How do you feel about denser housing?
County hosts overlay zone open houses

Grand County will hold two open houses to gather input on its proposed high-density housing (HDH) overlay policy on July 10 and July 31, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the county council chambers.

The HDH overlay is a voluntary, incentive-based approach to allowing more housing in Moab, in order to address the shortage of housing for residents and workforce. In the proposal, developers can build at higher densities than are currently allowed if they deed-restrict the majority of the houses for primary residential occupancy—not second homes or overnight rentals. If adopted, the HDH policy would not change the underlying zone district in a neighborhood. Instead, owner-developers interested in using the higher density would present a proposal and development agreement to the county for application of the overlay zone incentives. For every instance in which the HDH overlay is applied, the Grand County Council must vote to approve its use in a public hearing.

The Community Development Department of Grand County developed the policy over the course of several years. The idea first came up as an alternative to an assured housing policy. Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine explained that the county had been considering an assured housing policy in 2016, but was advised that economic studies were necessary to legally justify the policy. Assured housing policies, also known as inclusionary housing policies, require certain developers to contribute to affordable housing to offset the demands that their developments or businesses place on the local housing supply.

The legal bar for a HDH overlay was much lower, Levine said, and did not require economic studies. So while the assured housing economic studies were being carried out, the county began crafting a policy to allow higher density housing. The Grand County Planning Commission has gone through a lengthy process to identify potential areas for high-density housing and to mitigate concerns residents have expressed about impacts on their neighborhoods, Levine said.

“The analytical decision-lenses that we used to identify those boundaries were proximity to the City of Moab and the commercial business district, places of employment and activity density, proximity to our north-south transportation corridors (US 191 and Spanish Valley Drive)… [We tried] to cluster higher densities near existing higher-density developments. We also considered view-shed impacts … as well as existing neighborhoods. From those different lenses and from the [public] feedback and the conversations within the planning commission, the proposal that would be presented at the open houses is the outcome,” Levine said.

Levine encouraged anyone interested in the July 10 and July 31 open houses to learn more about the proposal by visiting the project website at or to call the community development department at (435) 259-1368.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent