Walker Street resident Cheryl Decker spoke out against a proposed conditional use permit for a bed and breakfast on Arches Drive during an Oct. 28 public hearing on the matter. Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News

The quiet residential neighborhood around Arches Drive is not the right place for a bed and breakfast business, a majority of Moab City Council members said last week.

By a 3-1 vote on Nov. 25, the council rejected Jeramey and Meredith McElhaney’s request for a conditional use permit to operate a five-unit bed and breakfast at the end of their cul-de-sac.

Councilman Gregg Stucki voted against the majority, and Doug McElhaney – who is Jeramey McElhaney’s father – abstained from voting on the matter.

The Moab City Planning Commission previously voted 3-0 to recommend approval of the permit, subject to annual reviews and other conditions. But Moab City Councilwoman Kirstin Peterson suggested that the council needs to look at the merits of each individual conditional use, and then decide whether or not it’s the right fit.

In this case, Peterson found that the city’s general plan is aimed partly at restricting commercial development in the city’s residential zones.

“In this zone, I feel like what we’re being asked to do is to force a commercial business on a residential area that clearly is not interested in creating a commercial zone,” she said. “I’m not saying that this use is not compatible in other neighborhoods in this zone, but I really feel that in this specific instance, in looking at the unique characteristics of this neighborhood, that it’s not an appropriate use.”

Councilman Kyle Bailey was the chairman of the planning commission at the time it came up with language that allowed opportunities for bed and breakfast establishments in the city’s R-2 zoning district, including the Arches Drive area. However, he said that board clearly intended to listen to the people of the neighborhoods, and to represent their interests.

“That’s why we had (language regarding) ‘clearly minimal negative impact’ on adjacent residential areas,” Bailey said. “I think we’ve seen that this is going to be an impact on the neighborhoods, and I can’t support this.”

Councilwoman Heila Ershadi said that concerns about the city’s character were the number one issue she heard from local residents when she campaigned last year for her seat on the council.

“People feel like nightly rentals, like the tourist trade, is just taking over, and there’s less and less space that belongs to locals,” Ershadi said.

Stucki, who operates a bed and breakfast in another part of town, countered that neighborhood concerns about detrimental impacts from tourist traffic and noise had been blown out of proportion.

“People with concerns sometimes work themselves up over an issue to where all they can see are the potential negative what-ifs, but most of the time, reality ends up not being nearly as bleak as was projected,” Stucki said.

On this issue, he said, someone has done a good job of fanning the flames against the proposal.

“Not a single guest has stayed at this proposed bed and breakfast, and yet, people are convinced — they know — exactly who and what type of people are going to show up, and what they’ve been driving,” he said.

According to Stucki, many people had incorrect assumptions that the McElhaneys would be catering to motorcyclists, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders and utility task vehicle (UTV) owners, based on Jeramey McElhaney’s onetime stint as president of the Red Rock Four-Wheelers.

Bed and breakfasts don’t attract the “typical rough and tumble crowd” that some people envisioned, Stucki said. Quite the contrary, he said: B&B patrons are respectful, conscientious, well-educated and environmentally aware.

In fact, Stucki said, they remind him of some residents who live on Arches Drive.

“They’re not going to trespass on your property, walk through your flowerbeds (or) throw beer cans over the fence, and when they walk down the street, you won’t have run out and gather up your children,” he said. “In fact, if you’re lucky enough to strike up a conversation with one of these strangers, you will quickly find you have a lot in common, and they will become a new friend.”

Jeramey McElhaney told the Moab Sun News that he and his wife have no comment on the council’s decision.

However, he previously said that the couple plan to build the same home and structures on a 0.57-acre parcel at the end of Arches Drive, regardless of whether or not the council approved their request.

McElhaney said the B&B section of the property would have been shielded by their own home, offering privacy and quiet to guests and neighbors alike.

The entire property would have been fenced, and B&B guests would not have access to a nearby utility easement road, McElhaney said.

“It’s not going to be an option,” he said during an Oct. 28 public hearing on the proposal.

In written comments to the council, the McElhaneys said that traffic would have been reduced to about one-third of its current maximum, because they planned to discontinue operations at an existing day-care facility they run.

But area residents who submitted written or public comments about the B&B proposal said it would significantly change the dynamics of their quiet neighborhood.

Resident and local real estate agent Kris Hurlburt spoke for many when she voiced concerns that property values in the neighborhood would go down, while traffic and noise would increase.

Walker Street resident Cheryl Decker echoed concerns about potential safety- and traffic-related impacts, noting that families and children play in the streets of the Walker Subdivision, where there are no sidewalks.

Locust Lane resident Kathy Cooney told the council that she has lived in the neighborhood for 28 years, and she said the area is “just crazy unique” in terms of its quiet environment.

“That quiet is tonic,” she said Oct. 28.

Majority finds that business would have negative impacts on area

“I think we’ve seen that this is going to be an impact on the neighborhoods, and I can’t support this.”