City to revisit ordinance allowing building on smaller lots
by Laura Haley
contributing writer
Sep 20, 2012 | 1583 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Moab City Council has asked the Moab City Planning Commission to revisit a proposed change to Moab City Municipal Code that could mean smaller lot sizes in the future. The decision was made during a joint workshop session between the two boards.

The original change was brought before the city council on July 31. The proposed changes included allowing lots to be as small as 5,000 square feet, as well as a slight decrease to the required setbacks on a lot, according to Moab City Planning Director Jeff Reinhart. The changes were intended to help address the lack of affordable housing in the area, officials said.

“Our biggest concern for affordable housing is dirt,” said council member Doug McElhaney. “If you can build a smaller house on a smaller lot, it’s going to make homes affordable.” McElhaney said that 2012 has been the busiest year for real estate in Moab since 2008. “We’re not selling condos to somebody out of Telluride,” he said. “It’s people that live here and work here trying to find a place to live.”

During the council’s July 31 meeting, a vote on the issue failed due to the lack of a majority vote. That vote was to schedule a public hearing on the matter. Only three council members attended that meeting, meaning that the change would have required a unanimous vote to move forward. Council member Kyle Bailey voted against the measure.

After a lengthy discussion between members of the planning commission, Reinhart, members of city staff, and the city council, several of the council members voiced their belief that the code change should be revisited. Because it failed to receive the required votes for approval, the process will have to start from the beginning, according to Moab City Manager Donna Metzler. The planning commission will review the changes and hold another public hearing before deciding whether or not to send it on to the city council.

The planning commission previously held a public hearing on the changes in June. Three concerned Moab residents attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the change. The main concern expressed was that the changes would make it easier for people to block their neighbor’s access to sunlight.

Planning commission member Laura Uhle said at the time that the planning commission looked into solar access during the process of writing the changes.

“For the record, we’re huge solar proponents,” she said.

“You can build a 40-foot house right this minute,” McElhaney said last week in reference to the concerns about solar access. “You can build from setback to setback 40 feet tall... With the ordinance, you have to go 10 feet shorter and you can only go 60 percent of setback to setback.”

Gregg Stucki pointed out that he heard from two different people who were opposed to the changes who believed that the amount of buildable space on a lot would increase from 20 percent to 60 percent with the proposed changes.

“That’s not true,” he said.

The way the code is currently written, up to 100 percent of the buildable space on a lot can be used, according to city officials.

“This ordinance does the best of both worlds,” council member Jeff Davis said, referencing affordable housing and access to the sun. “It’s not going to be right for everybody. Neither will another ordinance that would take its place... It will work for those people who want it to work for them.”

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