In a letter sent to Moab City and Grand County officials, State Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, expressed concern with proposed ordinances that would remove lodging as a protected use in and around Moab, which is part of District 70.
“Devaluing commercial property in Grand County will surely create unnecessary conflict between private property owners and local government, and will most likely result in lawsuits to the county council,” Albrecht said in the letter.
While condemning the proposed ordinances, which the city and county have pitched as temporary means of address the area’s influx of lodging and the associated effects, Albrecht also proposed to work with the councils “to mitigate the impact of tourism and promote responsible growth.”
Albrecht said in his letter that he is planning to sponsor a bill that would “directly reform the Transient Room Tax (TRT) law,” which currently requires the county by law to reinvest tourism tax dollars back into advertising Moab tourism and mitigating its impacts.
“Grand County is indeed the poster child for the need to bring this antiquated law up to date with modern demands of our rural counties,” Albrecht said in the letter.
Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells was philosophical about Albrecht’s email, saying the state lawmakers who represent Grand County residents generally are not citizens of Moab, so it might seem intrusive, perhaps, for Albrecht to comment. But he also said that Utah’s 29 counties are political subdivisions of the state. “It wouldn’t seem so odd if, say, I were the elected official and I commented from time to time on local issues.”
Wells said state legislators write most of the rules county governments must follow, and that the state has a keen interest in tourism in the region. At the same time and “without pointing fingers at anyone in the past,” he shares the community’s sense of “overwhelming growth” in tourism, adding that Albrecht’s letter resonated with him because he sees it as a plea for “reasonable and rational” action instead of a harsh reaction to dealing with the issue.
“When you jerk the wheel more people get hurt and they get hurt more severely than they would with a gradual turn,” said Wells.
He also defended Albrecht’s decision to send the letter, particularly at a time when growth in transient room tax is falling. “It’s about working relationships,” he said. “That’s what makes political organizations tick … it takes relationships to get things done and I think what we’re seeing is a lack of communication with our elected [state] representatives. There’s still a lot of distance.”