Speak up: Designers seek input on land use future

Pedestrians cross a busy Moab Moab Main Street on April 15. Community members are invited to share their concerns about potential zoning options in their increasingly busy town at an April 30 workshop. Photo by Doug McMurdo

Representatives from Landmark Design, the firm under contract with Grand County and the City of Moab to create a unified land use plan, invite residents to attend a workshop to review potential ordinances and zoning options, local and national case studies and examples, and economic and market analyses for southeastern Utah.

They also want to hear public input on preliminary land use concepts focused on overnight accommodations. Both the county and city have moratoriums in the construction of temporary lodging that will be in place until early August.

In the meantime, elected officials and planning experts will work to enact meaningful land use codes designed to slow down the construction of overnight lodging while designating areas of Grand County suitable for affordable housing and commercial projects.

The workshop is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 30 at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West.

Landmark has already hosted a pair of open houses and taken in feedback from scores of residents, but they need to hear from a wider representation of county residents, according to firm President Mark Vlasic and Zacharia Levine, the Grand County Community and Economic Development director.

The open houses in late March were designed to get a sense of residents’ “current concerns and desires,” particularly relating to the moratorium on overnight accommodations, as well as their concerns about the future of Moab and Grand County, wrote a Landmark staffer in a summary of those comments.

Much of what was said surprised nobody: Many residents believe tourism has grown far bigger than the region’s infrastructure can handle in terms ranging from traffic congestion and crowded stores and restaurants, to a lack of affordable housing for a workforce that keeps growing as more hotels, motels and other types of overnight accommodations are developed.

A lack of parking, the levels of noise pollution, and “special event fatigue” also were mentioned as people would like to see the numbers reduced. The proposed reservation system for the sometimes crowded Arches National Park was lauded as one way to cut down on the number of tourists in town at a given time.

Environmental concerns also were raised, especially regarding the already shaky water supply in the face of continued development. Dispersed camping and its toll on the environment were mentioned, as was the noise that comes with the increase of UTVs and other motorized off-road vehicles.

Damage to air quality, light pollution, wildlife habitat and a need to instruct visitors on how to limit impacts were other hot topics.

Local government was accused of not “exercising enough willpower” in denying certain development, or in enforcing current codes. “Up-zoning” happens much too frequently, they said.

On the economic front, there appears to be a common perception that most money leaves Moab and goes to large corporations, which “don’t offer fair wages or support the local community … and are irreparably altering the physical character and sense of community” in the Moab area.

The issue of housing was addressed, with support for higher densities voiced only if that density was used to house local residents. In a related matter, many endorsed waiving impact fees for affordable housing.

Residents who have something to add to the conversation are strongly encouraged to attend the April 30 workshop as the clock is running on the moratorium. The goal for the county and city councils is to adopt future land use plans Landmark Design helps write in place before the moratorium ends Aug. 4.