Where the candidates differ: Plans, promises and restrictions

This story is one of two this week about the differences and agreements between candidates regarding housing and taxation. For more information, see the main story.

While there are many points of agreement among the candidates running for a spot on the Moab City Council, there is plenty of disagreement that differentiates each from another.

Here are some of the major points that the candidates emphasized in recent comments:

Jones promises deed restriction program

Kalen Jones

City council incumbent Kalen Jones said in recent comments regarding the affordability of housing in the city that he was looking to implement a policy that would put deed restrictions on housing developments.

“I will help develop a market rate tool to retain the social fabric of Moab’s neighborhoods by ensuring that a significant number of existing houses remain occupied by full-time residents,” Jones said in his comments. Jones said the program would be modelled on the Vail InDEED program, which offers homeowners in Vail, Colorado, a financial incentive to impose a deed restriction on their property.

For properties that have the deed restriction, the current and all subsequent owners of the property must abide by the restriction, which mandates that the property be occupied by individuals who work at least 30 hours per week in Eagle County, Colorado, where Vail is located.

Sisco advocates for minimum wage

Solona Sisco

As a means of addressing the affordability gap between Moab’s median income and its median rent, council candidate Solona Sisco offered the idea of establishing a minimum wage enforced on large corporations with local stores and locations.

“The locally owned businesses tend to pay fair wages to the extent that they can afford, but not every business in town is locally owned,” Sisco said. She later continued, “I would like to see those big corporations paying a minimum of $15 per hour to all their employees.”

Whether Moab has the ability to levy such a minimum wage is under question, at least according to incumbent Rani Derasary.

Derasary: Minimum wage increase might not be possible

Rani Derasary

“Many people have asked me why the city doesn’t set a living wage, but unlike in some other states, it’s been my understanding that Moab can’t set a minimum wage […] that all employers in town must abide by,” Derasary said. “Rather, the Utah Legislature holds the power to raise the state’s minimum wage.”

She continued by saying that there have been efforts by some Utah lawmakers in the past to increase the state’s minimum wage above the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

“Though prior attempts have failed, I do think increases are something residents should continue to push our state representatives and senators for,” Derasary said.

Minor: “Nobody seems to want higher density”

Ken Minor

While council candidate Ken Minor advocated for “more areas for apartment complexes” and other high-density housing forms, he conceded that many people do not want such developments near them. “Nobody seems to want higher density housing in their neighborhood,” he said. “I understand that.”

Sisco spoke to this sentiment as well, referring specifically to “NIMBYs,” an acronym for the phrase “not in my backyard.” The phrase is a reference typical to incumbent homeowners who seek to block developments they find undesirable, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere.

“The changing neighborhood characteristics predicted by NIMBYs would be less severe for any homeowner already living in one of the affected zones if the increased density is spread out across all the residential zones,” Sisco said, following her proposal for high-density housing to be allowed in all residential zones.

Derasary: Higher density might not cut it

Derasary deviated from the sentiments expressed by other council candidates by playing down the effects that higher density housing might have on the affordability of renting in the city. “Nothing guarantees that just because you build more rental units, that they will be cheaper,” Derasary said. She later continued, “Most folks would agree there’s demand for more apartments in Moab, but we also have demand for other sizes/forms of housing.”

Derasary said that merely increasing supply of housing would not be enough to reverse the effects of rapidly increasing property values. “Additionally, as you increase supply, unless you deed-restrict units based on affordability, you won’t significantly help reverse our affordable housing supply problem long term,” Derasary said.

Walston: Accessory units needed

Bryon Walston

Council candidate Bryon Walston said that he wanted the city to modify its rules to allow accessory dwelling units (known colloquially as mother-in-law apartments), alongside tiny homes and multiple dwelling units.

Accessory dwelling units have recently been a point of discussion for the city and county councils as a potential way to create more housing opportunities.

Jones said that accessory dwellings “could be a significant addition to the housing stock without altering neighborhood character.” He also said that he would “revisit the ADU code provisions to remove unnecessary barriers to such development.”

Derasary: High-income outsiders inflate property values

Derasary reaffirmed what previous studies of housing in Moab have claimed: Outside money spent on property in the valley has been a part of spurring the growth in real estate values.

“As long as people with relatively high outside incomes continue to move to or invest in Moab, many will be able to afford more for units than our average wage earner,” Derasary said. “My point is, to get lower rates, you likely need provisions to limit the sale/rental to local residents, as will be the case under the PAD ordinance.”

Note: This story does not include information about the responses from Tawny Knuteson-Boyd and Cassie Patterson, who responded to our questions after press time.