County may join city on code plans as moratorium ticks by

A palpable sense of urgency permeated the Grand County Council Chambers at Tuesday’s meeting as members stare down a deadline to enact meaningful changes to the county’s land use code before a construction moratorium on overnight rentals ends in early August.

With that in mind, the council was unanimously supportive of entering into an interlocal agreement with the City of Moab – which has a moratorium of its own – to use the services of Landmark Design, a Salt Lake City firm with expertise in creating future land use plans.

Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine and Vice Chair Terry Morse brought the item to the council, with the option of expending $10,000 or more in order to collaborate with the city, which has already agreed to a $47,000 contract with Landmark.

The $10,000 figure is a moving target as it is unknown what the county will be required to pay for the service. The county will hold a special meeting at noon Monday to discuss the proposal and possibly dedicate funding.

Should the county not join with the city, Levine made it clear that time could be a crippling factor, with the latest possible date to take action before the moratorium expires July 16. June 11 is the last possible date to hold a public hearing to hear from people – and the county planning commission would, in actuality, only have about three months to put a plan in order.

Those hard deadlines made the collaboration with the city more attractive, but Levine said he has not yet reviewed the scope of work Landmark would provide. Still, he said, “I like the idea of having dedicated third-party support.” Levine said his department would lead the effort on the administrative side … we’re down to five months – time is not on our side.”

City Manager David Everitt said a meeting with stakeholders and other members of the public will likely be held in a March 20 town hall.

“I think we all feel getting the public’s voice soon and often would be nice,” said Levine. Council Member Mary McGann said it would likely be less expensive joining with the city, and County Administrator Ruth Dillon noted the city’s contract with the consultant is already in place, so Landmark would only have to expand the study it has already begun. To sweeten the pie, Levine noted Landmark also worked with San Juan County in creating its plan for Spanish Valley, a fact that would help avoid conflict when the Grand County side of the border is planned.

Council Member Curtis Wells questioned what tangible benefit, if any, Grand County would receive given Landmark’s relationship with San Juan County. Levine said it was difficult to predict tangible benefits, but it “certainly helps to have a consultant who’s familiar with the issues.”

Said Morse, “It opens the door to subsequent discussions with San Juan County,” who added the goal for both counties is to “come up with the best possible outcome.” Morse also suggested a joint meeting with the neighboring county should probably happen at some point.

Wells agreed Landmark’s relationships would help with communication, something Everitt added to when he said the terminology would be the same, which would avoid confusion.

County Clerk/Auditor Chris Baird adroitly pointed out the $10,000 – or more – the contract might call for can’t come from adding to the “bottom line” of the general fund as that would require a time-delaying public hearing.

It was decided the money could come from the discretionary fund, which would be repaid at a later date.

County Attorney Christina Sloan said she would draft the proposed interlocal agreement.