The Moab City Council met for their regular meeting on Jan. 12, where they agreed to pursue a temporary land use ordinance restricting off-road vehicle services. The council also approved letters urging President-elect Joe Biden to restore Bears Ears National Monument and thanking San Juan County for prohibiting Rally on the Rocks from taking place in Spanish Valley.

Managing UTV use

In October 2020, the City of Moab and Grand County approved a moratorium on new outfitting and rental services that offer off-highway vehicles like UTVs.

The moratorium does not currently have an expiration date, and City Planning Director Nora Shepard has assumed the task of writing the new Moab City code. At Tuesday's meeting, Shepard presented a range of options to the council regarding the OHV moratorium as it relates to the city’s code changes.

The council ultimately decided to pursue a temporary land use ordinance which will allow the city 180 days to work on specific code changes to OHV businesses.

“The temporary land use ordinance gives us six months to figure out what we really want to do,” said Councilmember Mike Duncan.

Councilmembers Karen Guzman-Newton and Tawny Knuteson-Boyd both voiced concerns about UTV and OHV restrictions becoming “a slippery slope” for the county, and they ultimately agreed on the temporary land use ordinance.

“I’m afraid we’re bordering on an overreach of private property rights. Would we be so constrictive on new business if they were electric or trailers? I don’t know that we would,” said Guzman-Newton. “Our issue is quality of life for our residents, so if we can come to some sort of workable accommodation where they aren’t affecting residents, we wouldn’t have this issue.”

“I’m having a hard time restricting just one certain kind of business. It’s not my intention at all to limit any kind of business growth,” said Knuteson-Boyd, who expressed hope that a compromise could be found during the temporary moratorium.

The moratorium applies solely to new business licenses, not businesses that already exist. However, existing UTV-related businesses will face a cap on their fleet sizes as long as the temporary land use ordinance is in place.

The Utah State Legislature begins its 2021 general session next week and there is speculation that the body will discuss the state’s stance on UTV and OHV use.

Last week, the San Juan County Commission denied the Rally on the Rocks application for a permit to hold their event in Spanish Valley just over the Grand County line.

Grand County Commissioners Mary McGann and Kevin Walker attended that meeting, urging San Juan County to refuse the event. The Moab City Council approved a letter thanking the San Juan County Commission for the move.

“Such a lease would have effectively canceled out the Grand County Commission’s denial of the event,” the letter read. “Your decision to deny this lease is being widely celebrated by Moab City residents.”

The letter also made reference to the counties’ future shared interests, primarily the Spanish Valley area.

“We all share the same drinking water aquifer and dark night skies; our residential neighborhoods and commercial developments overlap with each other,” it read. “We also share the priority of protecting and enhancing the quality of life of all of the residents of the Valley.”

Bears Ears

Moab City Council also approved another letter announcing the city’s support for the restoration of Bears Ears National Monument. Former President Barack Obama created the national monument in 2016, and President Donald Trump reduced the monument by 85% in 2017. Now, President-Elect Joe Biden has expressed his intent to restore both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the latter which was also reduced in size by the Trump administration.

The Moab City Council’s letter condemns President Trump’s “illegal reduction” that was “done without the involvement of [Bears Ears Inter-Tribal] Coalition members.” Councilmembers request that the new administration will protect the cultural and natural history of the Bears Ears cultural landscape.

“The City of Moab is home to so many for whom the monument lands have deep cultural significance, and who find solace and renewal in the quiet beauty of this area,” the letter reads. “Moab businesses depend on these lands being managed in a way that preserves their archaeological riches, natural beauty, recreational value, and ecological integrity.”

The Grand County Commission also voted to issue a letter in support of Bears Ears’ restoration at their regular meeting on Jan. 5. Their letter requests that the Biden administration take immediate action to restore Bears Ears and praises the Obama administration for soliciting input from the community regarding the national monument back in 2016. [Grand County’s letter can be read on page 16 of this issue. -ed.]

The Moab City Council meets 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