City leaning into removing short-term rentals as protected use

Mayor pitches conditional use by right

Moab City Council members and planning commissioners discuss overnight accommodation regulations, including how to protect existing uses, at a joint meeting on May 23. City Planning Director Nora Shepard guided the discussion. Photo by Carter Pape

In an unofficial vote May 23, the Moab City Council expressed general support for removing short-term rentals as a protected use in its land use code. An official vote to do this would, upon its passage, prevent any new short-term rentals from starting development or becoming licensed.

From here, Landmark Design, contracted by the city and Grand County to write new land use ordinances regarding overnight rentals during their six-month moratoria, will write the council’s desires into draft ordinances.

Landmark has said it would deliver final draft ordinances to the city and county by June 4. The councils will then have until Aug. 4 to finalize the drafts and approve them.

City council members and city planning commissioners have expressed interest in continuing to develop land use codes following these deadlines to create more robust, longer-term means of addressing overnight accommodations and affordable housing.

One such future idea was put forth by Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus during the meeting May 23. She pitched the council and planning commission on the future possibility of re-establishing use by right for overnight rentals in certain areas in town via overlay zones, but also requiring such developments meet certain conditions. The conditions could include mixed-use development, form-based code and others.

Many developers attended the meeting and expressed to the mayor afterward that they felt vilified at times during the night’s discussion, and overall by the community. They said they were not the enemy, but rather, were providing a vital service to the community by housing and tending to Moab’s many visitors.

Niehaus and other public officials, including Planning Commissioner Kya Marienfeld and City Council member Karen Guzman-Newton, stayed after the meeting to hear out the developers who stayed and to discuss some of their specific points and ideas.