IVINS — Three of the five members of Ivins City Council were new at Ivins City Hall Thursday night, and it didn’t take long for them to make their presence known over a matter of whether the city should take over a private road in Kayenta that has fallen in disrepair.

Ivins City Council member Lance Anderson, representing the developer of Kayenta, debates how much of the bill the developer should foot the repairs to Kwavasa Drive during the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 4, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Ultimately, the council unanimously approved, with one abstention due to conflict, an agreement for the city to take over and improve a 50-foot portion of Kwavasa Drive between Paiute Drive and Kayenta Parkway.

The approval came after more than an hour of debate over whether the developers of Kayenta should be footing more of the bill for road improvements.

While private, the stretch of road has come under heavy public use as a link between Old Dixie Highway 91, Center Street and the Kayenta Art Village. The road is currently maintained by Kayenta and not the city.

Kayenta developers, led by founder Terry Marten, had said they were willing to donate the stretch of road to the city, but would not be footing the full bill for repairs.

The estimated cost to repair the road is $50,000, of which Kayenta said — along with donating the area at no cost — would contribute $5,000 toward the costs in return for the city acquiring the road and maintaining it in the future.

In a report, city staff said they were told that if the council did not accept the acquisition and repair agreement, Kayenta would close the stretch of road in what city staff described as a “threat.” That wording concerned new City Council member Sharon Gillespie.

“I’m not a fan of conversation that goes that way,” Gillespie said, noting that the road is dangerous and in need of repair and Kayenta should pay more of the repair bill.

“What concerns me about this is the lack of partnership financially,” she said. “If it goes that way (road closure), the only ones they would be hurting is themselves because there’s other ways to get in and out of Kayenta.”

(L-R) Ivins City Council members Mike Scott, Kevin Smith, Mayor Chris Hart and Council members Sharon Barton and Sharon Gillespie at the Council’s meeting, Ivins, Utah, Jan 5, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Gillespie, Kevin Smith, and Sharon Barton were sworn in at the start of the meeting after being elected in November, joining existing council members Mike Scott and Lance Anderson.

Anderson recused himself from the road debate, as he is one of the developers of Kayenta. But he still took the other side of the dias to represent the developer and say the $5,000 offer was generous.

“It’s not a threat. It’s just realistic. We have to close it down if we can’t get it fixed,” Anderson said, adding the stretch of asphalt was being mischaracterized as a road.

“This isn’t a private road,” he said. “It’s a piece of property that we’re dedicating to the city. If the city doesn’t want to fix it, that’s fine. We’re not giving you a road, we’re giving you a right of way. What you do with it is up to you. I want to get it done for our citizens. That’s why I’m pushing for this.”

Council member Scott disagreed with Anderson’s assessment that the portion of Kwavasa being donated was not an actual road.

“When I look at it, it’s a road. That’s what’s there. No one is going to look at it and say that’s a right of way,” Scott said, noting city ordinances that the acquisition of private roads falls under should be a process that includes public hearings and also be delivered in a condition adherent to city standards.

Mayor Chris Hart said it should be taken into account many of the roads in the area that Kayenta has maintained without city work or expense and that the “developer is not obligated to do anything with that road.”

Potholes on a private stretch of Kwavasa Drive being acquired by the city of Ivins, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 5, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“It boils down to the city is eventually going to get this right of way so the question is … is it better to repair now or dig in our heels and decide whether it will be up to (the_ developer,” Hart said. “We have no leverage any more that we could tell a farmer they need to repair the ruts on your driveway to get to your door.”

Scott then proposed that rather than Kayenta contributing $5,000, it can pay the $3,000 fee for a proposal to be heard in a public hearing. Anderson said from the audience that the issue should not be voted on.

“Just take it off the agenda,” Anderson said. “It’s not worth it.”

Smith, who had been silent, weighed in with a possible compromise. 

“It comes down to a negotiation now,” Smith said. “The city says $5,000 is too little and the developer says $50,000 is too much. Is there a happy medium so we can get this done?”

Anderson then indicated that was also a non-starter.

“Technically we’re giving away 50 feet of right of way already,” Anderson said. “Personally, he (Marten) shouldn’t pay anything because he’s already done more than any other development.”

After an additional back and forth, Hart called for a motion. And Scott said ultimately he would have to vote for the deal to acquire the road, and the price tag, because of concerns for public safety, including the ability of first responders to traverse the pothole-filled road.

A pothole on a private stretch of Kwavasa Drive being acquired by the city of Ivins, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 5, 2024 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“The road is valuable to public safety and it’s not safe right now,” Scott said. “I personally think the city shouldn’t be paying the cost of repair, but for public safety, I move to accept the agreement.”

In other business at the meeting, Scott was unanimously selected by his fellow council members as the mayor pro-tem of Ivins, replacing Dennis Mehr who chose last November not to run again for City Council.

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