Residential construction is higher in the county than commercial construction, but don’t let that fool you. Those residential units are, for the most part, in the highway commercial zone and are intended to be overnight rentals, according to a report Grand County Building Inspector Jeff Whitney gave to the Grand County Council on April 17.
“The reality of it is that most of the residential construction as far as valuation is happening on the highway corridor, which means those are overnight rentals, which means they really don’t help our housing issues that we have,” Whitney told the council. “I encourage you to help [Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine] in his efforts to allow for denser housing projects, maybe height … My belief is people don’t come to Moab to see Moab ... they come to Moab to see the areas out there. We have a finite amount of buildable land in Spanish Valley. We need to utilize that to the best of our ability so height and density is probably our only method of doing that.”
There are six hotels currently under construction and six more on the docket that the building department has not yet received plans for.
The project responsible for boosting residential construction numbers is a condominium comprised of nine buildings with 12 units each.
Whitney said that 2017 saw $63 million of construction, including the city and the county. San Juan County only accounted for eight percent of new construction in 2017.
“As soon as they get sewer [connections] in lower Spanish Valley, that’s probably going to change drastically so we need to prepare for that,” said Whitney.
Whitney emphasized that the city’s plan for a possible separate building department could impact city taxpayers. If the city did create a new building department, that could negatively impact ISO (insurance) ratings, Whitney said, resulting in higher taxes for city residents.
Currently, the city pays 50 percent of the building department’s nearly $386,000 budget, Whitney said.
Meanwhile, the Moab Area Land Trust is in the process of securing a 32-acre land donation. The parcel, located on Spanish Valley Drive, will be available for developers interested in building affordable housing. It will be deed-restricted in perpetuity. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.
“The purpose of a land trust is to preserve housing in perpetuity,” said Kailin Myers, Community and Economic Development Specialist for Grand County. “It’s this model where the land trust owns the land forever and has what’s called a ground lease. The homeowner purchases the home, has a normal mortgage, builds equity … but when they sell, [the trust] keep the home and [sells] it to the next person.”