At their regular meeting on Aug. 10, the Moab City Council heard updates on employee housing projects and the Canyonlands Regional Airport; and discussed and voted on the approval of a project with the Utah Department of Transportation to design and construct a new roundabout in the city. The council also discussed and tabled a motion to pass a new property tax. [See our coverage on page 1 of this edition. -ed.]
There is a critical shortage of affordable housing in Moab as current projects, such as Walnut Lane, are facing issues with construction. Potential employees of Moab businesses, including the police department, are struggling to find places to live.
On August 10, the council continued their discussion on a short term plan to increase employee housing. Nora Shepard, the Moab City Planning Director, put together a list of ideas with timelines, feasibility and priority rankings.
The highest priority strategies included adding accessory dwelling units, allowing RVs to park off-street in residential neighborhoods, simplifying deed restrictions, and using American Rescue Plan Act Funds for the Walnut Lane project to offset material costs and worker shortages. Other ideas included allowing tiny home villages, allowing bunkhouses or dormitories or trying to have local businesses partner with the Walnut Lane project in order to fund the project.
Councilmember Mike Duncan asked about the longevity of parking RVs—the council should consider allowing RVs for the long-term, he said. “You might have an RV parked out there for two or three years,” he said, adding that RVs and camping were how “Moab got started.” But Shepard brought up that residents might not support a permanent allowance.
The full list of strategies was met with approval by the council, and will be taken back to the Planning Commission for further discussion.
Airport Feasibility Report
Andy Solsvig, the airport director for Canyonlands Regional Airport, presented an Airport Economic Feasibility Study put together by UDOT. The study found that the airport both directly and indirectly created 488 jobs, $45.9m in annual economic activity, and $2.1m in annual sales and income tax revenue.
During the pandemic, the airport received three federal stimulus grants for $1 million each, which “has kept us afloat,” Solsvig said. He expects that the airport will be able to rely on the stimulus money for the next few years.
Swanny City Park Roundabout
City Engineer Chuck Williams presented a design for a roundabout at the intersection of 400 North and 100 West, adjacent to Swanny City Park.
The city was awarded a grant from UDOT for the project, but would need to come up with a cost share of $78,329.
The city has been considering a roundabout in this area for a while, Williams said. The roads at the intersection are offset and a roundabout would help slow traffic down and improve pedestrian safety, Williams said. The design would move pedestrian crosswalks away from the flow of traffic and allow for “pedestrian refuge islands,” where pedestrians could stop walking halfway through the crosswalk to check for vehicles.
“It’s for pedestrian safety, bicycle safety, and it’s a traffic calming device,” Williams said.
Mayor Emily Niehaus commented that a large dip in the roadway on 100 West contributed to flooding in the public park. She speculated that the “dip of despair” could also be remediated during construction of the roundabout.
Councilmember Rani Derasary noted that the city has reworked this intersection before, and she’d want to look at accident data before putting more money into the area.
“Is this where we should be putting 80 grand?” Derasary asked.
Councilmember Karen Guzman-Newton made a motion to approve the design and construction of the project in the amount of $78,329. The motion passed, 4-1, with Derasary voting in dissent.
The Moab City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Moab City Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.moabcity.org