RD’s Moab City Council Meeting Preview 2021-03-23

[Editor’s note: Both Rani Derasary and Mike Duncan 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.]

A summary of what’s on the agenda follows, plus other items of potential interest (COVID-19 vaccine expansion to those 16 and up, March 26 is free at MRAC, carp removal at Old City Park pond, the Highway 191 widening, etc.)

Tuesday, March 23 City Council meeting – 6:00pm workshop + 7:00pm main meeting – online only

  • As a reminder of how/why we’re meeting electronically, the agenda notes “Consistent with provisions of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act, Utah Code Ann. § 54-2-207(4), the Moab City Council Chair has issued written determinations supporting the decision to convene electronic meetings of the Council without a physical anchor location. Due to the health and safety risks related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and considering public health orders limiting in-person gatherings, the Moab City Council will continue to hold meetings by electronic means.”

The public is invited and encouraged to view the Council’s meetings live (or after the fact) on the City’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/MoabCityGovernment.
The 188-page packet for March 23 can be found here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_03232021-1029?packet=true. If you prefer the 4-page agenda only, with links to packet parts, that is here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_03232021-1029

Here is a breakdown of what’s on the March 23 agenda:

6:00pm workshop

Moab and Spanish Valley Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) Discussion.

  • There is a web site for this plan explaining who’s been involved and how here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/c88e2a05a7e64d2ea5a646041d4e7975.
  • Pages 5-16 of our March 23 council packet contain what appear to be several page of that web site, with page 13 noting the goal of plan as: “…to provide a holistic, long-term transportation vision for the region and serve as a guiding document for improvements to local, regional, and state roads and multimodal transportation networks.”
  • It’s my understanding that the City and other members of the plan Stakeholder Group have been asked for feedback on the final draft by April 6. As a result, I requested this workshop so Council who are not on the Stakeholder group, plus residents, could learn: where the plan stands, what projects are being promoted in it, and what edits colleagues on the Stakeholder Group propose submitting by April 6. FYI the draft RTP plan is 76 pages, and I’ll attach it for those of you who may be interested in delving deeper than what’s in our packet. 

7:00pm main meeting

Along with Citizens to Be Heard (CTBH), it looks like the main portion of our meeting will open with 2 public hearings. It’s unclear to me if right at 7:00pm we’ll be taking bothCTBH comments and Public Hearing comments at the same time, so please tune in at 7:00pm, and I’m sure the Mayor will explain if comments on both will be taken simultaneously, or if the Public Hearing comments will follow CTBH comments. 

Citizens to be Heard (CTBH) & Public Hearing commenting options: The public can call in to our March 23 meeting, comment via Zoom, or submit written comments.

2 Public Hearing items are:

Public Hearing to allow public input regarding (A) the issuance and sale of not more than $7,000,000 aggregate principal amount of Wastewater and Water Revenue Bonds, Series 2021; (B) any potential economic impact that the project described herein to be financed with the proceeds of the bonds issued under the act may have on the private sector; and all related matters.

  • You can read about this item on packet pages 17-74. The agenda item title is a mouthful, so in case a recap helps: on February 23, 2021, the Council voted unanimously to approve Resolution 03-2021, authorizing the issuance and sale of this $7 million in bonds to cover 4 projects: a new City well (#12); water line improvements on Mill Creek Drive between Powerhouse Lane and 400 East; optimizing and securing existing facilities (eg spring and well houses, chlorination facilities); and constructing a new water storage tank (to provide for fire flows and also future growth). After that Feb 23 Council vote, the next step in pursuing these bonds is to hold a public hearing, as outlined on pages 21-23. Should you have any comments on this item, please feel free to zoom or call in, or submit a written comment (as directed in the public hearing comment options above).

Public Hearing to allow public input regarding (A) the issuance and sale of not more than $8,500,000 aggregate principal amount ofSales Tax Revenue and Refunding Bonds, Series 2021; (B) any potential economic impact that the project described herein to be financed with the proceeds of the bonds issued under the act may have on the private sector; and all related matters.

