Sunday, July 12, 2020


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    New lodging design rules may be 2020’s first order of business

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    Doug McMurdo
    Doug McMurdo
    Editor Doug McMurdo reports on news out of the Moab City Center, tourism, courts, change of government and more.
    The Grand County and Moab City councils are working to create enhanced standards for developers of overnight accommodations. Exterior requirements call for varied facades, similar to HooDoo Moab, above. Photo by Doug McMurdo

    Significant changes to Grand County’s land use code regarding new standards for overnight lodging development could be approved at the first meeting in January. If ultimately enacted, the ordinance would not only mandate elevated design and construction standards for temporary lodging, but also limit such development to certain areas, with other commercial zones open to non-lodging development.

    The Grand County Planning Commission on Dec. 10 voted to recommend approval and the council held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance one week later. They will hold one more workshop before the council’s regular meeting Jan. 7, primarily to give Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan the ability to address legal concerns.

    Zacharia Levine, the director of Grand County Community and Economic Development, recommended the council approve the ordinance – as well as “reintegrate several commercial uses into zone districts that do not currently allow them as soon as possible. Citizens, planning commissioners and council members have expressed a desire to see many non-lodging uses emerge in the county’s commercial zone districts.”

    He said disallowing overnight accommodations from those districts “is just one part of achieving such a development outcome.”

    The county will have to act no later than Jan. 14. In July, the council notified overnight lodging developers through a resolution that it was going to develop new standards that would focus on mixed use, design and operational performance – such as high-efficiency lighting and plumbing. They gave themselves 180 days, which ends the second week of January.

    Three citizens commented. RV park owner Reed Pendleton, who has participated in the discussion since the county and city enacted moratoria on overnight lodging in February, has asked the council and planning commission to not lump RV parks into the equation for a number of reasons regarding the size of projects and the number of units.

    Pendleton said he plans to build another RV park and he needs to have a specific number of units in order to make a go of things. The proposed plans limit RV parks to 35 spaces.

    “Most residents in the county understand the levels of tourists is way too high already,” said resident Dennis Silva. That level of tourism, he said, “has already degraded the visitor experience.” Silva credited the county for taking the initiative, saying it was a “worthy effort” by the council and county staff.

    Liz Thomas agreed, saying, “It’s been 10 months of pretty amazing work,” said Thomas. She noted that last February’s implementation of a moratorium on overnight lodging development came with “overwhelming support” from the public, including a petition effort that garnered more than 700 signatures in only a few days.

    Thomas cautioned the council not to be in too much of a hurry to lift the current ban, noting that the projects that are exempt from the moratorium but not yet build would increase the number of existing overnight lodging units by 38 percent – or roughly another 1,700 on top of the 4,500 already built. “There may be a better way,” said Thomas. “We need some sort of bright line and not start down a slippery slope.”

    Planning commissioners in their deliberations on establishing overnight lodging overlay districts acknowledged that they are not appropriate in all zones and parts of Grand County.

    Here are a few of the design standards that didn’t necessarily exist before:


    All projects “shall” produce 80 percent of energy needs onsite through solar, geothermal or other renewable energy sources. RV campgrounds must product 5 percent of their energy onsite.

    Developers must meet industry-established standards, such as LEED, the Living Building Challenge or Net Zero building certification.


    Developments shall install the maximum feasible rainwater catchment system and use this water for beneficial onsite uses rather than culinary water.

    Grey water reuse systems must also be installed and used for beneficial onsite purposes.


    Developments must provide a space to accommodate a transit or shuttle stop, a covered, lockable bike storage at a rate of one space for every two lodging units. They also must provide active transportation and non-motorized trail easements dedicated to the public if they are part of the county’s trails master plan.

    Developers must provide a narrative and transportation solutions that aim to “reduce projected vehicle trips” by 20 percent.

    Mixed use

    The council shall demonstrate a preference for applications that include a mix of use types, including multiple commercial uses or long-term residential uses.

    Open space

    Developers shall provide functional open space that the public can access. The percentage increases with the size of developments.

    Building design

    The height limit will be 35 feet unless the developer can show that the view shed will not be impacted.

    No façade or building wall shall exceed 60 linear feet, and more than five feet shift in vertical and horizontal faces is required for each 30 linear feet. Designs shall vary between vertical façade divisions and from adjacent buildings by the type of dominant material, color or scale, or orientation of that material and at least two of the following: the proportion of recesses and projections, and the location of the entrance and window placement, unless storefronts are utilized.

    The Grand County Council will hold a workshop on the proposed amendments at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7 and members could vote on it later that day during the first regular meeting of 2020.

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