General election Q&A: Kalen Jones

You can read more about this Q&A and how the other candidates responded in the related story.

Kalen Jones is an incumbent to the Moab City Council, running for re-election in 2019. He was the third highest vote-getter in the primary election, with 623 votes. He was first elected to the seat in 2015.

Here is how Jones answered our questions:

T-I: The City of Moab, during its ongoing moratorium on new lodging developments, is on the clock to write and pass lodging standards. These standards will determine how future lodging developments look and operate.

There are many ideas regarding how these standards should be written. What are your top two priorities regarding how lodging is regulated in Moab, and how do you propose to implement them via policy?

Jones: Lodging is the most visible manifestation of Moab’s success in creating a tourism economy, and it provides significant tax revenue. With the dramatic increase of tourism in general—and lodging in particular—we need to plan carefully so that economic success does not harm residents’ quality of life.

I will continue to find practical ways to plan for the long-term well-being of both residents and businesses and address the specific impacts lodging is creating. We need smart growth, not as-fast-as-possible growth. One established lodging impact is on housing, and my work within the council has vigorously addressed this via the assured housing ordinance.

Two of my priorities will be reducing transportation impacts and using the profitability of lodging to support business balance. If I am re-elected, I will add more non-motorized travel options with an enhanced system of walking and bike paths. In addition to on-site paths, new lodging development will also include adequate facilities for future shuttle, bus and other emerging transportation services.

Business balance will be achieved through a mixed-use policy, requiring new development, which includes lodging, to also provide much-needed space for restaurants, offices and other businesses appropriate to the location. Providing more tourist services in close proximity to lodging will reduce the need for visitors to drive within town, reducing transportation impacts as well.

T-I: Relative to the area’s median income, Grand County has the least affordable rent in the State of Utah. The typical household spends more than 30% of its income on rent. Property values have increased dramatically in recent years while incomes have fallen.

Some candidates have proposed voluntary deed restriction programs to address the problem. Most agree that higher density housing is what is most needed. Where in the city should higher density housing get built, and how would you handle or mitigate pushback from homeowners who do not want those developments in or near their neighborhood?

Jones: Downtown commercial zones are significantly underdeveloped relative to their potential under existing zoning. Redeveloping storage lots and some single-story buildings into two-story buildings, a common height for historic downtowns, would open up significant space for housing and other uses with little or no impact on existing neighborhoods.

The city can and is facilitating this via comprehensive parking planning and development. We can also facilitate multi-property, collaborative development and redevelopment to increase downtown housing, business activity, and overall vibrance. 

T-I: Housing and lodging are perhaps the most obvious challenges facing the city. What is one other, major challenge that the city faces, and how do you plan to address it?

Jones: Transportation noise and congestion have a significant impact on our quality of life. In my first term, I was a member of the Throttle Down committee, and we made a concerted effort to educate riders about the noise impacts of UTVs and the sometimes-confusing Utah requirements for street-legal operation. The city has also lowered speed limits on key roads.

Despite good-faith voluntary measures and incremental progress, significant parts of Moab’s residential neighborhoods continue to be impacted by excessive noise. I will take our concerns to the state legislature to restore local control on this issue and work with businesses and other stakeholders to develop better parking, and possibly rental facilities, at major trailheads.

I have been a member of several committees that have worked with UDOT to address transportation planning and funding opportunities in Moab. By continuing to engage with UDOT, we can improve the planning processes and outcomes. Traffic projections, even with a bypass, show an increase in volume on Main Street over the coming decades. As part of downtown redevelopment, I will work to improve the downtown pedestrian experience and safety, both on Main Street and more importantly by incentivizing the development of our quiet, off-main commercial areas.