Grand County Commission meeting report 2021-01-04

This was the first meeting of the new GCC. Mary McGann was elected Chair, and Gabriel Woytek was elected vice-chair. Later in the meeting Sarah Stock was appointed to fill the seat recently vacated by Jaylyn Hawks. Here’s a brief account of the more interesting agenda items. (If you want to watch the tape, it’s at If you want more details, the full agenda and packet are here.)

C. Presentation and discussion on Utah Association of Counties

UAC seems to be very worried that Grand County will leave UAC, perhaps prompting another county or two to follow suit. They brought four people to make a presentation about all the good work UAC does, and they repeatedly emphasized that they had recently made reforms to address some of Grand County’s past complaints. It was a long and (if you are a local politics nerd) interesting discussion.

D. Appointing a new Commission member to replace Jaylyn Hawks

The four applicants were Steve Getz, Josie Kovash, Sarah Stock and Stephen Stocks. Almost all of the Commissioners emphasized that they thought all four applicants were very well qualified. Vote was 5-1 in favor of Sarah Stock. (Trisha Hedin said she preferred Steve Getz, but that she still thought highly of Sarah.)

H. Approving grant match for 2021 Community Assessment and Destination Stewardship Plan through Utah Office of Tourism

This will pay some consultants to produce a report on how Moab can make its already-existing tourism industry work better for the entire community. The Utah Office of Tourism will cover half of the cost. There is be a large amount of public engagement, so hopefully the final report will accurately reflect the needs and desires of our community. Passed unanimously.

J. Approving the Small Area Plan for Highway 313 / Route 191

This has been in the works for the past 6-7 months. The approved SAP attempts to strike a balance between preserving the scenery in the area and providing opportunities for land owners to develop their land. Passed unanimously.

K. Approving the miscellaneous Land Use Code amendments

Most of the amendments were uncontroversial, but the provisions related to illegal camping met with resistance from some Commissioners. Current county code prohibits camping on private land (except in campgrounds), but it’s not written very clearly, and so is difficult to enforce. The county receives many camping-related complaints (unauthorized tourism lodging businesses in back yards, noisy RV generators running all night). But our high housing costs cause many residents to live in their vehicles, mostly with no adverse impacts. “Camping” can mean a wide variety of things, some of which we wish to prohibit, and some of which we would happily tolerate.

Proponents of the camping amendments argued that enforcement would be complaint-driven, and that it was unlikely that low-impact, innocuous forms of camping would be affected. Opponents were not persuaded. Final vote was 4-2-1, with Stock and Woytek voting no and Hadler abstaining.

L. Approving the Special Events Ordinance amendments

These amendments tighten up the special event permitting process in several ways. A wider class of events would be referred to the County Commission for final approval/disapproval, and the the list of grounds for disapproval was expanded. Passed unanimously.

T. Discussion on amending relevant sections of the Grand County Land Use Code related to UTV rentals

An ill-advised and irritating state law forces local government to allow UTVs on their streets. Changing that law has long been a goal of Grand County and Moab City, but doing so will not be easy. Fortunately, Grand County and Moab City have other tools in their toolboxes: local noise ordinances, the land use code, and business license rules. The latter two tools would only affect rental UTVs, but rental UTVs are a substantial fraction of the UTVs buzzing around on our streets. In the discussion, Commission members indicated that they wanted to explore using the land use code to reduce noise from rental UTVs.