As the Grand County Planning Commission grapples with finding solutions to Moab’s affordable housing crisis, county officials are asking the public to weigh in on proposals for creating high-density development (HDD) overlay districts.
The first open house will be held Wednesday, Aug. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Grand County Council chambers, 125 E. Center St. Open houses will also be held Wednesday, Aug. 16 from noon to 2 p.m. and on Wednesday, Sept. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the council chambers.
“The planned open houses will provide members of the public [the opportunity to give] input on updates to the County’s future land use plan (FLUP) map as well as a draft proposal to establish high density development (HDD) overlay districts,” said Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine.
The FLUP is the advisory document that guides the county’s zoning and land use regulations, he explained.
The planning commission has developed draft proposals for two separate HDD districts — high-density commercial districts and high-density housing districts.
“The proposed HDD overlay districts are the planning commission’s response to the county council’s directive to create voluntary, incentive based regulations that would enable higher density developments in strategic locations with the expectation that affordable residential units would be included,” Levine said. “The directive emerged out of a conversation about mandatory affordable housing requirements (aka assured housing).”
According to documents provided by the county, the high-density commercial districts are intended “to provide the opportunity and means for the county to meet its estimated future low- and moderate-income housing needs and the goals of the housing element of the county’s general plan.” The proposed commercial districts are also aimed at helping the county implement the policies and goals of its general plan in relation to affordable housing.
The high-density commercial districts provide certain density increases and other incentives to encourage developers to create affordable housing as well as affordable long-term rental units, according to the proposed plan.
High-density housing districts will also provide incentives to developers, particularly in terms of granting densities of up to 25 units per acre in certain areas when the development includes a “substantial level” of affordable housing units, which is defined as a minimum of 20 percent of the overall development.
“While the county continues to evaluate the economic feasibility and structure of mandatory requirements, the planning commission has worked on these voluntary, incentive based approaches,” Levine said. “The open houses will focus primarily on the HDD overlay districts, but will also include discussions about the FLUP in general.”
He said the draft HDD maps and associated regulations “do indeed reflect the planning commission’s stated desire to balance multiple needs and community goals.”
Those goals include increasing the affordable housing stock, encouraging greater diversity in housing types, mixed use development, good traffic flow, existing neighborhood character, and anti-sprawl, or “compact” development, Levine said.
Planning commission members hope to receive valuable public input into the proposals that have been developed so far, Levine said, and that input will be used to guide the commission as it moves forward in its efforts to explore changes to the county’s land use code.
“The planning commission wants feedback from county residents to see if it’s off the mark in particular areas or needs to consider some new issues in others,” Levine said. “The goal is to keep this process transparent and inclusive. By attending the meetings, citizens will also learn more about the concept of integrating affordable housing requirements into the land use code, whether voluntary or mandatory.”