Moab city has authorized the appointment of a single hearing officer to consider appeals on certain zoning decisions, effectively eradicating the city’s five-member board of adjustment as the land use appeal authority. The change, officials said, will create a more equitable and effective appeals process.
Council member Kalen Jones called the move a “big improvement” and said that changing the appeal authority to a single expert could cut out the drama and clamor of a five-member board.
“... Having a board of individuals who are not well versed in this is set up for strife and contention,” Jones said. “So I think this is a big improvement.”
Speaking before his fellow council members on July 25, Jones voiced a similar opinion as Grand County officials had stated last year when the county council moved from a board of adjustment to a single hearing officer. Grand County hired former state property rights ombudsman and attorney Craig Call on an as-needed basis in an effort county officials said would result in unbiased judgments during land use appeals and variance issues.
Since becoming the county’s appeal authority in 2016, Call has heard just one case — an appeal of a citation involving illegal camping in a portion of the Pack Creek Campground.
According to Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine, Call provides a “great service to the county as its hearing officer.”
While Moab city does not yet have an appeal officer in mind, City Manager David Everitt said he expects to solicit bids for the position soon and will be looking for experts in land use law.
“Experts in land use law understand more clearly the nuances involved [with appeals],” Everitt said. “... We’ll solicit some bids from people who are known and that we think would be appropriate. We’ll probably be looking for a land use attorney.”
Moab city’s hearing officer will act in a quasi-judicial manner, serving as the final arbitrator of issues involving the interpretation or application of land use ordinances or variances, and modifications in a zoning district.
“It needs to be a person [with] knowledge of Moab municipal code and zoning matters generally, and knowledge of adjudicatory hearing procedures and the due process rights of land use applicants and other hearing participants,” said Moab City Attorney Chris McAnany.
McAnany said that land use appeals hearings are not common. According to Moab City’s Planning and Zoning Department, the board of adjustment was last active in 2009, when a resident appealed a denied construction permit.
However, when appeals are filed with the city, McAnany said residents expect a fair process, which he believes can be achieved with a single land use expert.
“When we have these hearings, it’s important that people have a good hearing process,” he said. “You want someone who’s skilled and able to conduct [those hearings].”