An open letter to the Moab City Council


I am adding my voice to those who are asking you to reconsider and rescind the City of Moab Ordinance 2019-2, Planned Affordable Development (PAD), which was passed on May 14.

Others have voiced their concerns about the lack of transparency and due process. They have spoken about the hundreds of affordable housing units already in the pipeline to be built in the very near future. They have talked about how this density increase would greatly affect our green space in downtown Moab. 

I would like to say that the “Old Moab” downtown R3 residential neighborhoods have valuable historical significance, and as such, deserve protection.

The downtown R3 neighborhoods are very close to my heart. Since 1992 I have owned, remodeled and revitalized four homes in downtown Moab, three of those in the R3 zone.

The oldest of these homes was built in 1917 for the John Parley Larsen family. J.P. Larsen moved to Moab in 1889. He was a bishop in the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Moab Town trustee, a juvenile judge, and he served on the school board. The home was sold in the 1920s to the Hammond family, owners of Hammond and Sons Mercantile (Moab’s oldest commercial building), now the location of the LaSal House restaurant. A few years later the home was again sold, this time to the G.O. and Edna Patterson family, who owned the home for over 50 years.

Another of these homes was a Sears, Roebuck and Company “kit” home, the Homewood, featured in the 1926, 1928 and 1929 Sears catalogs, so was likely built no later than 1930. The home originally sat at the northwest corner of 200 North and Main and was moved in the mid-1950s when the location was purchased by K.E. McDougald to build a service station (now Canyon Voyages). It is estimated that over 100,000 Sears kit homes were built across the United States from 1908 to 1940.

My current home was originally built in the coal-mining town of Sego, Utah. The community of Sego was built beginning in 1911 and reached its heyday in the 1920s and ’30s. In 1955, the owners of the Utah Grand Coal Company sold all interests in the town, and in the following years many buildings were moved to Thompson and Moab. I estimate my house was moved to its current location in the early 1960s.

These few stories illustrate the historical significance of the downtown residential neighborhoods. There are many more homes with their own unique stories to tell.

Previous city councils and mayors have made decisions that protected these unique “Old Moab” neighborhoods. The density allowed by this new PAD ordinance could decimate them. Please don’t be the council that allows this to happen. Please reconsider and rescind the R3 PAD ordinance 2019-2.

– Lola McElhaney