Neighbors contest legality of proposed plan to subdivide, build duplexes on 0.55-acre residential lot on Rosalie Court
by Rose Egelhoff
The Times-Independent
Apr 20, 2017 | 1771 views | 0 0 comments | 92 92 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Several neighbors attended the April 13 Moab City Planning Commission meeting to object to a proposal to subdivide a single-home residential lot on Rosalie Court to make room for three duplexes.

The proposed Guia Estate subdivision is located within the Utex subdivision, established by Charlie Steen in the 1950s during Moab’s uranium boom. Neighborhood covenants put in place at that time dictated that each residential lot could have only one single-family dwelling. The applicant for the proposed Guia Estates subdivision, Scott McFarland, plans to subdivide a 0.55-acre lot at 2 Rosalie Court into three separate properties and build a duplex on each lot. The new buildings could house six families, according to information provided to the planning commission.

Because the rules were established as part of a private covenant rather than in city code, the city cannot enforce the covenants, according to city staff. In a memo to the planning commission, city staff said the proposed development meets all code requirements for lot sizes, setbacks and frontage widths, as well as infrastructure.

“When we have an action or resolution that comes through that is already something that is approved in our code, then it is subject to an administrative approval,” said planning commission chairwoman Laura Uhle. “Therefore the only way for it not to occur in the future would be for us to go back and change the ordinance.”

Neighbors said they are concerned about the traffic and noise that six more residential units would bring to Rosalie Court and Mi Vida Drive. Diane VanArsdol and another neighbor, Bob Hoffman, said they were also concerned that little notice was provided regarding the proposed subdivision.

“I understand the city cannot enforce this covenant ... But we, the people who live in the subdivision, can and we’ve had no opportunity as a group to even get together and talk about this because we didn’t know until last week when you send out the [Planning Commission meeting] agenda,” VanArsdol said.

“People end up with a bad feeling because they don’t feel like they’re part of the process,” Hoffman added.

VanArsdol said residents in the neighborhood were unaware of the issue until the planning commission agenda was released the week before the meeting.

“It is, for the most part, a very pleasant and inviting place to buy land because the plots are large and it’s planned that way,” VanArsdol said. “The proposed duplexes will change all this. Rentals are a revolving door of people and that’s what these are supposed to be, rentals. People are in, people are out, people who for the most part don’t care about our neighborhood.”

VanArsdol asked the commission to delay the resolution.

Uhle recommended that neighbors look into legal options, such as taking the applicant to civil court over the violation of the covenants.

Bill Birsfield, who also lives in the neighborhood, said McFarland may argue that a 1962 amendment released his property from the covenant. In 1962, Steen donated land from the Utex subdivision to the elementary school and several churches. However, Birsfield said, the amendment only released specific parcels, and did not include McFarland’s property on Rosalie Court.

“All of a sudden this one lot will have three buildings ... Three buildings and 12 cars, probably,” Birsfield said.

Birsfield and his wife, Kathy Birsfield, also expressed concerns about the precedent the Guia subdivision will set for the neighborhood.

“If it’s done there, it could be done anywhere,” Bill Birsfield said. “I could do it. Next door can do it.”

He said if McFarland is granted approval to move forward with the subdivision, he will take the matter to court.

According to the Grand County Recorder’s Office, the covenants are still in effect and will remain in effect until a majority of the property owners within the original Utex Subdivision vote to change it.

Scott McFarland could not be reached for comment.

Editor's note: This version corrects an error in the story's headline that incorrectly stated the size of the lot on Rosalie Court. The lot is 0.55 acres, not 5.5 acres.

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