The Moab City Council voted 4-1 on March 14 to deny a request by the Blackburn family to rezone a lot on 400 East from R-2, single and two-family residential, to R-3, the multifamily residential zone. Council member Heila Ershadi cast the lone vote in favor of the rezone request.
“It’s surrounded on three sides by R-2,” said council member Kalen Jones. “The closest R-3 is across a significant swath of pavement, which I feel is a better buffer between R-2 and R-3, so I can’t support it at this time.”
Michelle Blackburn and her siblings, Gilbert and Lisa, have said they hope to partner with the Moab-based nonprofit Community Rebuilds to develop a small-scale affordable housing project on the large lot, which was formerly occupied by several rental trailers. The Moab City Planning Commission on Feb. 9 voted to recommend that the city council approve the rezone.
Interim Moab City Manager David Everitt said the city is working on language to change the code so that future small developments like the one proposed by the Blackburns would be allowed in the R-2 zone.
“Based on conversations with you and staff, we are proceeding along ... a parallel track to re-evaluate where planned unit developments are allowed, and the minimum size that is required for a planned unit development,” Everitt said during the March 14 meeting. He said that city planning director Jeff Reinhart has drafted a preliminary proposal for a code change, which city attorney Chris McAnany will review.
Everitt estimated that the code change proposal could go to planning commission within a month and that if everything goes smoothly, city council could vote to approve the change in two to two and a half months. Under the new code, the development could proceed without a zone change.
“I think [the code change] is a great win-win and we can do it in a timely manner,” said councilmember Heila Ershadi, who asked if Blackburn was amenable to the idea.
Michelle Blackburn expressed reservations about the city’s decision to reject the code change request, saying that she has been working to make the development happen for several years despite bureaucratic obstacles.
“When I was told something similar not with the PUD [planned unit development] but with the PAD [planned area development], that was two-and-a-half years ago and that was really exciting. So I’m a little bit skeptical about the timeline,” she said.
“I’ll be very happy for the whole community when it actually happens because it’s obvious that we need to make some adjustments. My concern is that my preferred builder will not be available because of that change, so I too, will be completely going back to the drawing board.”
Blackburn said she understands that the city needs to review and make changes to its code but she would like to move forward with the project.
“I want to think that something positive can happen and that the delay can actually result in something better in the end ... It would be great if you guys just said yes,” Blackburn said. “I do understand that a zone change is a legislative adjustment, that’s very important.”