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    Officials: Report lodging violations to the travel council

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    Travel council will forward complaints to law enforcement in cases of noncompliance

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    Many houses on Williams Way operate as nightly rentals, which the Southeast Utah Health Department has announced are not allowed to take visitors from out of town amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some, however, are primary or secondary residences, which can legally be occupied. Photo by Carter Pape

    The Moab Area Travel Council, headed by Executive Director Elaine Gizler, has taken the lead in the countywide effort to enforce the Southeast Utah Health Department’s March 17 health order to close all lodgings — including campgrounds, overnight rentals and hotels — to visitors. Residents may fill out a complaint form on the Do It Like a Local website.

    Moabites in recent days have taken to social media to talk about seeing violations of the local lodging order, but according to Grand County Council Administrator Chris Baird, the postings have not materialized into formal complaints.

    “I’ve received a complaint about a few potential violations anecdotally via Facebook,” Baird said. “I’ve requested that people send their complaint in via email. And, thus far, I’ve not received any via email.”

    Shan Hackwell, jail administrator and public information officer for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, told The Times-Independent that the sheriff’s office had received four official complaints as of Monday regarding violations of the lodging order.

    The sheriff’s office had also responded to at least 15 cases of camping that violated the order. No citations had been issued in any of the lodging or camping cases because, according to Hackwell, the people were generally compliant once contacted by officers.

    Baird said that the county cannot do much with mere anecdotes shared on social media. “We need an actual complaint filed with addresses.”

    Gizler said that the way to file those complaints is through her by emailing Gizler is doing initial contact with people who are potentially violating the health order and forwarding any instances of continued noncompliance to Sheriff Steven White.

    “I am researching owners, and contacting them immediately,” Gizler said. “I will report back to the sheriff anyone that will not comply.”

    Discussion of alleged instances of noncompliance with the lodging restriction reignited Saturday, March 29 when Moab City Council Member Rani Derasary contacted various local officials to report that she had received “several grumblings from public about coming across out-of-towners in front-country and in town who really shouldn’t be here right now, or needn’t be.”

    Derasary said that she was aware of multiple instances of illegal camping, including at Gemini Bridges and the Courthouse Wash parking area.

    Derasary said that a local business had encountered a bicyclist in Moab who had been staying in a short-term rental in Grand County and that he had arrived after the lodging restriction had been implemented. According to Derasary, the same business took a call from a Park City resident looking to ride in the Moab area and stay at a local AirBnB, despite Summit County’s shelter-in-place order and Grand County’s lodging restriction.

    Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan said her office and that of the sheriff had received many of the same questions Derasary had asked and that the sheriff had issued “hundreds of written warnings for camping in violation of the order last week (ending March 28).”

    Sloan and Baird noted that owners of second homes may legally stay in their vacation homes despite the lodging order, and some other instances of what may appear to be violations of the order are not.

    “It is not illegal for second home owners to come to Moab to check in on their property or hunker down and wait out the storm here,” Sloan said. “And it is not illegal for Grand County residents to allow their friends to stay at their house for any period of time during this crisis. However, the good news is that if these people have a legal home basis, they should be honoring the orders in place and not moving about in the community too much.”

    Note: This story has been edited to add web links to related resources.

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