St. George, Utah has many characteristics that make the city a magnet for retirees, new businesses, and families. I grew up there, a proud resident of the Bloomington neighborhood. However, St. George may be one of the worst cities to move to in the U.S. Nostalgia keeps me coming back to St. George, but nostalgia will not be enough for newcomers. With economic troubles, population issues, climate dilemmas, and cultural quirks, here are seventeen reasons not to move to St. George.
17. It’s Growing Too Fast
St. George is growing too fast for the city to handle. The large majority of its new residents are from out-of-state, fleeing areas of the country where Covid-19 is more prevalent. These new residents come from states where income is higher, like California, and they’re willing to spend more money than Utahns. Properties are being snatched up and new homes built, driving prices through the roof.
In 2021, the median sales price for a home in St. George was $500,000. The St. George average for homes the year before was only $380,000. The housing market in Washington Country isn’t expected to go down any time soon, and the rest of Utah is following the pattern of St. George.
16. It’s Spread Out
Because St. George is growing so fast, the expansion of the city has been relatively unregulated. The city isn’t built for easy travel, with roads that zig-zag in and out of neighborhoods and limited highways. There are almost no main travel streets in the city. It’s a twenty-five-minute drive from one end of the city to the other, sixteen miles. And that’s without traffic.
Stores are far away from one another, instead of grouped together. St. George seems to have several different downtown areas, all with different shopping and food options. Running errands in St. George takes twice as long as usual, with the dry cleaner on one side of the town and the grocery store on the other.
15. Bad Traffic
Traffic is terrible in St. George. The city can’t keep up with building new roads and highways, meaning the streets are packed. Everything is under construction- roads, buildings, highways, homes, and schools. The city wasn’t prepared for the large influx of people and the roads weren’t prepared to hold the number of cars. Expect a grocery run to take a while, and don’t forget anything on your list. Get used to the famous red dust of St. George everywhere, especially in the cracks of your car. Construction crews constantly disturb the earth, sending plumes of red dust into the air all over the city.
14. Sports Tournaments
The amount of residents alone doesn’t make the traffic bad. St. George’s warm weather year-round makes it the host city for sports tournaments in Utah. Anytime a baseball or soccer tournament is scheduled in St. George, the hotels fill to capacity, the roads become clogged, and restaurants are packed. St. George is famously family-oriented; most of the visitors are families from Utah and the surrounding states. There are children everywhere during sports tournaments. Pools and playgrounds around the city will be crowded.
Sports seasons aren’t the only time St. George is packed with people. The city’s gorgeous landscapes and close proximity to U.S. National Parks like Zion keep tourists coming back year after year. Buses filled with tourists overwhelm restaurants and hotels. Zion National Park in the summer starts to resemble Disneyland, with trams full of visitors and food prices sky-high.
Springdale, the town outside of Zion, has no available hotel rooms and the price for a burger can reach $15. Permits are required for many hikes so trails aren’t overcrowded. By the time the tourists are gone and locals have the national park to themselves again, the weather is too cold for exploring.
12. Stopping Point for Traveling and Shipping
The sports tournament attendees and tourists already push St. George to its limit, but that doesn’t stop cross-country travelers and shipping providers from using the city as a stopping point. Mass amounts of semi-trucks stop for the night at St. George’s rest stops and drivers can eat full meals at the grocery stores morphed with gas stations. After a long drive through the Mojave desert, road trippers make St. George their stop for the night. Their only other option is Las Vegas, two hours away, with its exorbitant prices and family-unfriendly visitors. All these one-night visitors clog the city and fill parking lots with semi-trucks.
11. Middle of Nowhere
Las Vegas might be two hours away, but St. George has no other neighboring cities to boast of. If you can’t find the business you need in St. George, Las Vegas is the next best option. The towns around St. George are small, Cedar City among the largest with a mere 32,000 people. The St. George Target is the only one in a hundred miles, and it’s picked over. Good luck finding that shirt in your size.
Being in the middle of nowhere is what makes St. George a center point for national park visitors. But the landscape of those national parks can be dangerous. St. George experiences flooding, a surprising issue for a desert city. Southern Utah, especially in St. George’s Washington County, is known for flash floods that come suddenly and violently, sometimes taking lives. In 2005, St. George was hit by a massive flood locally known as the ‘hundred-year flood,’ which destroyed homes and left many without power and water for days. Don’t build a home near the river, which looks like a small creek until a flash flood hits and it quickly becomes the Mississippi.
9. Too Dry
The floods come sporadically, but the desert climate is constant in St. George. The city is nearly always in drought. Residents are encouraged to conserve water and green lawns don’t thrive. That dryness means nearly nothing grows but cacti and tumbleweed. The city has planted trees and some water sources have plants near them, but most plants can’t live in the heat. St. George has to fight for water as the city becomes larger and its current water sources are depleted.
