Category Archives: Springdale Government and Administration

Planning Commission – 17 June 2014

The Tortured Path of the Solar Panel Ordinance


Click to expand to full size.

With four public hearings on the agenda … several of which have attracted a lot of public interest over the months … we joked about how we would be driving home in full dark as the meeting got ready to go. With television shows I wanted to watch myself, I was hoping I would be wrong. As it turned out, I was wrong. Chairman Joe moved us through the hearings with businesslike precision.

Tom moved through the preliminaries in less time than the agenda allowed, so Chairman Joe proposed that in the future, “work meetings” be limited to two hours. I have one question: “How?” Nobody forces these folks to go on and on. The rest of us have no guaranteed right to speak at all. (I have a suggestion!! Cover the issues in advance in a “public and accountable” Internet forum! What a concept!!)

Only twelve people were seated when the meeting started. (A few more came in later.) Since the new solar panel ordinance would be considered, I had hoped for more … but we made up for quantity with quality.

Parking Facility on Lion Boulevard

Say goodbye to another chunk of open space in Springdale. I mourn its loss but I didn’t oppose it in the public hearing because, legally, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Seriously, we do need the parking if we’re going to run an amusement park for California here …

Thanks to a citizen question, I learned that a house and a store are being planned for the OTHER side of Lion Boulevard. It isn’t on any agenda yet. Stew Ferber knew all about it. Stew knows what is happening to every square inch of ground above the Hurricane fault. This is exactly the kind of thing that it would be great to know about and which could be posted here. Stew? Apply for an account!

I learned something during the meeting about the way ordinances work. The parking facility was proposed as a “conditional use permit”. That means there are specific conditions written into the town code that have to be satisfied. I always thought that if only those specific conditions were satisfied, then the permit had to be granted. I learned that the commission can attach new conditions as part of the permit too, as long as they are “reasonably” related to the conditional use. The next time a “conditional use” comes up for a hearing, we – the “people who just live here” – should consider thinking about all the conditions that should be attached to the use and bring them up in the public hearing. The commission members did think of a bunch of ideas during the meeting, but it was a confused process because several commissioners wanted to add and/or debate them while the motion was being stated. (I wonder how much this process could have been improved by working out these issues in advance in a “public and accountable” Internet forum? What a concept!)

Aircraft and Sign Ordinances

Both of these were pretty much settled by months of deliberations before this meeting. Mike Marriott didn’t think the changes in the sign ordinance were necessary and voted against it. One person asked if they would be able to fly their four foot wingspan model airplane. Tom said, “Yes, in Hurricane.”

Solar Power

This was the most significant item on the agenda, by far, and it was where the quality of the people who showed up to speak against it made the difference.

All of the comments during the meeting … and most of the people who were still in the audience spoke up … were completely opposed to this ordinance. (A husband and wife who were involved in the original dispute that caused this whole ordinance to be considered in the first place both wrote emails, but they didn’t show up in person.)

I suspect that most of the commissioners had their minds made up before they came to the meeting due to the long, tortured process that this ordinance change has been through. But to their credit, the testimony of the people who spoke on Tuesday made a difference. I usually don’t speak at these things since I believe that written comments can be more carefully considered and more widely read by all of the members of the ZiCC community, but this was a more important issue than most. Here’s the statement I made to the commission.

I have listened to every discussion of the question of solar panels over the months both here and in the Springdale town council. — I would like to be counted as being against this proposal. My objections have been fully covered in half a dozen articles I have written at my website: – so I won’t go over them here.

But as just one example to illustrate the damage that will be done as a result of adopting this proposal, the Springdale town council discussed how solar power could be used to improve the parking facility that was discussed in the first public hearing tonight. Those ideas would not be allowed if this ordinance is adopted. In short, this ordinance will disallow solar panel innovation in Springdale.

In my view, this ordinance will only have the effect of making it harder to install solar power and will make Springdale less environment friendly. In my view, the only justification is to make Springdale more like a typical California suburb and less like Springdale. In short, there is no justification.

The ordinance change was tabled pending consideration at a future meeting.

Springdale Town Council – 11 June 2014 (partial …)

LoveMeetingsMy computer clock clicked over at exactly 5:00 pm when Mayor Stan started the meeting. It’s good to see things work like a German railroad. (Ask me to tell that story sometime.) A lucky thirteen of us were there as the meeting got rolling and only a few because they were on the agenda. Most were citizens interested in making Springdale a better place. A few more trickled in as the meeting proceeded. Unfortunately, even more trickled out as the meeting proceeded. That turned out to be a poor choice if they were really interested in what is going on in our community. A little later in this report, I explain why, but first I’d like to cover the appeal that Bill Orton and Michael Plyler made to the council. (Also not on the agenda … talked about under the final budget hearing and community questions. But since it was not directly related to the agenda item, Mayor Stan ruled Bill out of order.)

I’ve written about the fire district’s budget crunch in two other reports …

Rockville / Springdale Fire Protection District (20 May 2014)

Rockville / Springdale Fire District Public Meeting – 9 June 2014

… and there was nothing new presented so I won’t write more about that. The raw facts are that they have revenues of $165,000 a year now. They need $440,000 a year. So I’m just going to highlight other dollar amounts in reports that I write for a while … just as a comparison. Want fire protection for your house? Want an ambulance in case you have a heart attack? Keep these comparisons in mind.

The Last Shall Be First

The people who left early missed the best part of the meeting. Mayor Stan has added a significant difference to his meetings. The last item is:

D. Administrative Non-Action Items
Council Department Reports
Council Discussion

This is turning out to be the most significant and interesting part of the whole meeting. Here’s “Theory and Practice of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Law 101” as it applies to this new wrinkle.

Theory is that all public business will be discussed in a meeting where all significant topics are announced in an agenda published in advance so citizens can attend and learn about what their elected representatives are up to.

Practice is that lots of REALLY interesting stuff is simply brought up as a “Department Report” and discussed. Not only do we not know that it was going to be discussed, but by this time, most of the few people that were there in the beginning are gone.

I’m not really complaining. (Appearances nothwithstanding. … When I’m complaining, you’ll be able to tell.) By listening carefully, I got a peek through the cracks at other things that are being talked about outside of meetings.  (A parking plaza on Lion Boulevard?) At least, the things discussed under Part D above are “on the record”. But I’m making the point … yet again … that if these discussions were in a “public and accountable” Internet forum, we could all be much more aware of what’s going on and even put in our two cents about them. (You can do that here. All it takes is an account so we can tell who is saying what.)

Anyway … Since the Department Reports were so interesting, I’m going to focus on them first in this report.

Kathy talked about scheduling the tennis / pickleball courts. Not too interesting unless you play tennis or pickleball. Then it could be really interesting.

According to Rick, the notice to bid for the contract to construct the new manholes in the town’s water pipeline will be published on Monday with the bid opening anticipated on July 2. (The project will cost almost 40 percent of the Fire District budget shortfall … an unanticipated expense that Springdale and the irrigation company will somehow find the funds to pay for.)

