Dennis Silva voiced his opposition to the land use code change to the Grand County Planning Commission at their meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 14. Silva had collected 286 signatures as of Thursday, Aug. 15 for a petition opposing the land use code change for a 17-acre parcel near his home in Spanish Valley. [Photo by Alan Siu for the Moab Sun News]

It was standing room only at a Grand County Planning Commission meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 14 in the Grand County Council chambers. More than 50 community members came to voice their opinions regarding a land-use change for a 17-acre parcel near Old City Park in Spanish Valley.

Randy Day, a developer with Red Rock Partners who wants to build a subdivision on the parcel, is requesting that the land use code change from Rural Residential (RR) to Small Lot Residential (SLR).

RR limits development to a maximum of 1.6 units per acre. SLR would allow up to 8 units per acre. With 17 acres, that could allow up to 136 units.

Day said that the project is being misrepresented.

He said doesn’t want to build 136 units. He wants to build 54.

“I want to do a single-family residential area much like the Solano Vallejo subdivision, with lots that average a little under 10,000 square feet,” Day said. “That’s just a little under a quarter-acre. The code won’t allow me to build that.”

Dennis Silva, a Spanish Valley resident who would be able to see the development from his property in the Highland subdivision, collected 286 signatures as of Thursday, Aug. 15 on a petition to block the land use code change.

“We’re trying to protect our backyard and all of us generally believe we should expand our collection of signatures beyond the neighborhood,” Silva said.

Silva said this isn’t Day’s first attempt for a land use code change for the parcel.

“In the past this same group has been refused three times, then went to the Grand County Council for approval,” Silva said. “All of us anticipate that he will pursue this up to the council level.”

The last time Day approached the planning commission and council regarding this property was in 2006 as he represented a different development company called Redstone Development. At that time he requested a land use code change from RR to Large Lot Residential, Planned Use Development (LLR-PUD) in order to build 34 homes on half-acre lots.

The planning and zoning commission made a recommendation to the county council to deny the change. The county council denied the land use code change with a vote of 5-2.

Silva said that he and neighbors protested Day’s land use code request made in 2006 as well.

“The last time we collected signatures we got a hundred, just from our neighbors,” Silva said.

Grand County’s General Plan, which was updated in 2012, specifies land designation by density: from residential infill; to transition residential for half-acre lots; to rural residential for one-acre lots; and, finally range, resource and recreation for a minimum of 5-acre lots. These designations are set to have compact housing closer to Moab and a pattern of increasing rural development moving away from the city.

Silva said that a land use code change to SLR in an area that is surrounded by homes that sit on a minimum of one-acre would defeat the planning that had been done.

“Now that the general plan is so fresh, hopefully it will be protected against this kind of change,” Silva said. “We’re trying to get the whole county to persuade the Grand County Council not to neglect the Grand County General Plan.”

Pati Vidiella emphasized to the council that Day’s proposal would be in violation of the county’s general plan.

“If the zone change is approved, this 17-acre parcel would contain up to 46 percent of all the dwellings within a quarter mile,” Vidiella said. “In other words, a small parcel representing only 15 percent of the land would basically contain half of all the dwellings for the area.”

Richard Coffinberry said at the meeting that the development would be “a serious threat to my property.”

Coffinberry’s property borders the 17-acre parcel.

He told the planning commission that property owners “surrounding the parcel shouldn’t be punished.”

Lisa Paterson expressed concerns regarding increased traffic on narrow roads.

“The proposed zone change will unquestionably create traffic and safety issues on Murphy Lane and Old City Park Road. These roads already have safety issues due to the narrow roadways, lack of shoulders, lack of bike lanes, and residences located very close to the roadways,” Paterson said.

Four of the planning and zoning board members opposed the land use code change. Board member Pam Hackley said that it does not adhere to zoning already set. Board member Dave Stolfa said it would change the character of the neighborhood. Board member Dave Cozzens supported the land use code change, stating that there should be mixed development.

Their recommendations will be considered by the Grand County Council, should Day opt to present the land use change to the council.

Day said that when he bought the property, he knew there would be challenges.

However, he believes “the code is broke.”

“I just want to build a nice subdivision and force planning and zoning to change their law,” he said.

As a realtor, he has found a lack of suitable middle-class housing in the area, and he said that is why he wants to change the code and build the 54-unit development.

“We need a market where you can buy a $250,000 to $350,000 house,” Day said. “We need that market desperately.”

He said that there are starter homes for young families, but only if they are low-income and can participate in programs such as the Self Help Housing provided through Grand County Housing Authority.

“If they can’t qualify for Self Help, they can’t qualify for a house,” Day said. “It’s a shame that the developer in town that is building the most affordable housing is Self Help Housing.”

He said that young families who can qualify for entry-level housing are unable to move to bigger homes as their finances improve and families grow because there is no mid-level housing available.

“It doesn’t get sold, because the next level of house isn’t there,” he said. “I have six grandsons coming. I want to see all of them to be able to buy a house, but if I don’t build a market they won’t have it.”

According to the county’s planning and development office, Day could now build a 17-unit development on the parcel, as long as he would abide by all county codes.