In a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the Moab City Council approved a development and phasing agreement for Lionsback Resort. Council members Kyle Bailey and Sarah Bauman voted against the measure.
The council’s decision moves the development, planned for property east of Moab owned by the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, another step closer to becoming a reality.
The controversial Lionsback proposal has been in the works for several years, as the project wound its way through the city planning process that included a series of public hearings and efforts to annex the property into city limits.
From the submission of the proposed resort’s design concept to the planning commission in 2007 to Tuesday night’s decision on the development and phasing agreement, the Lionsback process has included contentious public hearings before the planning commission and the city council, approval of the preliminary plan, annexation of the 175.12 acre parcel of SITLA land into the Moab city limits and the creation of a new sensitive area resort zone that city officials have said was specifically designed for large, environmentally sensitive developments such as Lionsback. Future approval of a final plan will be the last step in the development process for the proposed resort.
The Lionsback resort development is planned for a 46.8-acre portion of the property located on Sand Flats Road that was formerly the Lions Back Campground. The development will be constructed in five phases, according to the development plans. Phase one calls for the construction of a large hotel center, 50 hotel guest condominiums and the platting of 34 single-family lots.
According to the development and phasing agreement approved Tuesday, a variety of infrastructure requirements will have to be met in phase one. Internal subdivision roads and 105 parking spaces near the hotel are included in the construction design. A storm drain will be required for storm water management, and connections to the city sewer system and the city water system will be included, along with the installation of a large water storage tank that will distribute water to all proposed development facilities located within the resort.
Electric, natural gas, cable television and telephone lines will be extended and installed along Sand Flats Road to serve the resort. Sand Flats Road will be improved to allow for greater public safety with an expected increase of traffic the presence of the resort will bring on the road.
Unlike a standard subdivision agreement, the development agreement approved by the city council requires separate agreements for each proposed phase in order to establish the responsibilities for construction of particular onsite and offsite improvements, city officials said.
A Drinking Water Source Protection Plan will also be required, according to city officials. But that plan is not an element of development agreements and will be presented within the next two council meetings for approval.
At a public hearing held at city council Aug. 26, 2008, Moab citizens spoke for an hour about their concerns regarding the proposed development. Many who spoke raised concerns about the possible effect the development might have as a potential source of contamination of the sole-source aquifer located on a portion of the property.
Lionsback Resort development partner Mike Lawler, and Tom Kennedy, attorney for the developers, were present at Tuesday’s council meeting. After the council approved the development and phasing agreement Lawler and Kennedy were asked when construction could possibly begin. Kennedy explained that the partners are still in court defending a decision by the city council to approve the preliminary master plan for the development.
Several area residents and groups, including Living Rivers and Julianne Fitzgerald, who have been fighting the city’s decision to grant approval, filed an appeal of the council’s decision last year. The matter was heard by the city Board of Adjustment in August 2008. The BOA ruled that the city of Moab acted in accordance with city code. The BOA decision was then appealed to 7th District Court in Moab. Judge Lyle Anderson has yet to issue a decision in the matter, and a final ruling could take several more months.
“We feel that the earlier approval decisions will be validated in the court,” Kennedy said Tuesday.
Lawler expressed confidence in the Lionsback plan. “This is a good project and we’re still committed to it,” he said.
-Moab Times Independent