The Moab City Planning Commission will recommend that the Moab City Council approve a rezone request for a lot located on 400 East between Center Street and Rosetree Lane. If approved, the zone would be changed from R-2 residential to R-3. The change is the first step in an affordable housing project planned by the Blackburn family and Community Rebuilds, family members said.
The Blackburn family has owned the 1.81-acre lot for over 100 years, said Michelle Blackburn.
“This project represents a lifetime of vision of being able to improve this property that’s been dilapidating progressively since the late ‘80s when the zone changed from a trailer court to R-2,” said Michelle Blackburn. She along with her siblings Gilbert and Lisa Blackburn have partnered with Community Rebuilds, developing a plan for small-scale, affordable apartments.
“We don’t actually have any current tenants that are paying a market rate for their business or their home,” said Blackburn. “It’s obvious that the community needs more housing and housing that people can afford at all the different income levels.”
A dozen neighbors showed up to speak for and against the proposal. Several people expressed concern that additional driveways on Rosetree Lane, which is a narrow street without sidewalks, would increase traffic and create a hazard for pedestrians. Others said they did not want to see higher density developments in their neighborhood.
Pete Apicella, a longtime tenant of the Blackburns who lives adjacent to the property in question, spoke in support of the development.
“I’m fine with more density there. I think that will keep rents low over the long term,” said Apicella, adding that the low rent he receives from the Blackburn family enables him to pursue his career as an artist.
Neighbor Barbara Zinn and others noted that changing the zoning of the lot is not tied to approval of the site plan for the proposed development.
“If developed as presented, [the plan] could be a model project that benefits the community,” said Zinn. “However, if the up-zone is approved there is no guarantee that the units will in fact be affordable ... I don’t think we need another apartment complex that our workforce can’t afford.”
Zinn asked the planning commission to postpone voting on the zone change until a final memorandum of understanding is completed between the Blackburn family and Community Rebuilds that includes deed restrictions to guarantee the proposed development remains affordable housing. Zinn, and another neighbor, Carol Meyer, said if the planning commission did not postpone the vote they were opposed to the zone change.
Sarah Schrepel said she understands the community’s concern over increasing density but as a single mother, finds the need for affordable housing to be the most pressing issue.
“I want to live here. I want to raise my kids here,” Schrepel said. “Overall, I can only see that it would be beneficial to the town.”
Planning commission chairwoman Jeanette Kopell reminded the speakers that the issue under consideration was the rezone and not the site plan, which the commission hadn’t seen and was not supposed to consider in their decision.
Commission member Wayne Hoskisson said that even with the current R-2 zoing, the lot could be developed to a high density.
Commission member Laura Uhle said that in considering the rezone, the commission could consider the highest and best use of the property, which would be multi-family housing in the case of an R-3 zone.
“We have an opportunity in an area of growth where we’re going to be dealing with zone changes over the next ten to 20 years and how we plan and envision the city, and how the general plan and the affordable housing plan all lead us to this point, and we have a private opportunity, even though we’re not talking about the opportunity, for multifamily housing,” said Uhle.
“We all agree that we need multifamily housing,” said commission member Allison Brown, noting that the site plan would have to be approved independently of the rezone decision.
Hoskisson suggested tabling the vote to give the commission time to consider the comments and to get more feedback from the public.
The motion was approved by a vote of 3-2, with Uhle, Downard and Kopell in favor and Hoskisson and Brown opposed. The rezone is scheduled for consideration by the Moab City Council on Feb. 14.