New city manager on what makes Moab’s housing issue uniquely bad
Moab’s City Council hired a new city manager during a meeting on Tuesday, April 8. Joel Linares will officially take over the role on Aug. 2, when current City Manager David Everitt steps away.
The Times-Independent sat down and spoke with Linares about his new responsibilities and his thoughts on some of the biggest issues facing Moab. He’s in a position to know after spending time as Moab’s assistant city manager before moving up to replace Everitt.
The full interview is available in audio format. Here is an abridged version:
The T-I: What does the city manager do?
Linares: I will oversee the day-to-day operations of the city. It is not my job to make policy. That is the council’s job.
For example, once the city council decided they were going to do single-stream recycling, that decision came back to the city staff, and it was our job to implement that policy and execute it.
It was our job to get the city council the best information we could on the differences between single-stream recycling and source-sorted recycling, where recycling is going, why one system works better in certain contexts, and other matters. We get them information so that they can make their best decision.
It is also the city manager’s job to make sure we have a balanced budget—to make sure that we are working within our means, that we are delivering the level of service that is expected of the city, and to make sure that employees are held accountable for what they are supposed to do and what they are doing.
What does tourism being the base of the city government’s tax revenue do for how the city thinks about paying for things?
Moab is a special place. Everyone who lives here loves to say that, but it really is; it does not have a property tax.
People who live in Moab City pay a property tax, but that actually goes to the school district, to the county, to the mosquito abatement and to the other special service districts in which that piece of property is located. It does not go to the city.
It’s a hard balance. You hear everyone, during this temporary land use regulation in place that is preventing the developments of new overnight accommodations, saying “enough, enough, enough!”
It is indeed enough; we’re saturated with overnight accommodations, and people are sick of the hubbub. At the same time, tourism is how we pay our day-to-day operations here at the city.
If limiting overnight accommodations is the direction we want to go, we may have to find funding sources in other places. There are ways to do that; I’m not saying we have to institute a property tax, but that’s how most cities generate revenue for their day-to-day operations.
What do you think about the housing issue? What can you, as the city manager, do to create affordable housing opportunities?
Moab’s housing crisis is real. For the most part, everyone in the State of Utah is having a housing crisis to some degree. West Jordan was having one when I was there; Grantsville was having one. Everyone is having one.
Moab’s housing problem is exponentially worse. I hate to say that, but that’s the fact. I moved here recently, and I cannot believe the stock numbers for what’s needed. It’s crazy to me.
Moab is taking a very interesting approach with the purchase of Walnut Lane trailer park, where we are going to build affordable housing and start putting our money where our mouth is. We’re in the process of doing that.
During our temporary moratorium on overnight accommodations, we are trying to determine what policies we can give to council to consider, like PAD [planned affordable development] and the others you’ve seen coming before them, such that they can change the rules.
Add some context regarding the severity of the housing crisis in Moab. How can people understand how bad it is here compared to other places?
In West Jordan and in Grantsville, they were at least building stock, and the question was whether it was affordable. You had money in hand; the question was whether you had enough money in hand.
There are times here in Moab when you have enough money in hand, and you can’t find a single thing you can purchase.
Up north, there is stock, and it’s an affordability issue. In Moab, there are times when it’s an affordability issue, but then there are times when it’s a straight stock issue. Is there anywhere I can even buy or rent?
The full interview with Linares is available in audio format.