Mark said that Chief Wright and our accountant Dawn had discussed “security”. I assume they’re talking about the cash payment of fines that got us in so much trouble a few years ago (and that was never going to be audited until a couple of “buttinsky” citizens started asking about it). Mark wasn’t clear about it … everybody else on the council seemed to know exactly what he was talking about. Mark didn’t mention any other details.

Bill Weyher said that Tom had drafted an RFP for the new town streetlights (needed to bring the town itself into compliance with the dark sky ordinance that will be enforced in a few years) and a lot of people are interested. … money, money, money! Bill is also working on optimizing the parking available. Bill said they’re not going to solve the problem, however. The Park has done a detailed survey of the whole town’s parking. (Mentioned by Rick later.)

Kathy and Mark had a very intriguing exchange about the possible construction of a parking facility on the land between Zion Adventure and the town hall. At this point, other council members jumped into the discussion, seemingly well aware of the issue.

Kathy: … if this land between Zion Adventure and the town … were acquired …
Stan: … For a parking facility?
< enthusiastic laughter from the entire commission >
Mark: I believe that is on the agenda for the planning commission …

It’s not on the agenda. I checked. No agenda has been published yet.

Several commission members wondered if solar panels could be installed that might help pay for the structure. Why would they wonder about this detail if the structure itself hasn’t been discussed quite a bit already?

Editorial comment: This is EXACTLY the kind of issue that the “people who just live here” would be really interested in. Open and Public Meetings, my patootie!

Mayor Stan said he would be meeting with “some people” next Friday about possible fiber for better Internet access in town. He said that we might have fiber “in the ground” next October. Great news, Stan!!

Stan said he met with the other mayors about our joint police department. But he didn’t say anything else about it. This was something I have asked about during “community questions” in previous meetings and that had not been reported contrary to a specific vote of the town council. This report fulfills the letter of the council instruction.

At the very end of the meeting, there was a whole round of discussion based on a suggestion by Kathy that Springdale consider enacting a municipal minimum wage as some other towns and cities have done. Rick said it would be legal to do that, but enforcement might be a problem. There was no real conclusion to the discussion.

Gosh!!! I’ve consumed three pages and only really reported Agenda Item D, “Department Reports”. Since I want this report to be timely, I think I’ll get this one on the website now. The rest of the meeting will have to wait.

Springdale Planning Commission – 3 June 2014

Eight people were there to watch Chairman Joe bring the meeting to order. (And curtail all of the chit chat.  This thing is starting to be as good a source of neighborly gossip as the post office.) There were a few new people there too! When I first started documenting these meetings, I was alone in the audience most of the time. Better and better!

Kudos to Chairman Joe! He got through the five main discussion items in an average of 16 minutes each. Keep in mind that these topics have consumed months and months of discussion in the past. Maybe that was the secret for getting through the agenda at light speed this time. I’m sure that the commission is just sick and tired of talking about them now … (Yah! Let em put a nuclear waste dump behind the school! It’s gotta go somewhere! … )

I noticed something else, too. People were raising their hands when they want to speak. There’s no rule about this. Technically, a chairman doesn’t have to let anyone in the audience speak unless it’s a “public hearing”, but most times, they do. One of the reasons this meeting went well is that everybody was very civil and considerate. (Nobody just jumped up and started talking! There were no developers there. Maybe that had something to do with it!)

StarTrailsBefore the meeting got rolling, kudos went to Tom for putting together the latest night sky event. The most recent one was about night sky photography. My neighbor, Paul Mailloux has been winning awards for his landscape photography recently and as the illustration shows, we can look forward to some great shots at night now as well.

The Agenda

The five items on the agenda were all things that have been chewed on for months:

  • Accessory Structure Size
  • Sign Area Measurement Method
  • Solar Energy System Ordinance
  • Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance
  • Cottage Neighborhood Ordinance

Because the discussion about all of them was brief and to the point, I can cover what was said individually this time without boring you to somnolence.

Accessory Structure Size

To refresh readers on the problem, there’s a huge loophole in Springdale’s ordinances right now. Because all “structures” on a property can be up to 5,000 square feet and because there can be as many of them as other limits allow, a developer could fill up a lot with buildings until it looked like a warehouse district. (State law requires a town to grant permission to an application unless the rules disallow it. The burden of proof is on the town, not on the developer.)

This was known as an issue years ago and it’s been a current project since January. (I’ve mentioned it in eight previous reports. I can remember this problem from ancient times when I was a commissioner … back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Plugging this loophole has been a long time coming.)

The ordinance that is now being considered still allows any number of accessory structures, but it limits the total size of all of them together. In practice, this means that someone might not be able to max out the size of a “main structure” and still build a few garages. This was very concerning to commissioner Marriott. He convinced the commission to also consider a simple idea of allowing an accessory structure that was “no more than one-half the size” of a main structure. So there are still two proposals being considered. They have Mike’s idea and a table:

Lot Area   (acres)
Equal to or Less Than
Maximum Total
Accessory Structure
Square Footage
0.5 5000
1.0 5500
1.5 5750
2.0 6000
3.0 6250
5.0 6500
10 7000
Greater than 10 7500

Since Mike’s idea would still allow any number of structures, it really exposes the town to the same problem, just slightly reduced. The present ordinance allows a developer to build a dozen 5,000 square foot structures. With Mike’s idea, a developer could build a 5,000 square foot structure and a dozen 2,500 square foot structures. As noted, the commission just didn’t seem to be in a mood to go into details. No one noticed that and they moved on.

They’ll have to have at least two more meetings (plus a town council public hearing since the planning commission can’t actually decide anything) to put this one to bed. This might drag on through the fall at this rate. It doesn’t seem like something that should take this long. The discussion made it clear that Tom actually decided on the numbers in the table. This, and Mike’s last minute idea, are (yet again) examples showing how it’s hard it is for a committee to actually design something during a structured meeting.

(Maybe if there was an online “public and accountable” Internet forum where ideas could be developed before the meeting? … Naaahhhh! … Dumb idea!)

Sign Area Measurement Method

This was another fix for something that just wasn’t working. The very effective team of Mark and Joe working in tandem can be credited for making sure this was reconsidered. The problem here was that the existing ordinance, in an excess of concern for the creativity of sign designers, opened up a loophole by technically allowing someone to only count the actual area of each letter in a sign and make the actual sign gi-normous. Trust me … some developer would do it.

Again, the fix they’ve arrived at is simple. They plan on allowing the number of sides in an “enclosing polygon” to have a maximum of ten sides.

Solar Energy System Ordinance

There are forces in town who believe that solar panels are unsightly and everything possible should be done to make them invisible. In my humble opinion, this is short sighted and not what Springdale and the Earth needs. I’ve written a number of articles urging more support for solar power here. In Solar and Springdale, I predicted that the town was going to place severe limits on what people can do to provide renewable solar power.

