Discussions at the Oct. 8 city council meeting covered building projects under review by the Planning and Zoning Commission, citizen comments on a proposed rule to allow UTVs in Utah’s National Parks, and a highway infrastructure project in the works.

Building Projects on the Docket

Moab City Planner Nora Shepard presented a list of building projects that are or will soon be on the agenda of the Planning Commission. She noted that the Planning Commission has already approved the initial design of the proposed Abbey subdivision, a residential development proposed for the lots on either side of Powerhouse Lane. That subdivision is designed to include 66 single family lots, 16 twin home lots, and four “estate” lots of over one acre in size.

Other projects include the Henry Shaw, a proposed 113,000 square foot hotel planned for 836 Main Street. Council members appeared uncomfortable with the size of the 222 room project, especially in light of the recent moratorium on construction.

City Manager Joel Linares reminded the council that the Henry Shaw application had come in before the moratorium went into effect.

“They were filed basically the day of the moratorium,” Linares said. “So they’re vested under the old sections.”

Shepard noted that the new Hoodoo hotel will be building a 24 units of employee housing to complement their existing block of workforce residences. They are also building a development of two-bedroom overnight rentals, which was included in the original approval of the hotel before the moratorium took effect.

Four Corners Community Behavioral Health is also planning an expansion, with a clinic and clubhouse planned to have 18,000 square feet of counseling offices, meeting spaces, and training and activity rooms.

No Interest in Planned Affordable Development Areas

As Shepard outlined these projects, Councilmember Rani Derasary asked about the impact of the Planned Affordable Development ordinance.

The ordinance, a council project over the past few years, allows for higher-density development in zones where it previously had not been allowed. In exchange for this allowance, developers must commit that a certain percentage of the units they build would be offered at affordable prices.

Derasary asked whether there had been any interest from developers in taking advantage of the PAD ordinance. Shepard had disappointing news.

“No,” Shepard said simply.

Shepard went on to explain that in the City’s R-3 zone, developers can already build at a profitable density without having to apply for the PAD, and thus without having to adhere to any affordable housing requirements.

“They don’t really need the PAD, because they already have enough density...so it’s turning out not to be as big an incentive as I think we hoped.”

Current R-3 zoning allows for one unit in a multi-family dwelling per 2000 square feet of lot space.

Shepard suggested that the council should revisit the PAD to see if it could be revised to be more “functional and more attractive” to developers. She noted, however, that that probably wouldn’t happen until work is completed on revising standards for overnight rentals.

Highway 191 Improvements

City Engineer Chuck Williams presented an agreement with the Utah Department of Transportation for the council’s approval. The deal would improve the storm drainage system on the north end of Moab, in conjunction with UDOT’s highway widening project.

The storm drainage improvements will include three sediment ponds above the highway to collect debris and keep it from running into the road.

The three ponds will be located near Moab Springs Ranch, the area of the Raven’s Rim Adventure zip-line and one in Stewart Canyon above the Moab Rock Shop, which has caused flooding problems on the highway in the past.

A storm runoff pipe will also be routed under the highway to allow water to drain from the road.

UDOT will be widening Highway 191 from 400 North to Highway 128, creating five lanes of traffic with six-foot shoulders. As the highway will be torn up during that construction, it’s the perfect opportunity to lay storm drain pipe underneath the new road.

“That’s why the timing of this is so important,” Williams said.

Along with the new lanes of traffic and storm drain infrastructure, the pedestrian sidewalk will be extended from the Motel-6 to the Colorado River bridge. The multi-use pathway will also be extended from its current termination near 500 West to connect near Emma Boulevard.

Moab will pay over 2.2 million dollars for its share of the project, while the total cost is expected to be around 22 million dollars. The storm drainage portion alone is estimated to cost over 6 million dollars. Construction is expected to begin early in 2020.

The council unanimously approved the agreement.

Strong Feelings about UTVs in National Parks

Two citizens attended the meeting to bring up a new rule being discussed in the state legislature that would allow small vehicles known as utility terrain vehicles (UTV) or off-highway vehicles (OHV) in Utah’s national parks.

Moab resident and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Wildlands Attorney Kya Marienfeld urged the council to pass a resolution supporting not allowing UTVs in Utah’s National Parks.

She noted how UTVs are ubiquitous in the Moab area, and that the national parks are one of the few places people can escape the noise created by the vehicles. She asserted that the majority of Moab residents are against the idea of UTVs in the parks.

“The community expects you to take a position against this effort,” Marienfeld said.

Linares responded to Marienfeld with assurances that the city agreed with her viewpoints and was already at work crafting an official statement.

Ashley Korenblat, CEO of Western Spirit Cycling and Managing Director of Public Lands Solutions, also raised the issue before the council. She brought with her a letter, signed by local business owners, expressing opposition to UTVs in Utah’s national parks.

“We’ve spent the last twenty years sorting out who should do what, where, and we’ve made sure that no group is detracting from another group’s experience,” Korenblat said. “This move throws all of that aside.”

She encouraged council members to take note of the variety of businesses who had endorsed the letter.

“I think there is an opportunity to craft a resolution that honors the component of our revenues that OHV businesses bring to our community, and also talks about this,” Korenblat said.

“We know how big of a concern this is, and we are taking steps to take action in the interest of what we’re hearing from our constituency,” Linares said.

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