  • You can read about this item on packet pages 75-128. The agenda item title is another mouthful, so here’s a context reminder: on February 23, 2021, the Council considered approving $6.5 million in bonds for Walnut Lane. At that time, Mayor Niehaus clarified that if the motion increased the bond amount to $8,500,000 it would roll-in the prior bond and would result in savings to the City. Council thus voted unanimously Feb 23 to approve Resolution 04-2021: authorizing the issuance and sale of not more than $8,500,000 aggregate principal amount of Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 2021; and authorizing bond counsel to make adjustments to accommodate the refunding, and such refund to be only authorized so long as it generates savings to the City. These bonds would help redevelop the current housing at 250 and 280 Walnut Lane with 80 units of multifamily housing. The project has been broken into 3 phases, and it’s my understanding that bonds noted here will make phases 1 and 2 possible. FYI after that Feb 23 Council vote, the next step in pursuing these bonds is to hold a public hearing, as outlined on pages 79-81. Should you have any comments on this item, please feel free to zoom or call in, or submit a written comment (as directed in the public hearing comment options above).

COVID-19 Updates. There are no pages in our packet for this item, but often City staff, the Mayor and/or Southeast Utah Health Department (SEUHD) or Moab Regional Hospital (MRH) staff offer an update with the latest information on the pandemic, as well as an opportunity for Council to ask related questions.  

Reconsideration of an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) by and between the City of Moab and Grand County with respect to joint planning for and funding of the technical planning assistance program funds cooperative agreement.

  • This is on our agenda for discussion and possible action. Council considered this item at our March 9 meeting, where I made a motion to table until we could clarify whether the City and County intended to include a bypass as part of this work; that motion failed, as did a subsequent motion to approve the ILA.It’s my understanding that this is back on the agenda as we have now gained clarity on the County’s bypass position, and the City Council will be clarifying it’s position on the bypass at the March 23 meeting. The agenda summary on pages 137-138 explains the circumstances under which the City Council can reconsider that vote.
  • The funds in question are available (through the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) technical planning assistance program) to help local governments with transportation planning. The 2020 Cooperative Agreement on pages 141-143 expands on this, explaining the UDOT program “funding is intended to help local governments plan for future land use and transportation.” The County approached the City to ask if we’d like to engage in a joint plan. (The County wants to update its 2008 Spanish Valley Master Plan; and the City’s last transportation plan appears to have been back in 2004.) 
  • To be eligible for $110,000 in grant funds, the City and County would have to make a match contribution of $40,000. The County has committed to $25,000, and the ILA before us (pages 139-140) would commit the City to the other $15,000. If the Council approves the ILA, the County would put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) for “qualified consultants to perform the planning effort.”  

Proposed Resolution 09-2021: a resolution confirming the appointment of Ben Billingsley as the City Finance Director and authorizing the Mayor to execute an Employment Agreement.

  • As explained on pages 144-149 of our packet, the City created the position of Finance Director in 2018, and the Mayor appoints this person, with the advice and consent of Council. This item will be a briefing and possible action, as we are being asked to appoint Billingsley and authorize the mayor to execute an employment agreement for him.

Proposed Resolution 06-2021: a resolution approving the Townhome Plat Application for the 3rd Street Townhomes, property located at 116 South 300 East, Moab UT 84532.

  • This is another item on our agenda as a briefing and possible action and you can read about it on pages 150-157. If I’m understanding correctly from the agenda summary, this 5-unit project in the R3 (Multi-Household Residential) Zone, on the SW corner of 300E and 100S, is nearing completion. The development scope didn’t require staff review through a Site Plan Application, was submitted and processed through the Building Permit Application process, and now the applicant has submitted a Townhome Plat Application to record ownership division of the 5-unit dwelling. Page 151 notes “This item defined as a Townhome Plat does not have specific code or procedures,” but goes on to say “A Townhome Plat, given the specific ‘division’ and allocation of land specific to lots, has been historically and by policy recommended by the the Planning Commission and approved by the City Council, similar to that of a subdivision procedure.” That all confused me a bit, so I’ll be asking staff to clarify at our meeting Tuesday, just so I understand if City code needs updating.

Proposed Ordinance 2021-04: a Text Amendment removing Chapter 17.74 “Noise” from Title 17 “Zoning” of the Moab Municipal Code (“MMC”) and relocating the noise provisions to Title 8 “Health And Safety” by creating Section 8.24 of Title 8 “Health And Safety”.