That prediction is coming true. The “purpose” section of the ordinance states “The standards in this section are intended to allow and encourage property owners to develop solar energy systems while also protecting surrounding areas from the reflectivity, glare, and visual impacts.” In my humble opinion, that’s only half true. Encouragement is severely lacking.

For example:

Roof mounted solar energy systems must be mounted such that they are co-planar with the roof. Systems may not extend vertically above the peak of the roof on which they are mounted. Roof mounted solar energy systems that are completely screened from view from surrounding properties are exempt from this requirement.

Translation: If you want to put a system on your roof, often the cheapest way to do it, give up on the goal of making it efficient by aligning it to the sun. And no exceptions are even made for locations (like mine) where someone would have to perch on a neighboring mountain with binoculars to see it.

It gets worse.

During the meeting, the commission added a requirement that you couldn’t generate more power than your house uses. The goal was to “stop people from putting up solar farms”. If only! Solar power isn’t efficient enough – and Springdale land is way too expensive – to do that. But this requirement would eliminate the possibility of taking advantage of a technology breakthrough or a special situation where that might be possible.

Tom pointed out that at least one property owner already generates more power than the property uses. And the town generates enough solar energy to violate this clause, so they agreed to a loophole for public use zones but everyone else is specifically disallowed. I guess that one property will now become a “non-conforming use”.

This will go to a public hearing next. Springdale used to have a real environmental attitude!

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance

This is all about allowing people to rent rooms on their property. The main problem here is that a lot of people are already doing it.

If memory serves, everything that the commission discussed on this item has been discussed before. Some of them, two or three times before. Remember, this one has already had a “public hearing” and has been kicked back to the commission for another try.

It was clear that some of the people who attended the meeting were there just for this discussion. “Public clamor” in previous meetings persuaded the commission to strike ADU’s from the Valley Residential subzones (These were just created just a few months ago. In general, they’re smaller lots in the middle of town.) And they went even further in this meeting and eliminated them from the Foothill Residential Zone too. They are only allowed by “conditional use permit” in the Valley Residential zone. That means there are special conditions that must be satisfied in that zone. There was some public clamor about this during this meeting. The commission was not dissuaded.

This has been a tough one! It seems to me that the commission has done a good job of deciding something that has been very controversial. The ordinance may not be perfect, but it’s a good first start at worst. It’s also a detailed and complex ordinance. If you want to really understand it, you will have to consult the meeting packets at the town web site. Or call Tom. (He likes to get interrupted by phone calls!) It will go to a public hearing next. Expect more fireworks.

Cottage Neighborhood Ordinance

Again, the commission has done a good job of putting together a difficult and complex ordinance. Actually, Tom has done a good job! In past meetings, the commission seems to have chewed around individual pieces of what Tom wrote as he crafted new versions. For example, in this meeting, they reduced the allowed number of units from six to five. It’s hard for a committee to design something in a structured meeting! Consult the meeting packet for the details of the final version.

But as Shakespeare would have it, “All’s well that ends well.” Hopefully, you feel that way about this report. This ordinance will go to a public hearing now too.

Secondary Water Advisory Board (SWAB) Meeting – 28 May 2014

chickenYou just don’t know what kind of fun you can have when you go to these meetings! For example, as a result of attending this one, I got to chase a chicken around the cactus along with Mark and Garon (one of our police). Matt Raynor asked Mark why the chicken crossed the road. Mark said it was to avoid going to the SWAB meeting.

SWAB is how Springdale and the irrigation company coordinate. There are two members appointed by Springdale (Mark Chambers and Stan Smith) and three members appointed by the irrigation company (Mark Schraut, Allan Staker, and Brent Heaton, chairman).

This was an unusual event. The Board didn’t meet at all in 2013 and only twice in 2012.  (And one of those meetings doesn’t have recorded minutes. A LOT of business gets done in this town informally. That’s one reason I started this website. I think everyone deserves to know what’s going on.) On Wednesday, three important items were on the agenda.

Note: See Fay Cope’s comment below. The missing minutes have been restored.

  • The Irrigation Pipeline Manhole Project
  • Compliance with the Irrigation Schedule
  • The Contract between Springdale and the Irrigation Company

The Irrigation Pipeline Manhole Project

Most folks here probably know that the majority of the town’s culinary water, as well as the water used for a lot of lawns and pastures, comes from a diversion on the Virgin River. The Park has also used our diversion to get their water from the Virgin. A while back, the Park decided that they wanted their own pipeline and diversion rather than using ours, so they had a contractor building one. Well, as these things go, they nicked our pipe. That normally wouldn’t be a serious problem to fix, but when they started working on repairing the damage, they discovered that our pipe, which has been there in the ground for some thirty years, was full of sediment to the point that they decided it had to be cleaned. As Stan pointed out, the danger was that the pipe wouldn’t deliver enough water during peak summer use and leave the town without water when they need it the most. The town doesn’t intend to take that risk and they intend to move ahead with the project.

There was a lot of discussion about what caused the pipe to fill with sediment. The conclusion was that nobody really knows. Most believe that it has a lot to do with the fact that the river is really low now. Before they nicked the pipe and looked at it, they didn’t know that it was that full of sediment. They had “flow issues” at the pump house last fall that started to affect the town’s ability to provide culinary water to the town. They now believe that those flow issues were related to all of the sand in the pipeline. They tried a lot of things to clean the pipe, they considered a lot of alternative ways to do it, and they chewed up a lot of meeting time talking about it, but the only thing that seemed to work was to put in manholes that will allow sand to be taken out of the pipe through the manhole. So that’s what they did.

Two manholes have already been installed and about 1,500 feet of the pipe have been cleaned. Rick said that they managed to clean 98 percent of the sediment. Rick had the plans available showing that seven more would be needed for a total of nine.

Then they got to the sticky part: paying for it. The irrigation company representatives were very keen to figure that out. The town diverted funds from another account to do the first two. They cost $10,000 each so they’re planning on the whole project costing about $90,000.

Rick said that the contract between the town and the irrigation company specified that for extraordinary events like this, sixty-six percent of the cost would be paid by the irrigation company and thirty-four percent would be paid by the town. (It’s based on the water rights owned by the town versus the irrigation company.)

There was some discussion about whether this was “routine maintenance” or not. It would have made a difference in how the cost was shared. But Mark had read the contract. He pointed out that the actual language of the contract stated that the 66/34 percent cost sharing would apply for, “any improvements, replacements, or extraordinary system costs beyond the annual operation and maintenance”. That sort of ended the discussion.

Just by way of comparison, the operating budget of the irrigation company is only about $20,000 a year. (Well … Everybody there seemed to be aware of some extraordinary legal expenses recently. Allan described it as a “fiasco”. I don’t know a thing about it. Maybe someone will leave a comment and fill in the details.) The town would provide the funding initially and the irrigation company would have to pay back the loan. The irrigation pipeline cost half a million initially and the town and the irrigation company were able to work out a deal to pay for that. Allan made the commonsense observation that the people who live and do business in Springdale would pay for it, one way or another. It was just a question of which pocket it came out of.

