Moab City Council

The Moab City Council passed an ordinance this week that pauses the development of new overnight rental units within the city. Council members are pictured here discussing a draft version of the ordinance earlier this summer. [Moab Sun News file photo]

After months of discussion, the Moab City Council passed an ordinance on July 23 pausing the development of new overnight rental units within the city.

They joined the Grand County Council, which passed a similar ordinance at a special county council meeting on July 18. Both the city and the county ordinances have drawn strong opinions from residents and business owners. Speaking before the vote, resident Barbara Hickman said that the county ordinance allowed “those of us who live here to catch our breath” amid the pace of development. Other residents criticized the ordinance as an encroachment on private property rights.

“I encourage people to actually read the ordinance,” said council member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd, clearly frustrated by the continued debate, pointing out that the council’s goal is for “future overnight rentals to succeed in our town.”

“We’re not trying to stop growth,” Moab City Council member Mike Duncan said. “We are trying to get overnight accommodation better suited to community interest and development. I know that we are going to argue to the ends of the earth on exactly how to do it.”

The ordinance removes overnight accommodations as a permitted use, while allowing established overnight accommodations to remain legal uses in the first four commercial zones, residential / commercial, and sensitive area resort zones. As adopted, the revised ordinance would not prevent existing overnight rentals from expanding or remodeling, but it would prevent new rentals from being created.

“All of this is in anticipation that we will add back in overnight accommodations as a use that's permitted in some zones under certain conditions,” said Moab City Planning Director Nora Shepard.

After conducting public meetings, the Moab City Planning Commission recommended the stay on new rentals in order to create development standards before evaluating new proposals.

However, both council members and legal representatives expressed concern that the recommended target date of Oct. 31 for revised standards was unrealistic, due to the complexity of the issue.

“There's no doubt that we are in an overnight rental problem, that we have affordable housing problems, that we have infrastructure problems. And these are all real,” Moab City Manager Joel Linares said. “Just figuring out the road forward from here in this one problem is a huge issue.”

Council members agreed to loosen the ordinance’s language, with a stated goal of revisiting the ban on new rentals by the end of the year.

After a lengthy discussion of the ordinance’s language, Duncan advocated for moving forward.

“We could fiddle with this until the end of the earth,” he said. “For that reason, I am recommending that we pass this ordinance tonight, even with admittedly potential weaknesses.”

The ordinance passed 5-0.

Council members were clearly relieved to be moving forward on the issue despite tensions within the community. Knuteson-Boyd made a passionate statement defending the professionalism of the council, planning commission and city staff after the vote took place. Duncan also addressed those in attendance, saying, “You guys in the audience should realize that our basic job is, for the most part, to reinstate [overnight rental] uses where they were, but with new standards.”

LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS OF RECYCLING ORDINANCES CONSIDERED

Proposed changes to the city’s recycling ordinances were put aside after questions of legality were raised at the meeting. The multiple proposals before council included formally adopting mandatory recycling and also potentially expanding ordinances to include recycling construction waste. The city currently has a binding contract with Monument Waste Services for solid waste and recycling services.

Sara Melnicoff, executive director of local nonprofit Moab Solutions, spoke up during the public comment period of the meeting, suggesting that “there are so many moving parts to this that it is better to have legal analysis done.” Moab Solutions also provides recycling services, which could be threatened by expanded city ordinances.

The issue was tabled pending further legal consideration.

IDLING ORDINANCE PASSES

A stricter ordinance limiting vehicle idling to 20 minutes was passed by council. While all agreed that the former ordinance allowing idling for up to four hours was out of date, council members disagreed about just how long leaving a car running was reasonable.

Moab City Council member Kalen Jones strongly resisted an alternate proposal to limit idling to just two minutes.

“We don't want to impose unnecessary regulations on our population,” he said, “and I think lowering it to 20 minutes would address the concerns about prolonged idling of trucks and their diesel engines.”

The ordinance passed 3-2, with the dissenting council members favoring the stricter two-minute limit.

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