Castle Valley’s mayor Dave Erley looks through the binder of public comments on the proposed amendment to Ordinance 85-3 [Photo by Travis Holtby/ Moab Sun News]

If a proposed amendment toCastleValley’s Ordinance 85-3 is approved next month, then David Rhoads would be prohibited from running his business from his home. Rhoads is a mechanic who has livedCastleValleyfor eight years. For three of those years he has repaired vehicles at his home.

“The amendment would prohibit me and my son from having a home repair business,” Rhoads wrote in an open letter.

The amendment’s proponents say it is aimed at preserving the rural nature of theCastleValleycommunity and at protecting the valley’s aquifer. The amendment prohibits certain home and premise occupations from applying for conditional use permits.

The Castle Valley Planning and Land Use Commission (PLUC) will meet March 6 to determine their recommendation regarding the amendment toCastleValley’s town council. The town council will vote on the amendment at their March 20 meeting. Both meetings are considered public hearings regarding the amendment and will be held at theCastleValleyCommunity Center.

Residents shared opinions regarding the amendment through both letters and comments during a public hearing at the town council’s meeting Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Since the amendment was first proposed nearly six months ago, there has been a freeze on issuing any new conditional use permits for businesses that would be denied a permit if the amendment is passed. The six-month period was to allow research, thought and public comment on a complex issue, said Mary Beth Fitzburgh, the chair of the Castle Valley PLUC.

The amendment was proposed after an unofficial complaint was made by one of Rhoads’ neighbors last year.

Rhoads worked as a permitted mobile auto mechanic, traveling to his customer’s homes to fix their vehicles for the last five years. Then he was overwhelmed by the volume of work he was getting and began working on vehicles at his home three years ago.

“I couldn’t carry all my tools. It was extremely difficult,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads’ permit did not cover working at his residence, but he had hoped to eventually save enough money to build a permanent shop and acquire a conditional use permit.

“This has been a temporary situation I have been working in for quite a while,” he said. “(I did it) so when I was ready I could put up a much nicer shop.”

During the last three years of working from his home that he made every effort to ensure that his work was not bothering his neighbors, Rhoads said.

“I never got a complaint until I let the town know I wanted a permit,” Rhoads said.

After the unofficial complaint was made, the town initiated the amendment at their September board meeting.

Rhoads has said he would be willing to work with reasonable demands to ensure that an adequate system (including noise insulation, spill proof storage, and oil skimmers in floor drains) is set up to mitigate any possible effect the shop would have.

Rhoads has been working to drum support against the proposed amendment. He said that he collected around 35 signatures at last year’s Castle Valley Gourd Festival.

But there is significant support in favor of the proposed amendment. Of the 30 public comments submitted to the town hall 23 are in favor of the changes to Ordinance 85-3.

The biggest concern is the deleterious effect that businesses like Rhoads’ might have onCastleValley’s aquifer.

“The citizens overwhelmingly consider aquifer protection to be their number one issue,” said Dave Erley,CastleValley’s mayor.

The aquifer is one of the few that has been classified byUtah’s Division of Drinking Water as pristine. TheCastleValleyaquifer is also very shallow; only eight to ten feet below ground at the lower part of the valley and 90 feet below ground at the higher end of the valley. Because of this, and the fact it has no overlying confining geological formations, it is very easy to contaminate, Erley said.

The aquifer is the primary source of water forCastleValley, and is accessed by residents through independent wells. Should the aquifer become contaminated, a municipal water system may be necessary, and prohibitively expensive for the town to build, Erley said.

Preserving the aquifer is the reason that the amendment prohibits specific types of businesses. The types of businesses specified by the amendment have been shown to produce hazardous wastes that have contaminated groundwater in other areas. Woods Cross andNorthSaltLakehave had four of their five wells contaminated with a solvent used in auto garages. It cost several million dollars to treat the water, and they already had a water treatment system, Fitzburgh said.

Many residents wrote in letters to the planning commission that if one mechanic can operate a commercial shop, then it could start the valley down a slippery slope of having other similar businesses in the valley as well.

“It’s not like the town can pick or choose (what businesses we allow), that would be arbitrary and capricious. We cannot do that,” Erley said. “Once we say OK the door is open.”

Until now,CastleValleyhas never clearly defined prohibited home-based businesses. The town is now attempting to rectify that omission through this ordinance. State law states that if a type of conditional use business is not explicitly prohibited in an area, and they have a reasonable mitigation plan, that business should receive a conditional use permit.

Even if the local government thinks that a mitigation plan is inadequate, the burden of proof is on them to prove it, Fitzburgh said.

And that can be very expensive, especially when the Town of Castle Valley’s total annual budget is around $140,000.

“The way the state law is set up it really favors the applicant and not the town. So to prevent legal issues later it is better to prohibit those things outright if we (the town) feel like they are not appropriate for the town in general,” Fitzburgh said.

SomeCastleValleyresidents also expressed fear that if the proposed amendment does not pass, it could signal the beginning of changes to the area that they do not want to see. Five surveys over the last 25 years have all shown that the vast majority of residents do not want business or commercial zoning in the valley.

But if the proposed amendment passes, then Rhoads believes that he would no longer be able to engage in his livelihood inCastleValley. He said his age limits him from using his newly renewed mobile repair permit and that he would have to start commuting toMoabto find work.