MD’s Moab City Council Meeting Preview 2021-01-26

[Editor’s note: Both Mike Duncan and Rani Derasary have graciously agreed to let MADAR reuse their regular email updates to constituents. Despite the overlap, we are running both versions of the MCC previews. Readers can choose to read both, either or neither of the previews.]

You can find the Agenda and Packet here:

You can write City Council (anytime, on any subject):

Regular session starts at 7 PM:

To watch the meeting via YouTube :

Use the City’s YouTube channel:

From, you can also search for “moab utah city council meetings”. If you’re youtube’ing, be aware this stream can be seconds or minutes behind real time. This is a big source of confusion if you’re also doing CTBH via Zoom, which is real time!

Citizens to Be Heard (These comments typically take anywhere from 0 to 15 minutes). We are receiving public comments by phone and online through Zoom. Citizens are limited to two (2) minutes for comments.  Dial: 669-900-9128     Meeting ID: 851 9396 6356    Passcode (if needed):  215138 Link:

Please note that when joining the meeting, you will be placed in a waiting room and will be added to the meeting by the moderator. Your comments will be recorded and on YouTube.  See the warning above about youtube time delays!

To have your written comments considered for the Citizens to Be Heard portion of the electronic meeting, please fill out the form found here:

You must submit your comments by 7:00 PM on January 26, 2021. Please limit your comments to 400 words.

Staff reports: (These (4) reports typically take at least 20 minutes…)

  • COVID-19 Updates
  • Finance Department Update
  • Police Department Update
  • Buy Local Bucks Update

Mayor and Council reports: (These (6) reports typically take at least 20 minutes…)

  • Presentation – Grand County School District Update (10 minutes)
  • Presentation – USU Extension – Dr. Ros McCann (10 minutes)
  • Approval of Minutes (brief)
  • Proclamation – Moab City Law Enforcement Appreciation Day , Jan 27, 2021
  • ATV Noise, a Temporary Land Use Ordinance, Nora Shepard, Planning Director
    • To borrow from Garrison Keillor, it’s been a busy two weeks here in Lake WoeBeGone. I’m spending a lot of time talking to lawyers. The full title of the subject Land Use Ordinance is 61 words, four lines of text. It’s followed by 20 WHEREAS’s occupying three pages of text. All this does not portend a simple solution. 
    • You may remember the city and county passed a resolution (without a time limit) a few months ago prohibiting “new and expanded vehicle sales, rentals and leasing, outdoor recreational uses, commercial and recreational tour companies, outfitters and guide services as they pertain to All Terrain Vehicles.” This Ordinance makes the resolution more legally defensible by imposing a 180 day time limit on it. 
    • Council got a request a week ago from a student journalist in the SLC area to tell her what the heck is going on with ATV’s. I wrote (but did not send to the journalist) the following to try to explain. I ask… No, I require you not to write/call anybody at this time at the State Legislature, which is just starting its 45-day 2021 session. I ask because we (Mayor and Council) don’t want to upset the negotiation applecart currently in progress with certain legislators on the Hill. Please keep it local for now. It goes like this:

Dear [Journalist], thanks for inquiring. 

As [another Councilmember] suggests, sure you can ask folks around town their opinions, but I can tell you from conversations and letters to Council we know most residents are fed up with the pervasive drone of UTV’s (aka ATV’s / OHV’s, noting that there are nuanced differences) in high season, grown to eight or nine months of the year. Inevitably they ask why we can’t do something about it, and the answer is largely that state law makes it difficult to do so.

We are told too that OHV owners effectively lobby the legislature, and I suspect legislators often both enjoy their screaming machines and have little idea how too many of them too much of the time can degrade quality of life. UTV users correctly point out that they augment the town’s economy. However, my personal opinion is that Moab’s business community will prosper even if UTV’s were outright banished from streets as they once were. After all, non-UTV-using visitors sometimes object to the noise just as residents do.

We’re contemplating a variety of remedies, none of them ideal, some oblique, none free of legal risk. Here’s a couple already in effect, although many of us consider these “band-aids,” not likely to be an effective permanent solution:

  • Prohibiting new or expanded UTV rental/sales
  • Restricting routes, speeds or hours of UTV operation

Many have advocated focusing on measuring noise itself. UTV’s make a characteristic whine, which is why they’re so easy to hear coming. It’s not just often poorly muffled engine noise (especially when the engine is revved up at high speeds), it’s commonly a continuously variable transmission together with knobby tire and wind noise.

One idea is to measure noise with a sound meter as vehicles “pass by,” with a known distance to the meter, analogously to a radar gun speed observation. Like any measurement, errors can creep in, so that a maximum allowable dBA (decibel reading using a weighting that emulates the human ear) would have to be set somewhat louder than a legal definition of a noise limit. Noise also depends on engine RPM and power output, so that while UTV’s tend to be the noisiest climbing a hill at high speeds, to cite an offender under these circumstances might be legally challenged. There is little, if any, case law established for this sort of scenario.

Another idea is to establish periodic, advertised “checkpoints” at popular times and locales where UTV’s would be stopped and a standard Society of Automotive Engineers procedure (J-1287) run to measure noise near the tailpipe under certain RPM’s. This is a national standard originally written for motorcycles and since applied to UTV’s. Although demanding of law enforcement resources, it’s safer than pass-by and more legally defensible. However checkpoints can be easily avoided if the UTV community communicates them through social media.

Still another idea is to focus only on local rental/tour businesses, since they make up a substantial fraction of total UTV traffic. We could require them to garage test their vehicles and pass J-1287 or some quieter threshold. We could offer incentives to upgrade their vehicles for quieter operation, or penalize them if they fail to upgrade their fleet following a grace period.

Some UTV’s are fitted with after-market mufflers (intended to boost engine power) that won’t pass the J-1287 test. But plenty more that are still objectionable to the ear will. Ideally, UTV’s shouldn’t be any noisier than an ordinary passenger car. Setting the noise threshold at that lower value will pick up a variety of vehicles, for example construction trucks that are not the problem and which is not our intent. But state statute says we can’t “prohibit or restrict any street-legal vehicle … where the use of other street-legal vehicles is permitted.” And it’s not clear if we can legally impose a stricter noise standard on vehicles that at time of manufacture passed a federal standard.

All this is an example of why local control is needed. Moab is a unique place. Let’s keep it that way.

Sole Source Water Meter Purchase from Meterworks Inc. , $140,000.These Neptune meters will replace any that fail in 2021.  This brand is required to avoid system changes. This distributor is the only one in Utah.

Culinary Water Resources Policy and Conservation Measures.Last summer was dry. Snowpack in the La Sals is way below average. It’s a La Niña year, arid conditions in the southwest. Last year both the City and County had culinary well failures that took a while to repair, struggling to get by on other sources. The city is drilling a new well near a defunct old one near the Golf Course, but its on-line availability isn’t yet known. All water pro’s in the area agree the Safe Yield point isn’t far away. Staff will discuss concepts that could lead to two ordinances by May when summer watering season hits. One is conservation low-hanging fruit – a Watering Time of Day requirement to water your lawn (with culinary water, for most of us) only when the sun’s down – 6 PM to 10 AM – so that it sinks in rather than evaporating. The other is a Water Shortage Contingency Plan that comes into effect only if the projected water supply is less than 60% of the average water supply. The Plan comes in phases from Mild to Severe, allowing city staff to restrict non-essential uses of culinary water so that essential uses are met. Plenty of public involvement is anticipated between now and summer. 

Hope this helps, 

Mike Duncan, City Councilmember