The council declined on Sept. 17 to suspend its normal review process in order to vote on a request from Red Rock Partners developer Randy Day.
Instead, the council is giving citizens until Sept. 26 to submit written comments on Day’s application to change the zoning on a 17.17-acre parcel in Spanish Valley from rural residential to small lot residential.
“I think we need to wait and get any more responses,” Grand County Council chairman Gene Ciarus told a full-capacity crowd.
While area residents still have a chance to put their thoughts about the proposal into writing, the council’s Sept. 17 meeting was their last chance to formally voice their opinions out loud.
And voice them they did.
A crowd of more than 70 people filled the council chambers for the public hearing on the measure. All but three of the people who spoke during the hearing voiced opposition to the proposed zone change for the property, which is located at the southeastern corner of Murphy Lane and Cedar Hills Road.
The current zoning designation allows for the development of up to 1.6 dwellings per acre, while the change would permit up to eight units per acre. However, both Day and project consultant Dan Burkhart said that Red Rock’s plans call for the development of three units per acre, or 50 to 55 houses altogether.
Still, many area residents said they are worried about the precedent a zone change would set for high-density development in other unincorporated county areas, or within Moab’s city limits.
Roadrunner Hill resident Patricia Vidiella said that even if Day caps his development at 50 to 55 homes, it would still be high density for the area.
In addition, she voiced concerns that a zoning change would give the developer a blank check to increase that density even further. If that happened, his company would profit at the expense of a healthy and well-developed neighborhood, Vidiella said.
Highland Drive resident Anna Conrad told the council that she was drawn to the area by its rural character.
Its roads are another matter, though, she said.
According to Conrad, a previous study found that Murphy Lane – which one engineer called a “cow trail” – cannot adequately handle existing traffic in the area.
Likewise, East George White Road resident Greg Kennedy said that denser development in the area just doesn’t make sense, based on the limited infrastructure that’s in place. Increased density would put huge pressures on that infrastructure, he said.
Others, including Desert Hills Road resident Richard Coffinberry, said future growth should be directed toward large, undeveloped areas that are closer to Moab’s city limits.
Ann Sherrill, who lives on Juniper Drive, told the council that the county’s 2012 General Plan should guide future development in unincorporated areas.
“We have a plan. It allows for growth and development, but protects what is special about our town,” Sherrill said.
Day countered that objections to his project are misguided.
He repeatedly noted that his company has no plans to build 137 units at the site, as allowed under the proposed zoning change.
He can’t help it, he said, that the county’s land use code permits the maximum number of houses in a small lot residential zone.
“If there was another code that allows for a more optimal quantity, such as 50 to 55, we would apply for that,” he said. “But that doesn’t exist.”
While opponents remain concerned about the potential for future increases in density, Day offered to cap the scale of future development at the site through deed covenants.
“We would be happy to take any steps that would allay concerns about us building too densely for the neighborhood,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, the project would fill a demand for mid-level housing that is sorely missing from the local market, while meeting the county’s General Plan and rezoning criteria.
It would provide affordable housing options to mid-income earners who don’t qualify for low-income or self-help housing loans, as well as professionals and business entrepreneurs, he said.
“We don’t want to build one house per acre on this land and cater to multi-millionaires, or the very high end of our market,” Day said.
The county council plans to review Day’s request at its next meeting on Oct. 1.
In the meantime, Day said Wednesday that he plans to mull over his options for the property.
During a brief Sept. 18 phone interview with The Times-Independent, Day said he has thought about withdrawing the rezone application because he’s grown weary of the contentious dispute with neighboring property owners. But he emphasized that he has not made up his mind at this point.
“I’m still vacillating about what I’m going to do,” he said.
Anyone who was unable to attend the county council’s Sept. 17 meeting can still email written comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments can also be sent to: Grand County Council, 125 E. Center St., Moab UT 84532.
All comments will be due by 5 p.m. on Sept. 26.