Brent said that the irrigation company would have to meet as a Board and consult their members about it.

Compliance with the Irrigation Schedule

Springdale has tried hard to keep a “local flavor” to businesses in town. The “compliance” item was on the agenda for one reason and it is a great example of why local people and local business makes sense for Springdale.

The Hampton Inn uses irrigation water for the vast expanse of lawn in front. But they don’t seem to want to play by the same rules the rest of us follow. Robby, our watermaster, said that he had talked to them a lot about it, but they don’t seem to get the message. This is just me, but I think that’s probably because the people running the Hampton are corporate people, not Springdale people. (A response from Hampton about this would be great!) After consulting the irrigation company rulebook and talking about it, they decided to move to step two: a formal written warning. In Step Three, we cut off their water and it takes a formal act of members of the Board to turn it back on again.

The Contract between Springdale and the Irrigation Company

For much of the meeting, this was the elephant in the room. The contract is thirty years old and most of the specific things that were covered (construction and ownership of the pipeline) will be complete in 2014. There was a lot of motivation on the part of the irrigation company board members to renegotiate the contract. A $90,000 bill is a great motivator. The Springdale members said that would have to be considered by the town council.

At this point, Brent asked if any of us listening had any comments. …  I did.

First, I asked Rick if cost sharing arrangement was part of the contract and he confirmed that it was. I pointed out that even if building and paying for the pipeline was complete, the cost sharing was still as valid as it ever was and there was no real reason that I could see to change it now.

I hope the members of the town council are reading this. I’ll be looking for this on their agenda now.

Advertising … The Blight of Our Time

I remember a time when TV was free except for a one minute ad that had to be endured about every fifteen minutes. I remember when public radio and TV had no ads at all – none! I remember when there were very few billboards cluttering up the roadways … and those that were there were entertaining.

Stinker gas stations painted a few of the huge round volcanic rocks in Idaho green and posted a sign:
“Petrified Watermelons – Take one home to your mother in law”

Or …

This will never
Come to pass
A back-seat
Out of gas

It was a kinder, gentler time.

Have you watched one of the morning news shows recently? There is a bombardment of ads every few minutes. They go on and on for longer than the news segments. And even the “news” is really advertising. This new movie has been released; that new drug is being tested. And we have to pay for TV now. Free TV is a distant memory. Gaaaagh!

Recently, a required Securities and Exchange Commission filing from Google gave us a peek into what they’re planning to do to us in the future: “a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

I can visualize a future conversation with my refrigerator.

“Fridge, give me a cola.”
“Have you considered trying the refreshing taste of Seven-Up instead?”

HumanBillboardRoxy said she has read these innovative ideas in novels …

  • Painting the backs of sea turtles with phosphorescent ads so when they’re photographed emerging from the sea to lay their eggs, we have to endure advertising.
  • Displaying ads in the sky from search lights, “Batman” style.
  • Ad’s on the back of urinal stalls. (Ladies, count your blessings.)

National Public Radio’s (brought to you by Delta Air Lines) MarketWatch pointed out that advertisers are blaming us … US! … for this plague of ads. Advertisers are moaning and whining that we’re getting too good at ignoring their ads, so they have to pound us with more and more of them so their message gets through. In other words, “The beatings will only get worse until our bad attitude is corrected.”

Which actually brings us back to Springdale.

Gatlinburg, TennesseeGateway to Great Smoky National Park

Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gateway to Great Smoky National Park

The saying goes, “Think global and act local.” Few things are more contentious in Springdale than the sign ordinance. When I was on the commission, we devoted more time to it than any other ordinance. And there’s a strong movement in both the council and the commission to bring it up again.

I can remember a restaurant in town that was finally granted permission to erect a new sign that was actually in violation of the ordinance at the time. (After two tries … they hired the magician Peter Stempel the second time and Peter’s magic touch did the trick. They pleaded that a special case “loophole” clause applied to them.) Their basic whine was, “We’re going bankrupt! If we can’t get this sign, we’ll go out of business!” They went out of business anyway. It takes a special talent to go out of business in Springdale, but the point is that the extra advertising didn’t save them.

On the flip side, River Rock down in La Verkin is doing a booming business in the same location that several businesses have failed in. They don’t seem to have a huge advertising presence. Actually, their best advertising is the full parking lot next to them.

There’s a war of escalating signs in Springdale right now. Every business seems to be convinced that their business would be soooooooo much better if they just had better signage … brighter, bigger, more noticeable … to which I say, “Bullpucky !!!”

If we revise our sign ordinance again, we should clamp down and make signs smaller and even less noticeable than the current ordinance allows.

Springdale Planning Commission – 20 May 2014

Big Mike Marriott was in charge of the gavel. He threatened to throw it at unruly members of the audience which consisted of … me! But I didn’t think he could hit me from that distance.

There wasn’t actually a lot on the agenda this time around: a design development review for a remodel of a house (my next door neighbor, actually), a bunch of sign reviews, and a discussion of the recent community meeting at the CCC. But the planning commission meeting took two and a half hours anyway!! I believe I still hold the record for the shortest meeting. I managed to get through a full agenda in less than one hour once when I was chairman.

Tom announced the next “Night Sky Program” before the meeting got rolling. This one will be on night sky photography coming up next Thursday, May 29. I volunteered my recommendation of the last one. Tom managed to get the lights turned out in all of Springdale just when we went out to try out the telescopes. And he arranged for a lightning light show too! I never knew Tom had that kind of power!

Commissioner West asked what was going on with the Subway (the unopened fast food place, not the canyon). Tom claimed he didn’t know. Fay volunteered that she thought that Jack Fotheringham had applied for a different type of business license. (During the break, I suggested that Tom look up the word, “dissimulation”.)

Bottom line: Something is going on with the Subway and we’ll find out after it happens.

Kinesava Lot 28

Most of you won’t care, but a new neighbor is remodeling the house part way up the hill, just down from my house in the Kinesava neighborhood and most of the meeting was consumed discussing that. Commissioner Randy Taylor is also a neighbor and he can see the house from his house. (I can’t.) Our HOA has been negotiating with the new owner and his architect, Peter Stempel, for several months and it was clear that Randy was thoroughly familiar with the application. (I would have declared a conflict of interest, but Randy didn’t think that was necessary. That declaration doesn’t stop you from participating or voting; it’s just a nice formality.)

Randy is a civil engineer and this is his forte. He and Peter went the full 12 rounds talking about load bearing pylons and soil compaction while the rest of us mainly sat there and listened. At one point, Kezia suggested that the planning commission didn’t need to get into engineering details and, initially at least, Tom agreed with her. Then Randy quoted specific language from the town zoning code that clearly demonstrated that it was within the authority of the planning commission. I’ve noticed that town officials – Mark Chambers in particular – are quoting the town code more and more frequently. I think that’s a very positive trend. You might note that I’ve been quoting Utah law a lot here, too.

