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.
Moab City Planning Commissioners last week forwarded a positive recommendation on a compromise ordinance proposal that would give city officials leeway on individual projects to approve, on a project-by-project basis, loosening of the rules that bind lodging developers as they build workforce housing.
The City of Moab has appealed to the Utah Supreme Court a lower court’s finding that it should have held a public hearing before allowing the developers of Lionsback Resort near Sand Flats Recreation Area to materially change a previously approved development agreement.
The Grand County Council voted 5-0 with one recusal to adopt new overnight lodging development standards at the first meeting of 2020 held Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Amid discussions over lodging regulations that will govern new hotels and motels in Moab, more than 560 local residents have signed an open letter to city and Grand County elected officials asserting that the level of tourist visitation to Moab is “too high” and asking that the council “NOT allow any new projects” into the planning pipeline until “pending projects,” also known as vested projects, have been built.
Within the next two months, the City of Moab will likely have new ground rules for local hoteliers and other lodging developers seeking to partake in the large and growing economic pie that is Utah tourism.
Lodging is Moab’s most lucrative business, and as elected officials debate draft ordinances that would regulate new hotel developments, they see an opportunity to leverage that economic opportunity to bring to Moab greater economic diversity in the form of new restaurants, retail outlets and even possibly daycares.
A proposed legislative bill to reduce the amount of transient room tax that must be spent to promote tourism in Grand and other Utah counties was met with mixed feelings Friday when the Grand County Council and Moab Area Travel Council met – but the two sides ultimately agreed to put up a united front when lawmakers address the legislation in the 2020 session, which begins Jan. 27.
Now that the governing councils of Grand County and the City of Moab have imposed temporary bans on the development of overnight lodging, it’s time to dive into heightened standards for such developments.
Flaws in how a July 18 Grand County Council special meeting was noticed prompted Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan to require the council to ratify its revote on whether to temporarily remove overnight lodging developments as a use by right.
Curtis Wells said his colleagues on the Grand County Council were aware he had serious concerns regarding the removal of lodging as a permitted use from existing businesses and commercial zoning long before the issue ever went to a vote on July 16 – saying the process morphed from one that would have implemented enhanced design standards for lodging operators to an outright ban, to building any more hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, condominiums, townhomes or private campgrounds.
The Moab City Council quietly approved an ordinance that temporarily removes as a use by right future overnight lodging developments while staff, led by City Planner Nora Shepard, creates new standards.