The ongoing plan to aid Moab’s housing crunch with high-density housing began to see some closure to some of the ambiguity left in the final documentation process during the Sept. 25 Grand County Planning Commission meeting.
Planning officials diligently focused on language in the draft that didn’t ensure nurturing or enrichment of the Moab community or had potential to get abused. One clause that received particular attention was the requirement that at least one household member maintain “active employment” in Grand County in order to qualify for housing, a stipulation intended to favor community members and workers, and dissuade travelers working remotely from taking advantage of local affordable housing.
Planning Commissioner Emily Campbell readdressed her concern about how the “active employment” requirement could affect those whose primary role was caretaking, not as a professional, an issue she’s addressed during previous committee meetings. Campbell detailed the category of individuals she’d like to protect, “in the case where a family may go through a separation, you may have one parent whose employment in Grand County provides for two different households that provide for children” and also where “circumstances happen in life where somebody may find themselves responsible for a child they did not anticipate, that needs full-time care, and must step back from full-time employment.” She noted the circumstances also applied to disabled adults, including elderly parents, but felt confident the previously amended language for disabilities safeguarded those scenarios. Campbell motioned to add the following definition to the active employment terms: “A person who is legally responsible for a minor child who resides primarily with them, and who is primarily responsible for the child’s safety and well-being for at least 60 hours in the business week in their home, must document that they or the child has resided in Grand County continuously for at least five years or the entirety of their lives.”
The council debated whether or not to retain the five-year stipulation in the definition, as it denied housing opportunities to full-time caregivers who didn’t share a home with a professionally employed person if they only resided in the area for a couple of years. However, the five-year minimum would not restrict them if the child were born in Grand County.
Planning Chair Gerris Willis moved to amend Campbell’s definition to exclude the minimum residency. It did not pass after dialogue with fellow planner Abby Scott drew attention to the potential for new parents to move to Moab simply to take advantage of the housing without any community ties to Grand County. The original motion and definition by Campbell then passed unanimously.
Another concern raised by Plannning Commission Member Kevin Walker addressed the potential for building owners to bypass long-term leasing by simply cancelling the lease agreement and turn it into a short-term lease. County Development Director Zacharia Levine immediately dispelled the concern: “I don’t personally see that as an issue. Each unit will have its own deed restricition...the fact that somebody has to verify their eligibility to occupy a unit before they occupy it would suggest to me that somebody who was coming to Moab for just one week would not be eligible. I believe that we have done our due diligence to close as many loopholes as possible,” said Levine. Though confident, he agreed to amend language if it was later deemed necessary to disqualify short-term renters.