In the end, Peter was cool and professional like he always is and answered all the questions. The design passed unanimously.

The Community Discussion at the CCC

The “meeting packet” for this meeting is worth reading for a very good reason this time. The comments that were received at the Community Meeting held at the CCC are in it. You can access those by clicking this link:

Barbara Farnsworth wrote a great letter that reminded us that we are in a drought and it’s very likely to get a lot worse. She quoted the town code too:

The Town Code, Title 10, Chapter 18, Landscaping states:

Acceptable Plant Species: Water conserving plants shall constitute at least eighty percent (80%) by area, (including areas covered by turf) of the total landscape area on a site, developments located in the foothills shall utilize plant species appropriate to less fertile soils. A list of water conserving plant species, as adopted by the town council, shall be available in the town office.

I didn’t know that! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think lawn grass is a “water conserving plant”. I think I’ll add this to my list of things to ask about. In fact, in line with Tom’s cooperative commitment to answer email questions, I’m sending this one to him.

Title 10, Chapter 18 of the town code requires at least 80 percent of landscaping by area, (including areas covered by turf) to use “water conserving plants”. The ordinance states that a list of water conserving plants is available in the town office.

Is the lawn grass that has been planted at new hotels, specifically the Hampton and the La Quinta, considered to be “water conserving”?

I’ll update this report when I get an answer.

In a recent town council “community question”, I specifically asked Tom if the town had a plan to deal with a period of drought when there just wasn’t enough water to go around. (Tom said, “No.”) Randy picked up the same theme and suggested that maybe the town should have such a plan. Fay volunteered that Springdale is at “the head of the ditch” – upstream on the Virgin River – and that put us in a better position.

Maybe so, maybe no, Fay. Tell that to the people in Owens Valley, California. Nearly all of their water goes to Los Angeles even though they’re upstream. (See California Water Wars at Wikipedia.) I know of two separate cases where the Washington Water Conservancy District has shut down someone who had been using “upstream” water for decades.

The Town Survey

Back in December, the town council asked the planning commission to hold a meeting to discuss the town survey that was done months earlier. The survey seemed to raise more questions than it answered. Instead, we got a lecture from Sunrise Engineering about the town’s infrastructure. I would have liked to see the commission try to answer the questions raised by the town survey. For example, a panel discussion where the individual points raised were treated individually would have been nice. But the town survey was almost totally missing in the meeting. (A lot of problems are like that. If you ignore them long enough, quite a few actually do go away.)

I raised my hand and asked Chairman Mike for permission to address the commission. (I think I’m the only person who does that … everybody else just interrupts. But then, Mike had threatened to throw the gavel at me!) Mike had just said that only a very small percentage of Springdale had actually attended the meeting or made any comments.

I told the commission that it was their responsibility to reach out to the community and they hadn’t done it yet. The community meeting was a good thing and it did seem to go off well, but it didn’t do the job of engaging the vast majority of Springdale who still believed that they excluded and didn’t think their participation in community affairs is wanted or listened to.

I wonder how they would get that idea?

Rockville / Springdale Fire Protection District

The Springdale Town Council  report for 14 April 2014 was filled with so many important issues that I begged off and promised to cover them in individual reports. This is mentioned under the heading:

  • Rockville / Springdale Fire Protection District

Changes are a-coming! Believe it.

Rumors and rumors of rumors have been swirling about like an out-of-control wildfire. To throw a little cold water on the rumors, the Springdale town council asked our representative, Michael Plyler, to tell us what’s going on. The chairman of the Springdale / Rockville Fire District Board, Bob Orton, was there to back up Michael. They had a serious message for ZiCC people.

Michael started by covering a recent controversy … the purchase of a “new” ambulance. Michael noted that there were a lot of questions when the fire district bought an expensive new ambulance recently because people were worried that the fees would go up. According to Michael, the Utah state standard is that a fire district should keep an ambulance for ten years. We waited fourteen years before buying one.

Michael said that people have started showing up at fire board meetings and asking why the fire district is spending so much money. But nobody asks what shape the equipment is in. Nobody asks if hoses will burst and firemen will be standing there with no water. They only ask about cost. He added that fees probably will go up and he was there to tell us why.

He said that one citizen told him the fire district spent the outrageous amount of 51 percent of their budget on wages. He gave the council a two-minute explanation of the challenges faced by the Rockville / Springdale faces in protecting these communities compared with Las Vegas to illustrate the problem. Here’s a summary of what Michael said.

Las Vegas has 58 fire stations for 1,900,000 people or approximately one fire station for every 33,000 people. In Las Vegas, if there is a fire in a building in Las Vegas, the first response is two fire trucks, a ladder truck, an ambulance, and a hose wagon. Those five pieces of equipment cost approximately two million dollars and they are sent out by two fire stations. So 66,000 people are paying for approximately two million dollars of equipment. In Rockville and Springdale, we don’t have a ladder truck, we would have to take advantage of mutual aid from the Park to field two fire trucks. We don’t have a hose wagon. We do have an ambulance. The maximum number of people that could possibly be grouped together to pay for our equipment is about 1,600 people. We’re trying to pay for the level of fire protection with 1,600 people that is paid by 66,000 people in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas also depends on tourists for a large part of their revenue. But if you divide the number of their visitors by their population and do the same for Rockville-Springdale, you discover that in Las Vegas each resident only has one visitor 20 nights a year rather than 2.7 every night as we do to pay for their protection.

So, yes, the rumor is true. We’re getting ready to raise the standby fees.

Michael was a fireman in Las Vegas. He covered a lot of other detailed statistics about the cost of fire and emergency service to Rockville and Springdale. One of the biggest changes was the loss of a great fire chief in Ryan Ballard. Rockville and Springdale owes him a huge debt of gratitude because for the years that he was a fire chief, he basically did not have a life and would respond personally, day or night and then call volunteers to back him up. When the fire protection district was established, more of the community was young families and farms. Today, we’re mostly retired people and a lot of homes are second homes where people don’t even live there much of the time. We have a very small pool of volunteers to draw from. A lot of these homes are surrounded by dry brush and cost millions to build. But they still need fire protection. Our firefighters have to be both structural firefighters and wild land firefighters. We’re faced with the fact that we will have to pay a competitive rate for a service that has been more or less donated to the community for many years.

Michael said that we pay our firefighters $7.50 cents an hour. He said that when he a firefighter in Las Vegas, he was paid $10.64 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $23.52 an hour today. You might think we’re getting a bargain, but that wage is a double edged sword. Michael said that, having been a professional fire fighter, he would not run into a burning building for $7.50 an hour.

