At their May 4 regular meeting, the Grand County Commission approved the hire of a consultant to continue advising and training the county on noise ordinance and enforcement issues, voted to be an anchor community in a statewide renewable energy program, and discussed how to handle expansions and remodels for overnight accommodations businesses.

Noise

Les Blomberg of the nonprofit Noise Pollution Clearinghouse has been helping both Moab City and Grand County rework their noise ordinances in an attempt to address the traffic noise that has been the subject of many residents’ complaints, letters, petitions and debates at the local and state levels. County Attorney Christina Sloan said that Blomberg, if hired, could continue to assist the county in helping to train law enforcement officers in noise enforcement techniques and also help facilitate a voluntary noise testing event that the county is holding on May 29.

“The biggest thing that I think we really need him for is to help us develop, in conjunction with the City of Moab, a data management system,” said Sloan, noting that without such a system, data collected during noise enforcement will be difficult to apply to future policy-making.

The final cost of Blomberg’s hire will be between $11,000 and $22,000, depending on the data management system agreed upon, as well as on whether Moab City also hires Blomberg.

Clif Koontz, chair of the Grand County Motorized Trail Advisory Committee and director of the nonprofit Ride with Respect, called in to the Zoom meeting to ask the commission to consider a different consultant.

“I know that there are firms that would perhaps lend a fresh perspective and offer to identify procedures, for example, that are more recognized by industry and would probably go more smoothly,” he said. He also referenced a letter from Ride with Respect, addressed to the commission, raising a number of objections to specific elements of the new county noise ordinance.

“If you choose not to revisit the ordinance itself, or the other options as far as consultants to help implement it, then could you at least respond to Ride with Respect’s April 27 letter?” Koontz asked.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the hiring of Noise Pollution Clearinghouse as a noise consultant.

Overnight accommodations

Last year the commission approved a set of standards that will apply to all new overnight accommodations developments in the county, with requirements in categories including appearance, sustainability, open space, and water efficiency. The commission added language specifying that new and redeveloped projects should result in tangible community benefits; other language in the standards states that existing overnight accommodations developments may not expand the number of overnight units beyond those for which they were originally approved.

“There’s a lot of gray area that’s come up with regard to land use applications,” said Commission Administrator Chris Baird. For example, an existing RV park wants to change their business model from one in which visitors bring their own RVs and park in the campground’s spaces to one in which the campground maintains its own “park-in” RV models and visitors come to stay in them.

“We don't really know how to proceed,” said Baird, speaking for county staff. “I don't feel comfortable making the administrative decision.”

“The lack of a definition of what triggers something to be considered a ‘redevelopment’ has been a challenge,” agreed Abby Scott, planning & zoning specialist for the county. She asked the commission for clearer definitions of what constitutes redevelopment—giving a building a fresh coat of paint, for example, would clearly not need approval from the commission, but something like adding a solar panel array might.

The commissioners generally agreed that any increase in the number of units in the development of overnight accommodation will not be approved. They decided to schedule a workshop to work out the details of what constitutes redevelopment.

Renewable energy

The commission unanimously approved the county’s participation as an “anchor community” in a statewide Community Renewable Energy Program made possible by 2019 House Bill 411. The bill allows local governments to procure net-100% renewable electricity by 2030 on behalf of their residents and businesses. 23 Utah counties and towns have joined the program, including Moab City and Castle Valley as well as Grand County.

In the program, an anchor community is one that commits to a certain price that allows all eligible communities to participate with the assurance that the price will not rise above a certain threshold; as more communities join the program, costs may go down.

The cost of participating as an anchor community is about $5,000 per year for 2021 and 2022; there are still options for the county to back out of that commitment with no penalties at future steps in the process.

Find coverage of other items discussed at this meeting elsewhere in this edition.

The Grand County Commission meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Grand County Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net. Residents can email commission@grandcountyutah.net to automatically reach each County Commission member, the commission administrator, the associate commission administrator, and the county attorney.