8. Too Hot
St. George is far too hot. In the winter, this heat is welcoming. However, winter doesn’t last long. Summer temperatures in St. George average over 100 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night. Don’t bother trying to lower your air conditioning bill- you’ll die of heatstroke. If you decide to live in St. George, you’ll need a pool to keep cool in the summer. Maintenance of a pool is expensive, not to mention the initial cost of building one. Temperatures get too low for swimming in the winter, so you’ll need a hot tub (another expense) if you still want to swim.
7. Dangerous Wildlife
St. George may not have bugs problems like other areas of the country, but the bugs are still nasty. Mosquitoes and ticks aren’t an issue here, but scorpions and tarantulas are. Scorpions sneak into cracks in homes and are difficult to kill. Their sting is actually quite dangerous. Venomous spiders, like the Desert Recluse and Black Window, live underground and in dark crevices in homes. Their bite can be deadly to small children. Pest control can solve the problem but is rather expensive and the chemicals are also dangerous to children.
Tarantulas are less dangerous, with nontoxic venom, but finding one in your home is unsettling and a bit terrifying. Their yearly migration through Southern Utah might mean arachnophobic people may find St. George to be overrun with giant spiders.
St. George also has rattlesnakes. These snakes are as dangerous as their reputation suggests. Their venom is fatal to humans. Immediate medical attention is required for a rattlesnake bite and treatments may include surgery and a long recovery. Not only do rattlesnakes thrive in St. George, but there are also nearly seven different species in the area. Unlike bugs, there is no pest control for snakes. Watch where you step and protect your ankles.
6. Nuclear Fallout
If the climate and wildlife don’t deter you from moving to St. George, the nuclear fallout will. In the 1950s, the U.S. Government tested nuclear bombs in the desert near St. George. Many of the bombs tested were larger than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. The radiation from the bomb tests reached 60,000 people and at least 19 different kinds of cancer have been identified among the victims.
This article gives details about compensation for the victims and the effects of the bomb testing on the southern Utah community. While nuclear bombs are not being tested today, Utah does have a nuclear waste disposal site and will be home to nuclear power plants within the next ten years.
5. “Mormons” Are Everywhere
This may not be an issue for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints relocating to St. George. But for those unfamiliar with the Church, a word of caution. Nearly 70% of the St. George population belongs to the “Mormon” church, with most of the rest of the population without a religious affiliation.
Many people may like the religious influence in the community, which lowers the crime rate, promotes better educational services, and creates family-friendly neighborhoods. However, those who aren’t comfortable with the religious influence will not like St. George. Laws, policies, and cultural norms follow LDS tradition. The culture was built around LDS ideals and there is little diversity.
4. Not Much to Do- Socially
Because of the heavy religious influence of the Mormon church, St. George has a relatively quiet nightlife. Most people don’t drink and alcohol has limited availability in Utah. Dixie State University is located in the heart of St. George and offers some nightlife, but it is limited as well. For socializing, Las Vegas has the closest big clubs and bars. Clubs and bars are few and far between in St. George and tend to be rather low-key.
3. Bad Soil
St. George and surrounding areas have a vein of clay running through the ground called ‘blue clay.’ This clay absorbs water like a sponge and dries, misshaping the land above it. Many southern Utah builders and contractors struggle to build on this blue clay and many homeowners find their homes slowly sinking after a few years. These houses require piers underneath the foundation, which cost thousands of dollars. Those piers often don’t work, and the houses continue sinking. Homeowners lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on their homes from blue clay every year.
2. Minimum Wage
While the economy might be booming in St. George in the housing department, the rest of the economy isn’t quite caught up. Salaries are still relatively low, in pattern with the rest of southern Utah where growth is less intense. The minimum wage in Utah matches the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The low pay and high expenses in St. George cause financial issues for many residents.
1. Lots of Old People
If you’re considering retiring in St. George, this reason may not apply to you. However, if you are planning to move your family there or looking to go to school in the city, the population of old people may be a deterrent. St. George is largely a retirement city. There are retirement communities across the city and too many golf courses to count. Many of the parks, trails, and buildings are catered to older people. The communities are quiet and laid-back, not ideal for those wanting to build a business.
The older people also control the city. They are the vast majority of voters. Policies and city planning will be geared towards the older population.
St. George is great if you want a safe, quiet neighborhood, but it’s built for those who need it safe and quiet. New businesses don’t do well in St. George. The culture is monotone, not made for adapting to new cultures. The climate is hostile. The seasonal visitors cause chaos and overcrowding. Overall, moving to St. George, Utah is a misguided decision for anyone under retirement age.
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