Michael also said that they had discussed the idea of contracting with Hurricane for fire protection. He said that they would cover us for the dollar amount of the budget we are proposing, but at half the staffing levels. They would also cut $135,000 from our budget that we use to pay people and buy equipment as “overhead expense” as part of the deal. As a result, they would not staff at a level that would allow both the ambulance service and the fire protection service to be fielded at the same time.

As a final point, Michael described exactly how fire protection would be provided if the community decided that, “No, this isn’t worth it. We’re not paying this.” The state would probably require Hurricane to provide the protection. Maybe Virgin will have a fire station at some point. But any protection would have to wait for the time it takes to drive up from one of those communities.

Michael said that our ambulance service has always operated at a loss. If it did not operate at a loss, another ambulance service would be up here wanting to do it. They’re not.

Michael said that our community has a decision that we have to make:

  • What kind of protection do we want?
  • How much are we willing to pay for it?

Michael and the rest of the Board have been crunching numbers for months now to try to find the most cost effective budget that they can. He said that they’re very close to a recommendation, but they’re not there yet. He described some of the ideas that they have settled on and the way the standby fees will be assessed, but we should all be prepared for a big change.

Does Springdale Need a Convention Center?

First, some background.

The Springdale Town Council report for 14 April 2014 was filled with so many important issues that I begged off and promised to cover them in individual reports.

A BIG NEW Conference Center for Springdale?

The department reports at the end of the meeting were very interesting, but possibly not interesting enough to warrant specific coverage here: What’s going down with the sewer system; we’re going to extend the roof on the public restroom. Fun stuff, but not that much fun.

(One item that was more fun than the rest was a discussion about when to schedule a meeting around the 4th of July. They even considered having it ON the 4th. Since I’ve been going to all the meetings, Mayor Stan asked when I would be available. Nice of him! I said that I was in favor of the 4th because then we could combine the council meeting with a community pie throwing contest.)

Side channel discussion

This has nothing to do with the conference center as such, but Mayor Stan wrote such a helpful email to me about it that I feel like I should respond.

This was a surprise agenda item at the very end of the meeting. I have a lot of sympathy for Mayor Stan and the other members of the town council too! The rules about how “formal meetings” have to be conducted were written for another age when people had to travel on horseback for days to attend a meeting. Under those circumstances, it made a lot of sense to make sure that each and every item was described in advance in the meeting agenda as specified under Utah law:

Uah Code 52-4-202 

(6) (a) A public notice that is required to include an agenda under Subsection (1) shall provide reasonable specificity to notify the public as to the topics to be considered at the meeting. Each topic shall be listed under an agenda item on the meeting agenda.

It seems to me that we don’t follow this law much of the time. Stan wrote that:

I feel my responsibility to bring back that information and share it with the council.  I have tried to do that during council meetings when all the council is present and we can share comments

Exactly right, Stan! Congratulations for doing this in open meetings where people who care enough to go to the meeting can be aware of it. (And where another person – me – can write it up for the rest of Springdale!!)

But an even better solution … and one that would actually give you (Mayor Stan) the opportunity to say it the way you want people to hear it – instead of just the way I write it … would be to take advantage of the Internet and let people know what’s happening in a “public and accountable” Internet forum. As I’ve documented in other articles here, that’s completely legal because an Internet forum is not a meeting.

End of side channel discussion

There were only four of us left at the very end of the council meeting when Mayor Stan suddenly remembered, “I have something else that is really important.” I have to agree.

<Stan>I met last week sometime with Mike Marriott and a consultant for that group …

<Rick>Oh yeah, that’s something that needs talking about.

<Stan>… concerning a conference center that … including Zion Park and Hampton and a third hotel that they would like to build.

I actually went to the trouble of writing a transcript of the entire discussion to be as accurate as I could be in reporting it.

<Stan>What that group would like to propose to the town is they would like for the town to give them 1.7 million dollars to build a conference center <inaudible> Zion Park Inn sits here, Hilton sits here, and there is a <inaudible> standalone grouping, 10,000 square feet, so it wouldn’t be adjoining to the hotel.

<Kathy><laughing>We can’t give the town <inaudible>

<Stan>Well, I told them that.

The Hampton Group is pitching this to the town as a way to actually gain greater revenue for the town due to “increased revenue through sales tax and TRT benefits”. It appears that it would not compete with the larger conference center in St. George because, according to Rick, “a 10,000 foot conference center would only compete in the three to five hundred people category and it was ‘pretty small fish’ compared with St. George.” Rick said that as a purely financial matter, it might be a good deal for Springdale.

If you’re seeing red and starting to steam out of the ears, be aware that Stan recognizes that a lot of the “people who just live here” might not welcome a conference center in Springdale whether it’s small fish or not. It seems to me that in last year’s survey, people wanted development in Springdale to slow down.

<Stan>I just wanted you to know that I’m meeting with that group <inaudible> but they better have a good PR man because it’s going to take a lot to convince the town people that’s the best thing for this town.

You might also be aware that we might not have a lot of choice because the consent agreement that governs the use of the land probably gives them the right to build it whether Springdale agrees or not.

Springdale Town Council – 14 May 2014

In every meeting that I go to, I’m impressed with the intelligent and hardworking people we’re fortunate to have running this town. Seriously! You find out just how much work these people put into a job that they volunteered for. We should all be grateful for the hard work they do for us and for Springdale … and I am.

More and more people are showing up for these meetings. All of 19 people were present as Mayor Stan brought the gavel down and a few came in after that. We welcomed Kathy back too. I haven’t seen this many people since the last time the dog ordinance was revised. But only four of us lasted until the end! And two of those were Roxy and me. (Thanks, Roxy)

In announcements, Jim Milestone, our ‘temporary’ Zion Park superintendent turned out to be temporary after all. Cindy Purcell will be filling in until we get another one.

OC Tanner is Hot This Summer

The new “face of the amphitheater” Mary Stephenson was at the meeting to talk about all the great stuff that will be happening at the OC Tanner Amphitheater this summer. They have a great website at – Check it out!

According to Mary, there will be a performance on almost every weekend this summer. She also said that all post office box holders in Springdale, Rockville, and Virgin (That’s the Zion Canyon Community – ZiCC!!) should have received a ticket to one event. Roxy and I didn’t get one! When I called Mary to confirm the details, she said that if you didn’t get one either, she would be happy to send one to box holders.

Utah Symphony is Coming

Mary said that a free “Mighty 5” performance by the Utah Symphony would be held at the OC Tanner Amphitheater. The concert will be on August 16. (Mary said “August 18” during the meeting. That was an error.) Mighty 5 is a marketing campaign for the five Utah national parks. They have a website just for this concert series at (I love the picture of Thierry Fischer, Music Director of the Utah Symphony. It reminds me of our own Mark Chambers in a tux.) The details about this are a little sketchy because the performance is still three months away but we SHOULD be able to pick up our free tickets at a Zions Bank starting July 1.

