Community Rebuilds has a problem. The nonprofit’s office is located down a long driveway at 150 S 200 E, behind three houses, leading potential homeowners, representatives with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others unfamiliar with the exact location of the office to go knocking on nearby homeowners’ doors, looking for the hidden office.
Community Rebuilds, however, also has a potential solution. The nonprofit owns a lot — 140 S 200 E — that is adjacent to its office flag lot. The building at 140 South currently operates as housing for program partners and apprentices, but because it faces the public road (rather than behind houses, down a long driveway), it is a good candidate for a public-facing storefront.
Under the current rules, the Community Rebuilds living space and office space cannot be swapped because of the two’s zoning designations. The office space is zoned commercially while the living space is zoned residentially.
As such, and in hopes of creating a more identifiable storefront for its office space, Rikki Epperson, the nonprofit’s executive director, applied in November to switch the zoning on the two Community Rebuilds properties, which would allow her to switch the use of the two lots.
However, Community Rebuilds has a third problem. It actually has a few problems: Neighbors, including City Council Member Rani Derasary, uncomfortable with the potential consequences of the city switching the zoning.
Two of them, Diane Walker and Kimberly Pettit, spoke in opposition during public engagement Tuesday night, Jan. 14. Another neighbor, Zacharia Levine told the city council he had “no objection” to the zone change and that he would prefer to have residential zoning behind his property rather than the existing commercial zoning.
Community Rebuilds Vista Kenny Fallon also spoke at the meeting in favor of the change, saying it could open up more rooms for affordable housing in Moab. The change would put the larger of Community Rebuilds’ two lots, the one at 150 South, in the residential zone, opening up more space for more housing on the property.
Derasary had the final word on the matter. She spoke in opposition to the rezone and motioned to table a decision on it while expressing hope that an alternative resolution amenable to her, her neighbors and Community Rebuilds could be reached.
Neighbors defend their neighborhood
Near the heart of the opposition from Community Rebuilds’ neighbors is a perception that commercial zoning, in Derasary’s words, has “crept” in their direction over time. The change could potentially mean various kinds of commercial or retail uses popping up next to her and her neighbors’ houses.
Notably, such uses could also pop up behind the houses were Community Rebuilds to sell the properties, given the current zoning.
“Our neighborhood has changed a lot,” Derasary said. “I think a lot of people who don’t live on this street don’t understand how many times neighbors along these two streets have been through potential or real zone changes and how much energy that takes and the history of what’s happened.”
Lodging is also a key issue for neighbors. The city’s C2 zone, until last year, allowed for overnight accommodations like bed and breakfasts or rental housing in the C2 zone. The city and county then removed lodging as a protected use throughout the valley, and new lodging developments are no longer allowed in the C2 zone, except where they already exist.
Although lodging in particular is no longer an allowed use on 200 East, and although Epperson has indicated a willingness to deed-restrict the 140 South property to disallow in perpetuity lodging on the site, other retail and commercial uses are still allowed in the C2 zone.
This potential for new commercial uses on the street front worried Derasary and other neighbors due to the potential of a business undesirable to neighbors could move in and replace Community Rebuilds’ planned street-front operations at 140 S 200 E in the long-term, altering the character of their neighborhood.
After a motion from Derasary to punt on a decision Tuesday night, the city council voted 4-1 to table the request while city staff researches ways to allow Community Rebuilds to turn their 140 South property into an office space, perhaps by designating the nonprofit as an educational institution, while denying the rezone request.
Council Member Kalen Jones, who had previously moved to go forward with the rezone, voted against the motion to table.