  • Agenda summary pages 157-158 explain that City noise code is currently in the Zoning section, which does not make much sense: a) as most of our current noise regulations and prohibitions aren’t regulated via zoning; and b) because most communities place noise in the Health and Safety section of their code. Moving our noise regulations would also make it faster and more efficient to update them, as the City is wanting to do. This is on our agenda as a briefing and possible action.

Proposed Ordinance No. 2021-05: an ordinance defining the point in time at which the City Of Moab formally initiates proceedings to amend its land use regulations.  

  • Pages 169-173 explain that under the “vested rights” rule, Utah law “requires a local government to review an applicant’s land use application under the local ordinance in existence at the time the applicant submits a complete application, unless the local government can show that an exception to the rule applies.” That said, a municipality can deny an application that it receives within 180 days after the “municipality ‘formally initiates’ proceedings to amend applicable land use regulations in a manner that would prohibit approval of the application….”
  • Why this matters is that the City currently doesn’t have a definition in City code that explains the point in time when this formal initiation of proceedings to amend land use code occurs. Not having this in current code means the City runs the risk of processing applications under old rules, while new rules are being developed. Ordinance 2021-05, on our agenda as a briefing and possible action, would add language to our code clarifying that the City is formally initiating either: a) upon publication of a City Council or Planning Commission agenda in which amendment of our land use regulations is the subject of an agenda item &/or public hearing; or b) on the effective date of a resolution by Council stating the City has formally initiated an amendment to land use regulations, and including the language of proposed amendment(s) – depending onwhichever comes first, a) or b).

Proposed Resolution 07-2021: a resolution expressing support for pursuing the funding for and construction of future phases of the Colorado River Pathway located in Grand County, Utah. 

  • Federal funding may be available to help Grand County complete Phase IV of the Colorado River Pathway, the paved non-motorized trail running adjacent to Hwy 128 (the River Road) between Lions Park and just past Goose Island. Phase IV would “close the gap” in the current trail, which currently forces users to get back on Hwy 128 with vehicles for about 0.6 miles before reaching the Porcupine Rim Trail/Grandstaff Canyon. Please see pages 174-182 for the more information, including a map showing “the gap” and images of related safety concerns. Council will be briefed on this March 23, and we’re being asked to vote on the resolution supporting the County’s efforts.

Proposed Resolution 08-2021: a resolution stating the City of Moab’s position on Highway 191 Bypass alignment(s), and support for pursuing alternate tools for Downtown Main Street traffic mitigation.  

  • This is another item on our agenda as a briefing and possible action. The agenda summary on pages 183-184 explains some of the history on past discussions about building a bypass in our community. The most recent study to my knowledge is the 2018 Fehr & Peers one noted, which initially explored 11 routes for a bypass. The 11 routes were ranked in the study, with only two being selected to advance for serious consideration under project criteria rankings: Alternative 1A (traffic leaves Hwy 191 at Hwy 279/the Potash Road, crosses a new bridge onto Kane Creek Boulevard, and rejoins Hwy 191 at the current Hwy 191/Kane Creek light at McDonalds; and Alternative 1D (same as 1A, but instead of staying on Kane Creek, traffic heads up onto bench above Mountain View and Doc Allen neighborhoods, exiting back onto Highway 191 via Dogwood Ave).
  • When the study recommended 1A and 1D, many residents contacted Council in opposition to these routes – or any others that would negatively impact residents. Since that time, the majority of the City Council, County Council and/or County Commission have in public meetings on one or more occasions expressed opposition to any bypass that would negatively impact residents.
  • Despite this, to date no formal action has been taken to establish the City’s position. In addition, despite UDOT and their consultants on numerous occasions saying they would not advance projects elected officials/the community oppose, the 2018 study with its promotion of a bypass impacting residents along Kane Creek Boulevard or Mountain View/Doc Allen continues to be referenced in transportation meetings – some public, some not. This is a transparency problem for me. The current draft of the Moab and Spanish Valley Regional Transportation Plan, which is near completion, includes the recommendation to keep the notion of a bypass in the plan as an option either UDOT leadership “and/or” local elected bodies can initiate. This raises additional transparency concerns for me, as it seems to counter previous statements that no projects would be pursued without the support of elected officials. UDOT has stated that if one opts to take a project such as the bypass out of the RTP at this time, one could still opt to reinsert it at a later time.
  • To date, bypass routes that don’t impact local residents (or that do so less than Alternatives 1A and 1D) have not been elevated to receive any serious study; a tunnel under Main Street or under the rim is just considered too expensive. Should there come a time when there was sufficient support and funding for them, they could be revisited. But for now, no bypass routes have received serious consideration from UDOT and their consultants other than 1A and 1D.
  • I am ready to officially reject 1A and 1D via this resolution. Even if you saw some improvements on Main Street, they wouldn’t justify the negative impacts to residential areas. I’m also ready to take the bypass off the discussion table entirely; it’s a false promise to me, a diversion that keeps us tackling our real problem now – not decades from now. (We’ve repeatedly been told if a bypass were built, it would take decades; yes, one needs to plan for the future, but we’ve got serious problems now.) I openly admit we have real traffic and congestion problems, but no one has convinced me that the proposed bypass routes will solve our problems – which appear to be ever-increasing numbers of people wanting to come to downtown – or through it.
  • I like this resolution in that it forces us to look at what we can do now and in the next few years to mitigate traffic, to make Main Street and the streets next to it more pleasant. Colleagues and residents have thrown out a lot of good ideas in past meetings. If any time and money can go to that effort, as opposed to yet another bypass study that gets us nowhere and pits our residents against each other, I’m for it.