The Cash Citations Audit is Done

In the August 8, 1012 Town Council meeting, (Yep – almost two years ago) the council voted to require an outside audit of “collection of cash bail practices and procedures”. Starting in February, I have been asking if it was done yet. According to Rick, it’s done now. Congratulations, Rick!

Will the audit be available online anywhere? (All of the state audits are available online.)

(I’ll bet that I’ll have to ask this question in a “community question” to get an answer since it won’t be answered here. But I’d love to be wrong.)

Fiber Optic Internet Might Be Coming

In January, Mayor Stan said that it would be a top priority for him to get fiber optic Internet service in Springdale. So I stood up during “community questions” and asked how that priority was coming along.

Mayor Stan had an excellent reply. (See what can happen when you show up and speak up?)

According to Stan, he has been in discussions with several entities to make this happen. He said that a private foundation and First Digital have offered to underwrite the cost of installing fiber.

Stan got a round of applause.

(I debated with myself about whether to bring this up. … I lost. My techie roots won.
In my “community question”, I asked about “broadband”. Mayor Stan corrected me.
Hmmm … According to their website, First Digital only offers “broadband”. In fact, I didn’t see where they mention “fiber” since that’s just one way to provide a “broadband” level of service. Many Springdale residents already have very acceptable “broadband” service and according to the definition used by Utah, all of us do. I still think MY Internet service sucks … SUCKS !! But it’s the only service I can get.)

Stan cautioned us that the deal wasn’t done yet. Listening carefully to my recording of the meeting, I think I can hear someone wondering out loud, “Why would they do that?”
Good question!!

Stan then mentioned that the proposal on the table right now might involve a contract where everyone in Springdale might have to pay a fee – Stan mentioned $25 to $50 a month – for their service whether they use it or not.

The round of applause stopped.

First Digital’s business model is providing “bundled products and services … for voice, data and dedicated Internet access” (quote from their web site). In other words, we agree to walk into their paradise and then they lock the door.

Actually, I think Stan is doing a very good thing here and I’m really glad to see that he’s investigating these kinds of alternatives. The fact is that neither big government nor big corporations are EVER going to help Springdale join this century’s technology. If we want it, we’re going to have to pay for it ourselves.

Back in the 1930’s during the Roosevelt administration, the country created the REA – Rural Electrification Administration – because we understood that we were one country and we all needed electricity to succeed together. Telephone, water, sewer were also recognized as basic utilities where it didn’t make sense to turn the job over to predatory capitalists whose only motivation is to join the 1%.

Times have changed.

Most other developed countries have now realized that Internet service is also one of those basic services … but the US has not. So Springdale will continue to have rotten Internet service until we decide to do something about it ourselves. (You can read more about this problem in my article: American Exceptionalism.) This is why Paul Allen’s Sanctuary Ranch is providing their own service (and nobody else’s). It’s everybody for themselves today and the Devil take the hind most.

Stan is just recognizing the facts of the matter and if we’re wise, we will band together and do a deal with somebody. First Digital may, or may not, be the one. But it’s good that Stan is talking to them. And Stan reminded us that so far, nothing has been done. Our options are still open.

The Rest of the Story

This was a really significant council meeting. At this point, the council hadn’t even started the regular agenda and 80% of the meeting was still in front of us. There were three huge issues that took the rest of the time.

  • Rockville / Springdale Fire Protection District

Changes are a-coming! Believe it.

  • Smoke!

Should Springdale try harder to regulate it?

  • A BIG NEW Conference Center for Springdale?

This one was a surprise entry at the very end of the meeting.

In the past, I’ve squeezed all of the issues into one report and that has made some of those reports v-e-r-y   l-o-n-g. I’m going to make an exception this time. To do a better job of writing this report, to keep you from dying of boredom, and to do some added research, I’m going to try to cover all of these in separate reports.

Stay Tuned !!

Springdale Planning Commission – 6 May 2014

(Questions for Springdale are answered now.)

There are a few out-of-towners who read this report. For all of you, the weather has turned coolish here in ZiCC. It would be great if some of this cool weather could be saved for next August.

But that ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve been going to this meeting for over seven years now and it’s good to see that more people are showing up!! There were nine people present as Chairman Joe brought the meeting to order and only Stew Ferber was there because he had to be.

Come to the Community Discussion on Thursday!

By far, the most important announcement was the community discussion that will take place on Thursday at 7:00 at the CCC. You should come if at all possible. You will be able to eat ice cream, wander around, and talk to commissioners. I certainly plan on being there!

Stew Ferber’s application for a sign permit wasn’t approved in the last meeting and he was there in person to argue his case this time. He had changed his sign proposal to meet the town’s requirements so there was no problem and it was quickly approved. But while he had the floor, he pointed out that his La Quinta resort had improved the town’s image so much that construction has exploded! Stew! I’m not sure you’re doing your case any good when you say that. Read the town survey. Most of the “people who just live here” would like development to slow down.

Stew also said that the Quality Inn head office had finally thrown in the towel and told him to make the colors of their sign anything that works in Springdale.
Score: Springdale: 1, Quality Inn: 0. Congratulations, Springdale!

Town Infrastructure

As you talk to other people in Springdale, you hear a lot of questions about whether the town’s infrastructure – water, sewage – is really adequate. Thomas Jorgensen from Sunrise Engineering was there with a really great presentation and ‘most’ of the answers to our questions. (More on this at the end of this section.) This was also the reason for the good turnout. Most folks left when the presentation was over.

The presentation wasn’t on the town web site so Tom Dansie was kind enough to convert it to a PDF and send it to me so I could post it on my site. You can access the presentation here.

Springdale’s infrastructure is based on a 2008 master plan that was prepared by Sunrise Engineering. The complete presentation was way too detailed to cover here, but here are some things that caught my attention. I really recommend that you check out the slide show at the link above.

  • Hotels use a lot more water than “people who just live here”. Check out this graph from the presentation:

SpringdaleWaterUseThe next time you hear about how these poor overtaxed and underappreciated hotels pay for everything, look at this graph again. Randy Taylor asked if all the new hotels that had come online in the last year had spiked water use upward. Thomas said he didn’t know.

According to Sunrise Engineering, the town is generally OK in terms of how much water we own and can get from our water sources. I happened to have an interesting meeting with some ZiCC people earlier in the week and one very knowledgeable person pointed out (again … this isn’t new information) that planning in Southern Utah is based on “wet” years that simply aren’t normal years. This person said that they had asked Tom in a recent meeting if the town had a plan to deal with a situation where there just isn’t enough water to go around. (The rest of Washington County pretty much depends on the Virgin too.) I raised my hand and asked if the town had a plan to deal with not enough water. Tom said the town had a “conservation” plan but no plan like that. Maybe we should?

