The Grand County Council is considering rezoning 4.9 acres in Spanish Valley from rural residential to highway commercial for a parcel directly adjacent to the Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) site. Property owners Shad and Melinda Schmidt say the KOA — under binding contract — will expand their campground operations to the parcel at 3118 East Desert Road if the council grants the rezone.
Although planning and zoning staff refrained from making a recommendation on the application, Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine told the county council that the planning commission did not recommend its approval, noting that such a rezone is not supported by the county’s general plan.
According to the county’s documents, the parcel lies just outside the boundaries of the current future land use plan for commercial zoning, which was last updated in 2012.
“[Staff has] chosen not to make a recommendation on this rezone. There are several arguments for and against I think that would be reasonable to consider,” Levine said. “I will note that the planning commission did not forward a favorable recommendation for this rezone … The primary justification for that vote was the proposed rezone is not supported by the future land use plan map.”
Although he said he is not raising any “implications” either way, Levine told The Times-Independent that the planning commission is watchful when it comes to rezoning residential property.
“Of course, the planning commission is watchful of our residential zoning, and the impacts of rezoning from commercial to residential zoning. Any time a parcel is rezoned, there are implications,” Levine said. “I’m not assigning a value, good or bad, to the implications, but there are implications.”
Levine added that the planning commission considers multiple factors when determining their ultimate recommendation on a rezone, and in this case, voiced concerns about “two or three potential impacts.”
“Loss of residential land, lack of support from the currently adopted future land use plan, and potential impacts of commercial activities on adjacent residents,” Levine said.
But according to Christina Sloan, an attorney representing KOA, Inc., every property owner adjacent to the site signed a letter of support for the highway commercial rezone.
“Every single adjacent owner supports the proposal,” Sloan said.
If the rezone passes, Sloan added, the KOA is under binding contract to buy the property from the Schmidts.
“The KOA is an expert at what they do ... this proposal is not speculative and the KOA will expand if the rezone is approved,” Sloan said.
Although 4.9 acres of their property would be used for commercial expansion, Shad Schmidt said that a 1-acre parcel would remain rural residential in order to accommodate employee housing.
“It’s tough around Moab,” Schmidt said. “Everybody wants to use their rural residential or their residential properties and make it commercial and make a killing...That’s really not what we’re after. I’m not in the business of owning land and buying land and trying to turn it commercial.”
According to Schmidt, over the twenty years he and his wife have owned the property, there have been many proposed uses for it, including a high-density mobile home park. But the KOA expansion, he said, made sense for a parcel he described as “strange.”
“It is a very long skinny piece of ground. It actually is very strange,” Schmidt said. “When KOA corporate [took over] the KOA, I just viewed what might be the most responsible avenue for the property.”
Sloan also called the property’s boundaries “long and skinny,” noting that the dimensions are “just awkward.”
“It’s long and skinny with a commercial use that is higher in elevation on the south side, and residential properties that back up to the piece on the north side,” Sloan said. “Since it’s zoned rural residential with 1-acre lot minimums, that means the backyard of any future lots would be the KOA, which is three to four feet higher than this piece, and the front yard is the backyard of the properties to the north.”
Speaking before the county council, Sloan acknowledged that residential zoning is important, but she says not every parcel is appropriate for such a use.
“Obviously housing is important and we’ve got to talk about it here,” Sloan said. “But not every parcel is suitable for workforce housing or affordable housing and we can’t force every property into housing. Here I think is a great example of a property that another use is more suitable.”
She argued that Grand County needs more developed camping sites, noting that on weekend mornings there are “dozens of folks camped in their cars or RVs in about every available pull-off, especially north of town.”
She said the expansion would also increase the capacity of the KOA by one-fifth, raising their transient room tax payments by about $25,000 per year and bringing the likely total sales tax revenue of the site to $135,000 annually.
Although the Schmidts have stated that the rezone will facilitate a commercial expansion of the KOA and provide employee housing, staff documents recommended the council consider the variety of possible developments that could occur in the area if the highway commercial rezone is granted.
The county council is expected to vote on the proposed rezone during their next regular meeting, Nov. 8. Public comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to Grand County Council, 125 E. Center St., Moab, UT 84532.