The Moab City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, Sept. 9 to reject a proposed text amendment that would have reduced the minimum acreage for development on city properties within the Sensitive Area Resort zone.
Moab resident Sue Dalton requested the text amendment, which would have decreased the minimum acreage from 40 acres to 24. Dalton said that while the properties that would benefit from the change are currently located outside of the city limits, several of the property owners are interested in applying for annexation.
“Some areas in our little valley are conducive to affordable housing but others are more conducive to resort communities, intermixing private residences, overnight accommodations and commercial activities,” Dalton wrote in her application. She argued that the change could bring extra tax money into the city’s coffers while preserving the beauty of the surrounding area.
Moab City Planning Director Jeff Reinhart said the Lion’s Back property on Sand Flats Road is the only area currently within the SAR zone, and the zone regulations were developed specifically for that area. The parcels connected with Dalton’s request are also located along Sand Flats Road. Reinhart said the zone was created with very strict regulations that apply to development, including a requirement that at a minimum, 70 percent of the property must remain as open space.
“It is our most stringent zone,” Reinhart said. “It’s designed to protect the environment around it.” The Moab City Planning Commission held several public hearings and debated the text amendment over the course of three meetings before finally voting 3-2 on Aug. 28 to send it to the city council with a negative recommendation. Joe Downard and Laura Uhle opposed recommending against the zone change.
Commission member Wayne Hoskisson said during that meeting that because the property isn’t currently within city limits, the city had no legal bearing to act on the request. “We’re really premature in considering it before it’s within the city limits,” he said. Council member Kyle Bailey agreed, suggesting that the city could look at it after the parcels were annexed into the city. “This is a possible annexation,” he said. “We don’t know if it’s even going to happen.” Planning Commission chairwoman Kelly Thornton said she opposed the idea because it would allow developments that would bring in additional nightly rentals.
“The [property owner has] the burden of proving that it’s a benefit to the community,” Thornton said. “I’m not convinced that annexing something into the city so that more nightly rentals can be built is really beneficial.” Reinhart said the area in question would likely not be suitable for any sort of affordable housing or even residential units. “It’s cost prohibitive,” he said, citing the cost of putting in roads and utilities to service the area. Council member Kirstin Peterson said that she didn’t feel comfortable changing the zone requirements when the current zoning hasn’t even been tested to determine whether the requirements work.
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