  • The first crunch point in our infrastructure will come when the water treatment plant can’t keep up anymore. Sunrise estimates that may happen in 2024. Tom said that the town council was aware and making plans.
  • Two hotels in Springdale don’t have fire sprinkler systems! That isn’t in the presentation linked above. It was part of what Thomas said. Stew (who would know) said, “There are a lot more than that!” Thomas said these were the only “large” hotels. Las Vegas upgraded their code only after 85 people were killed in the third most deadly American hotel fire in 1980. An exemption from normal sprinkler system rules was a major cause. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • The old 12 inch sewer pipe is scheduled to be dug up and replaced with newer 15 inch pipe from approximately Bill Weyher’s house on down to the lagoons sometime in the future. The presentation has a map showing the route.

There was also one population chart that I thought was interesting because it contrasts Springdale, Rockville, and the Park.


Wow! Just Wow!

Although a few of the people there asked questions, like Chairman Joe, I believe that the meeting needs to be structured and controlled. (I was chairman once. That gives a person perspective.) The chair really does have the right and the responsibility to control the meeting and I respect that. So rather than just interrupting, I raised my hand and asked if the chair would allow community questions.

Chairman Joe said, “No.”

He explained that I could ask my questions in a few days at the community discussion. I pointed out that nothing is on the record there because it’s not an official meeting. (This will become important in a later article that I plan to write in response to an email I received from Tom Dansie about official meetings.) Chairman Joe said that didn’t matter.

There’s a huge gap in Chairman Joe’s understanding of what the words, “public and accountable” mean and what I think they mean. Anyway, Chairman Joe was in charge and I respect that.

But if I could have asked questions, these are the questions I would have asked. (Color coding is explained below.)

  • Does the town have any plan to require sprinkler fire suppression in all transient lodging?
    Fire sprinkler suppression is governed by the Fire Code. The Fire District is responsible for enforcing the Fire Code. I believe the Fire Code currently requires all new transient lodging to have fire sprinklers. You should clarify this with the Fire Marshal.
    In my own time on the commission, I learned that the Fire Marshal operates with quite a bit of independence. Nevertheless, the fact that we may be “playing with fire” came as a shock to me. I’m not going to pursue this anymore, but it seems to me to be something that somebody ought to be thinking about.
  • Do we have a problem with water quality? No. There was nothing in the presentation about that. Rockville has recently had trouble because their water exceeded Utah’s requirement for arsenic and Springdale has had the same problem in the past. According to, “your local water utility is required by law to provide a report on all contaminants and toxins found in your local drinking water.”
    Tom’s reply was pretty brief! In addition to Rockville, I know that St. George had to have an exemption from the state’s arsenic standards for years. (It’s documented in public minutes on the web. The minutes also say that Rick, our Town Manager, goes to those meetings.)
    I really don’t think we do have a problem, but it would be nice to know more detail.
  • According to the presentation, we use 175-250 gallons of water per person per day but the sewage lagoon only treats 100 gallons. Does that mean that about half the water disappears somewhere? Where?
    These questions are best answered by the Town Engineer.
    I’m sure Tom is right. I just thought it was curious and I wondered if there was an answer. This is a good example of how “conversation” can simply make everyone feel a bit more “in the know” about what’s going on. Doing it this way is pretty awkward. It would have been a lot less trouble and it would have felt natural in the meeting. But this method is the only way I have been able to get any kind of conversation going.
    10 May Update
    I had a conversation with commissioner Taylor at the Farmer’s Market today. (Randy is my neighbor.) He was curious too, so he asked the Town Engineer. (It’s permissible to talk, but it’s not permissible to post text in a forum so I’m posting this for him.) The difference is the units. The sewage lagoon is per person and the water use is per residence. If a residence has an average of 2.5 persons, then they’re exactly the same.
  • How often is the wastewater treatment system inspected?
    The water is tested each time it is discharged into the river. The Town discharges water into the river only a few times per year.
    If, for example, one of the disinfecting UV units stops working, would an alarm go off? How would anyone know?
    The UV units are used only when discharging water in to the river. Water is tested during discharge, and UV lights are physically monitored during this process.
    This falls into the “I didn’t know that!” category. I thought water was discharged and they operated more or less continuously. Again, it would have been nice to just dispense with a curiosity question in a few minutes.
  • How much have the new hotels built since 2013 increased water use?
    We can compare total water usage in the Town from 2012 to 2013 to get an idea of the difference in total water usage pre- and post-hotel development. We can also look at actual water use at the two hotel properties to see exactly how much water each used. If you are interested in this detailed information you should submit a GRAMA request to Fay.
    This was Randy’s question and I still think it’s a good one.
    This is something that the town probably should be monitoring because I know that a lot of “people who just live here” wonder the same thing. But a GRAMA request will not be submitted unless somebody else wants to do it. At least you know that it could be done now.

In an email exchange (partly quoted in Sunday Sermon: When is a Meeting Not a Meeting?), Tom agreed to a plan where I could ask questions in an email (but not here) and he would answer them. Then I can post his answers in an addendum to this article. We’ll see how well that works!

Addendum: It’s working pretty good. Tom did answer my questions. Tom’s answers are in blue above and a few additional comments from me are in green. 

Sign Ordinance

True to my prediction in the planning commission report for 15 April, the sign ordinance was on the agenda again.

Joe (suggested) that the sign ordinance should be added to the agenda in some future meeting. This brought to mind last week’s council meeting. Mark Chambers was interested in bringing up exactly the same thing (and was also told that it wasn’t on the agenda). The council seemed to agree with Shauna Young who said that the sign ordinance had been beat to death and we didn’t need to drag it out again. But since both Mark and Joe seem to want it revised, I predict that we’ll see it on a future agenda whether it’s been “beat to death” or not.

Watching the commission go around and around in circles on this in this meeting really brought back memories. I was part of the commission that beat it to death the first time. I wish them luck this time.


Tom did a really good thing by providing a great reference for municipal regulation of solar power.

The Town Council recently voted to join the American Solar Transformation Initiative (ASTI). The goal of the ASTI is (to) advance the development of solar power adoption in municipalities throughout the United States. Learn more about the ASTI here:

By joining the ASTU the Town has access to resources to help craft our proposed solar ordinance. The Council has asked the Commission to take advantage of the resources the ASTI has available for drafting solar ordinances.

The following link contains information regarding solar ordinances developed by the ASTI partners. It provides ideas for solar power regulation and contains a model ordinance language for solar ordinances. Please review this information in preparation of re-addressing the pending solar ordinance.

The problem, according to commissioner Randy Taylor, is that the model ordinance language was “pushing” solar rather than “fitting it into our community”. I attended a lunch with some community minded people recently. One of the main things they were concerned about is that Springdale wasn’t “pushing” solar nearly enough and I agree.

I’ve written about solar power here. We need much, much more of it and we should be pushing it.

Sunday Sermon – Climate Change and Solar Power

Solar and Springdale

As I wrote earlier, “If no groundswell of opposition in the structured meetings where these decisions are made is seen, then Springdale will soon have rules that outlaw most solar panels.” The community discussion on Thursday will be a great place to express your point of view.