Executive (closed) Session. While this part of the meeting will be closed to the public, I can tell you it will be a strategy session to discuss reasonably imminent and/or pending litigation. 

That’s it for our March 23 City Council meeting, except that aside from what’s listed above, the meeting will contain standard items such as: reports from the Council, Mayor and City Manager; approval of minutes (this time for our meetings on: March 9 – covered on pages 129-133 of our packet; March 10 – pages 134-135; and March 11 – page 136); and payment of the bills. 

Other items that may be of interest

  • COVID-19 vaccine appointments now available to anyone over 18! it appears there are options for 16-17-years olds too – In case you missed this article in the Moab Sun News (https://www.moabsunnews.com/news/article_cf43e9cc-8aaa-11eb-8ddc-538d146a7ced.html) or other mentions in the community, anyone 18 or older can now sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment with the Southeast Utah Health Department (SEUHD)! Please go here for more info: https://www.seuhealth.com/covid-vaccine.  I’m also attaching the email SEUHD sent out on this March 19. Of kids 16-17 years old it notes: ” At Southeast Utah Health Department we are offering the Moderna vaccine to those 18+. Those ages 16 & 17 are also eligible at this time to receive the Pfizer vaccine. You can find other providers offering the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at: coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution/ or seuhealth.com/vaccine-scheduling.” This left me a bit confused if SEUHD is giving COVID-19 vaccines to kids 16-17, or if 16- and 17-year-olds have to go elsewhere for it. I recommend emailing any questions you may have to SEUHD Director Bradon Bradford here: bbradfor@utah.gov• COVID-19 latest numbers locally – Per the SEUHD web site tonight (https://www.seuhealth.com/covid-19), Grand County has now had a total of 720 positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began (45 more than when I last sent you numbers/March 9), 52 of which are active. No one is currently hospitalized.The number of active cases per 100,000 people is 539.4. Please visit https://www.seuhealth.com/covid-19 for more detail. 

  • Free admission to MRAC (Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center) March 26! – If you missed this recent post on the City and MRAC Facebook pages: “This month is the MRAC’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate, we are offering FREE entry on Friday, March 26th and Open Swim hours will be extended until 7pm that day. Come and join us in the celebration! We will also be holding a free-of-charge raffle to win a year long membership with us. Excited to see you all then!” I’ll attach a related flyer.
    • If you missed this interview KUER reporter Kate Groetzinger did with several Moab locals – including City Council colleague Mike Duncan – on our water situation in Moab, here’s a link: https://www.kuer.org/health-science-environment/2021-03-19/moab-may-be-running-out-of-water-thats-prompting-residents-to-rethink-conservation-and-development
  • Carp removal at Old City Park –If you missed mention of it elsewhere, I’m attaching a press release and flyer from City Communications and Engagement Manager Lisa Church explaining why and how carp are being removed from the pond at Old City Park this week.

Sorry this got so long! Some confusing stuff to try to explain, for sure. Here’s wishing you all a safe week and hoping you can get outside and enjoy the Spring weather!

Rani Derasary, Moab City Councilmember