah, July 4, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St George News

However, as these events have spread, they have also caused problems for local residents living near them. Councilwoman Natalie Larsen said residents had spoken to her about not being able to enjoy public parks due to their near-constant hosting of events while also having to contend with increased traffic, parking and the noise that comes with it.

“This temporary ordinance will allow staff to study how special events are impacting and impacting local residents, the park itself with increased traffic, road closures and noise,” Doolie said. “It will be an opportunity for us to pause and take a look at how you (the council) as our policymakers intend to balance the needs of the city, the public and the events.”

The six-month suspension of new events will not affect recurring events, such as the St. George Art Festival or Ironman 70.3, nor events held on private property. Applications for special events submitted to the city by the close of business on Wednesday, March 22 may also be processed.

The hiatus for new event permits will last until September 15.

While the City Council gave no specific direction to city employees for collecting data and other information related to special events and their impact, Doolie said the council could finalize the specifics in the future.

In this file photo, people attend the George Streetfest in Main, St. George, Utah on July 4, 2015 | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St George News

While acknowledging that the majority of the council supports the moratorium on approving new special events, Larkin said she believes the city can conduct its study on how to balance events and community while allowing new permits.

“I understand and agree that we should ensure that our events, while economically benefiting our city, do not overload our systems to the point where our residents can no longer enjoy them,” Larkin said.

Still, St. George has been known as an events town for decades, Lardin said, adding that she hopes the town won’t hurt itself by pausing events for the time being.

Some events, like farmers’ markets, are also great places for small business startups, Larkin said, adding she didn’t want those efforts to be hampered.

Special events, coupled with tourism and other factors that draw visitors to St. George, are among the factors that save county taxpayers approximately $1,300 annually.

“I hope this gives us time to really focus on what’s working,” Councilor Jimmie Hughes said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, All Rights Reserved.

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