The owners of Ruby's Inn and residents of the gateway community at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park will know this week if the Garfield County Commission approves its petition to become Utah's newest city — Bryce Canyon City.
"They are on the agenda for Monday," said County Commission chairman Maloy Dodds. "We're either going to have to approve it or deny it. I'm not sure what we'll do, but I don't think we can get around it."
Rod Syrett and his siblings own Ruby's Inn, a 200-acre resort that began humbly enough as a family homestead in 1916. The family is seeking the change, which would incorporate the town.
"This was always kind of his dream," Syrett said of his grandfather, Ruby Syrett, who homesteaded the remote area. "He had that in his mind."
Syrett said the family first tried to organize the resort into a town with the help of other property and business owners in the area two years ago. That application was withdrawn after a couple of people backed out of the idea, he said.
"So we submitted an application on our own," he said. "We're really excited about it."
The County Commission opposes the move, which became possible through a new state law passed during the last hours of the 2007 legislative session.
"(Legislators) took the power away from the county," said Dodds. "It's kind of strange how a private business can become a town."
The new law requires counties to grant approvals for incorporations of towns between 100 and 1,000 residents and, according to the Utah Population Estimates Committee, the proposed town of Bryce Canyon City has 138 residents.
"Bryce Canyon City represents a unique situation (in which) a population estimate was produced before the official incorporation," said Michael Mower, state planning coordinator and chairman of the Utah Population Estimates Committee. "Because of the growth and expansion in this gateway community, it was necessary for the committee to verify that Bryce Canyon City does indeed fulfill the population requirements to become a town."
The incorporation of Bryce Canyon City would allow the Syretts to retain most of the $300,000 in sales tax revenue generated by its businesses that have been paid to the county. Bryce Canyon City could also impose a 1 percent resort tax, which could raise another $650,000, according to Dodds.
"We are going to have to raise the county's portion of taxes by about 75 percent to replace the loss of that revenue," he said. "Every resident is going to have to pay about $50 more a year in taxes."
The commercial base in the county would also see a similar increase in its county tax bill, Dodds said.
"Every business will be paying more. I think down the road they're going to put some hotels and motels out of business," he added. We have the second largest senior population per capita in the state. Fifty dollars is going to mean something to them."
Syrett said he's waited a long time to see his grandfather's dream come true.
"I don't feel like me, my family and employees are second-class citizens," he said, adding once the resort becomes a town everyone living there can have a physical address, something that's been lacking. "Every town had to be started somehow, and we're going to continue to grow."
After the petition is granted, the Garfield County Commission must review a list of candidates and appoint the town's first mayor and five-member city council. Syrett said he didn't put his name in the pot, but it's there anyway.
"They'll probably make me mayor just so they can say, 'See what you got yourself into,"' he said.