ST. GEORGE – A zone change allowing for the construction of a Jiffy Lube near the Virgin River was approved in a St. George City Council meeting by a 3-2 vote Thursday. Council members said the vote was not easy, particularly after hearing concerns from area residents about possible environmental issues.
A public hearing was held during a regular meeting of the City Council Thursday to discuss the potential approval of a zone change for a .66 acre piece of land at 1450 South and River Road. The requested zone change comes in connection with the Boulder Creek Commons and Boulder Creek Crossing developments of Shefco and its representative Stephen Sheffield. It would allow for the inclusion of a Jiffy Lube in the development, something which doesn’t sit well with some residents living near that location.
The Jiffy Lube was a lengthy topic of discussion during a planning commission meeting in January in which recommendation for approval of the zone change had been tabled. Primary concerns put forth by residents at the January meeting focused on environmental protection. Those concerns were echoed in last night’s meeting, expressing worry that a Jiffy Lube, which specializes in changing vehicle motor oil, has the potential to contaminate the nearby Virgin River.
Some residents pointed to the location of the proposed Jiffy Lube as being in a potential flood plain and geologically unsound area. If another major flood or earthquake hits, what’s to keep the motor oil from contaminating the Virgin River?
Along with environmental concerns, there were also concerns about the Jiffy Lube facility ruining the aesthetics of the area. One resident compared the potential sight of a motor oil shop to the scar on the Black Hill.
“It’s our river and it’s the only one we’ve got,” another resident told the City Council. He said that if the council approveds the zone change, they will be setting a dangerous precedence and open the door to ruining the river.
Shane Smoot, an environmental attorney representing Jiffy Lube, told the council that claims of environmental threats to the area were distorted and not based in fact. Jiffy Lube is an environmentally friendly company he said, and all the motor oil used by the shop would be recycled.
Addressing the likelihood of the motor oil being released into the environment, Smoot said: “It’s extremely remote. I don’t know how it would happen.”
He said the motor oil will be kept in a sealed vault just beneath the Jiffy Lube. The vault is surrounded by 10-inch thick concrete, he said.
“Motor oil is dramatically different from gasoline,” Smoot said. If the motor oil happened to escape containment, it wouldn’t get that far. Unlike gasoline, which flows quite freely and can spread anywhere, motor oil tends to pool by where it is spilled or leaked.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons of motor are expected to be stored on site.
As for visibility of the Jiffy Lube, Smoot said they were already working to put a hedge and trees around the property to obstruct some of the view of the facility for neighboring residents.
There were requests from the residents that the council propose Jiffy Lube relocate to a spot away from the river. Smoot said the company had already invested $500,000 on the current property.
“This is a tough, tough issue for me,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said. He said that though he has a dislike for certain environmental restraints, he also has a deep respect for the Virgin River.
“I’m not sure anything right there is a good idea,” Councilwoman Michele Randall said.
The City Council collectively stated the decision of voting on the zone change was not an easy one.
City Councilman Gil Almquist was the first to recommend a motion to approve the zone change. After a long, silent pause that left some council members looking at each other, Hughes finally seconded the motion.
City Councilmen Almquist, Hughes, and Joe Bowcutt voted to approve the zone change. Councilwomen Randall and Bette Arial voted against it.
The Boulder Creek Commons and Crossing developments are located on the east and west sides of River Road, respectively, containing approximately 21.08 acres of land. Concerns of neighbors and others were brought and addressed at the Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 21, minutes of which are attached as a resource below.
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