For the workforce: 300-unit project breaks ground

Audrey Graham, center, of the Moab Area Community Land Trust, jumps for joy with AmericaCorps Vista volunteer Alex Oldham, left, and Emmajean John on Friday, Jan. 10 in the 2000 block of Spanish Valley Drive, to celebrate dirt work beginning on the 300-unit Arroyo Crossing development. Photo by Doug McMurdo

Heavy equipment operators began moving dirt in the 2000 block of Spanish Valley Drive, home of the 300-unit affordable housing development known as Arroyo Crossing. The Moab Area Community Land Trust project is one of the more ambitious affordable housing projects in the county.

“I’m excited and I’m thrilled to see it moving forward,” said an elated Audrey Graham on Thursday, Jan. 9. “I can’t wait we see what we develop here for our own workforce.” Graham said it would take nine or ten months to put the infrastructure in place – roads, curb and gutter, water, sewer – and it’s possible one or two developers could begin building homes by fall.

The first phase will take place entirely on the west side of Spanish Valley Drive, but eventually the 41-acre project will cross to the east side of the road.

Graham has worked for roughly two decades to bring affordable housing to Moab and now she’s ready to work on design standards. “We could really use advisory board members with home-building experience,” she said. Graham can be contacted at 435-259-8664.

“It won’t be a cookie cutter subdivision,” she said. “Being affordable doesn’t mean being poorly designed or highly subsidized.”

In fact, the one reason the standard homes, tiny homes, apartments and other types of housing planned for Arroyo Crossing is that the land it sits on was donated specifically to build affordable housing.

No trespassing on site

Dog-walking is a popular activity for residents who live near the Arroyo Crossing subdivision, but due to safety concerns, they will not be able to continue doing so now that construction has begun. Audrey Graham said it was upsetting for her to make the announcement, but construction sites are normally off-limits. Those who enter the property will be considered trespassers.

While Graham has worked on the project since 2002 – much of that time spent convincing nearby residents the project is worthwhile – it has gained steam in recent years, culminating in August when the Grand County Council approved the overlay for the project, as well as its master plan.

The vote was split, with Member Rory Paxman objecting because people who qualify for the homes might not pay taxes. Vice Chair Jaylyn Hawks disclosed she lives in the area and believes 300 units is too high a density for the neighborhood.

Earlier in 2019 the council agreed to waive certain fees at Arroyo Crossing to help keep down costs. Public opposition waned significantly after Graham visited neighbors to address concerns – many that were incorporated in revisions made to the overall plan following her efforts.

Because whoever purchases property in Arroyo Crossing won’t own the land – the trust will retain possession – nonprofits such as MACLT can apply for a property tax exemption once the certificates of occupancy are issued. Investors who purchase homes and then hope to flip them for a profit will be out of luck. Graham said equity will be capped at 3% per year.