Last year alone, a colossal 4.5 million hikers and explorers traveled from around the world to adventure through the wonders of the steep, red rock cliffs within Zion National Park—and they didn’t leave empty-handed. Stocked up with souvenirs and other goods, they left the park and its surrounding communities with money well spent. From guided adventure tours, lodging, or even just gasoline, it’s clear how high traffic areas can profit from the thriving tourist base that Zion attracts.
For Springdale, a small town bordering the park’s southern entrance, business is booming during peak seasons. But just down the road lies the small town of Rockville where economic stimulus falls far behind. Location isn’t their problem, but rather the constraints the government has forced upon them through regulation.
Rockville residents are missing out on this economic opportunity because their town council has made it illegal for businesses to operate within their borders. Rockville’s general plan, adopted in 1997, reaffirms the ban but states “commercial activities may be allowed only as conditional uses within specified areas.” This essentially means that exceptions may be granted, but only in limited circumstances determined by the town council. For potential business owners, this isn’t good news.
It’s clear that Rockville aims to preserve its small town agricultural integrity without disruption of a community lifestyle by outside interests looking to make a buck. In southern Utah, this sentiment is carried strong throughout many small towns—but most have been successful in preservation without a full on ban of commercial industry. They have recognized that although agriculture is well and good, it simply cannot provide the number of jobs and economic stimulus that even small towns need to flourish. In fact, many of Rockville residents have recognized this too.
The town’s most recent resident survey conducted in 2015 found that 40% of the property owners feel the town’s land use code should become more flexible as to allow for more commercial businesses and less restrictions on existing businesses and rental properties. These residents see the potential in allowing business growth which would promote prosperity and financial security for generations to come.
State law clearly says that the purpose of land ordinances is to “promote prosperity and foster industry,” which is the exact opposite of what Rockville’s laws permit. They’re not only turning their back on state policy, but also on the League of Cities and Towns, of which they are a member. In 2017, the League adopted a resolution stating their support for economic development with a commitment of its members to “collaborate” with the business community and “pursue a broad range of future economic development opportunities.” Rockville has apparently ignored this commitment.
The town’s unwillingness to support economic growth through business and commercial activity depresses the tax base and has created a reliance on state and county funds for a majority of the town’s budget to date. It has even forced individuals to leave their city to buy groceries and access services that aren’t provided for, resulting in little sales tax support staying within their town limits.
Due to its prime location, Rockville has an economic opportunity which many cities are not afforded. They should take advantage of this privilege rather than outright ignoring it and pushing it away. Rockville may still choose to keep in place some location and operation limits, as many cities do, but a complete prohibition of commercial activity is doing more harm than good for everyone in the town.