At their June 5 meeting, the Grand County Council considered and rejected a resolution giving developers notice of possible code changes related to an assured housing policy. The motion failed in a three to two vote. Council Members Mary McGann, Jaylyn Hawks and Evan Clapper voted in favor, while Council Members Greg Halliday and Curtis Wells were opposed. Council Members Rory Paxman and Patrick Trim were not present at the meeting.
The county adopted the Moab Area Affordable Housing Plan in 2017. The plan specifies that the county will participate in a study of affordable housing in the Moab area and then will consider whether to implement an assured housing policy. Assured housing policies, also known as inclusionary housing policies, require certain developers to contribute to affordable housing in the Moab area to offset the demands that their developments or businesses place on the local housing supply.
Per state code, the county has the authority to pass a resolution giving developers notice that they may be subject to future changes in the land use code, such as an assured housing policy. If the county had passed such a resolution, they would have had 180 days to enact the planned assured housing policy.
However, the resolution stirred debate about whether an assured housing policy was necessary or fair.
First, Wells took issue with not giving the hotels a threshold below which they could expect to be free of the future assured housing policy.
“Where you set that threshold is really important to me to not kill business and overregulate the little guys. I don’t really see anything here that communicates to the little guys. I think you’re going to have a lot of people flooding into the planning and zoning office really concerned or looking for information,” Wells said.
But Hawks said, “You can’t differentiate and say, this won’t affect these people but it will affect these. I think you have to make a blanket [statement] and then let the assured housing policy refine that.”
Clapper added, “I agree that it’s important to have quality policy. I am a little hesitant to put a hard number since we are still refining the policy and it hasn’t necessarily been adopted.”
Then audience member and local developer Randy Day spoke in opposition to the assured housing policy.
“It’s not that I mind you saying how do we catch up ... you deal the cards. You’re not putting your zoning in place where it will play... I will be glad to build affordable housing. Try to get a zone change in Grand County. That’s a tough nut to crack ... where can I put an apartment building in Grand County?,” Day said. “You’re going to have a hard time finding something zoned for it … What we need to do is zoning.”
Wells responded, “As we move forward into the policy, I do think it’s good to acknowledge that and be candid about that because I think that’s fair. The primary reason we’ve built up the savings account we have is because of TRT money that’s collected by hoteliers and lodging accommodations. What you’re doing with this policy is you’re putting the problem on their back. I think the business community and the citizens ought to have conscious acknowledgement of that from this board,” said Wells. “What we’re doing is we’re asking [hotels] to pay for the economy’s problems, not the problems they’re creating.”
Hawks responded, “We’ve already subsidized hotels. They don’t even have to advertise because we do that for them. They are getting some benefits.”
Clapper said, “This resolution is not the land use code and obviously there’s still a lot of debate to go around with the land use code.”
The county decision stands in contrast to the city’s course of action. The Moab City Council unanimously passed a similar resolution on May 22.
Though the motion failed, the county is still looking at a possible assured housing policy. The second phase of a Nexus study on the issue is expected to be completed soon.