A bed and breakfast proposed for a neighborhood on Moab’s east side has angered some neighbors and also raised larger questions about the appropriateness of nightly rentals in residential zones.
Jeramey and Mary McElhaney, owners of an undeveloped lot on Arches Drive, have requested a conditional-use permit to build a two story, 3,721-square-foot bed and breakfast with a total of five short-term rental units on the site. Although the Moab City Planning Commission voted to recommend the proposal be approved by the Moab City Council, the city council will make the final decision regarding the plan in the weeks following an Oct. 28 public hearing. In letters to the council, many neighbors voiced concerns that the proposed facility would increase noise and traffic, which they say are already at high levels because of the daycare center currently operated in the McElhaney’s home, which is next door to the property that would house the proposed bed and breakfast.
But under the terms of the conditional-use permit, the daycare must discontinue operations once the bed and breakfast becomes operational. In addition, the planning commission mandated that the facility be reviewed annually for code compliance, that all lighting be directed downward and the entrance and parking areas be buffered by fencing or landscaping. Though daycare traffic would cease, proposed plans for the site include parking for trailers, which in letters to the city, neighbors say indicate the bed and breakfast will market to ATV enthusiasts. Bonnie Carson, a six-year Arches Drive resident, argued that the nature of the traffic will shift from local residents picking up their children, to visitors and ATV enthusiasts who will not necessarily respect speed limits or noise limitations in the neighborhood.
“We are quite familiar with the vacation habits of the many types of recreationists who visit Moab,” Carson and her husband, Scott Carson wrote in a letter to the city listing their concerns about the potential noise and traffic of ATV and off-road vacationers. “This type of use in the R-2 neighborhood is incompatible with what should be a quiet residential neighborhood.” The proposed bed and breakfast, said Bonnie Carson, “is just like putting a hotel on a dead-end street.” Jeramy McElhaney told The Times Independent that he has addressed these public concerns throughout the proposal process, and will address any new ones at the next public meeting. Arches Drive neighbors have also expressed displeasure that the planning commission recommended the conditional-use permit to the city council. Jon Kovash, a 15-year resident of Arches Drive, said city code allows for value judgments.
Under city code, bed and breakfasts may be allowed a conditional-use permit “where there is clearly minimal negative impact on adjacent residential properties and neighborhoods.” Kovash said the traffic and noise on a “quiet dead-end street” is such a “negative impact.” Kelly Thornton, chairwoman of the planning commission, said the commission must adhere fairly strictly to the requirements of the city code. And under city code, the planning department determined the proposal completely met the requirements of a conditional use permit. “Our job is fairly narrow,” Thornton said. “We have few real powers to go outside of the code.” City council member Gregg Stucki said the application process for a conditional-use permit requires the property owner to meet certain checklist items.
“If they can mark off the things in that checklist, you cannot deny them that license,” Stucki said. Kovash is calling for changes to regulations, saying that he believes the city codes “were well intentioned but have become unworkable and obsolete. There is no convincing evidence that a hotel room has less impact if you call it a B&B room, and the conditional use process was certainly not designed to encourage significant new construction of facilities for uses that are supposed to be reviewed annually.” City council member Kirstin Peterson said it is likely that the council will revisit the code. Peterson said the Arches Drive proposal has “brought up an important concern for residents about what is appropriate in the community.” City council member Heila Ershadi said addressing the trend of nightly rentals is definitely on the city’s “to-do” list.
“We can take a look at our zoning [laws] so we can make sure we’re doing the right things for residents,” she said. Thornton said she encourages residents to become involved in the development of city code. “I always encourage people if they disagree with something, pursue changing the code and participate in the process,” she said. Ershadi said she takes both the recommendation of the planning commission and the letters of concern “seriously.” “I want to be sure that everyone feels heard and we can address any concerns that people have,” she said.
The council will vote on the proposed bed and breakfast in the weeks following the Oct. 28 public hearing. The public hearing will take place during the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.