Washington City Council rejects proposal to develop botanical gardens at Boiling Springs

Posted at 7:45 PM, Jun 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-12 21:45:00-04

WASHINGTON CITY, Utah - Organizers of a group that wants to preserve a Washington County warm spring say they’re not giving up.

Wednesday, the city council rejected a proposed development agreement that would have built a botanical garden around the spring.

This is the second time the nonprofit Boiling Springs Ecoseum and Desert Reserve has approached the city council with a proposal. The group’s executive director, Nicole Warner, said she thought they’d worked out any concerns Washington City Council members had.

“We structured an agreement where the city had no chance of losing,” Warner said. “It was our intent to partner with the city because this is the model that’s used all across the country for municipalities. They partner in public gardens, in zoos, in museums.”

Still, the council voted down the proposal in a 3-2 vote. Council member Jeff Turek was among the dissenters. He said the proposal didn’t protect the investment of the community.

“The citizens have quite a large investment up there in property,” Turek said. “You have to look at costs, versus return on those costs and make sure your taxpayers and those taxpayer dollars are being protected. And in my opinion, they were not.”

The ecoseum group proposes building a $50 million complex around the warm spring that would include a public garden, a botanical conservatory, outdoor classrooms and a trail system. The agreement requested the city lease the land to the group for $1 a year for 99 years. The group claimed the economic benefit to the community would make up for the initial cost to set it up. Tureck said it wasn’t fair to ask the taxpayer to take that risk.

The Boiling Springs are already slated as a future public park in the city’s master plan, and Tureck said the council in general has no issue with what is proposed-- they just want to draft an agreement that is more mutually beneficial.

“I agree, it would be a cool, great thing,” Turek said. “But not at the cost of the citizens.”

Warner says they’re already looking at different options to develop the land, even if it means raising the money to buy the property outright.

More information on the group’s plan can be found here.