The last thing that Moab needs, according to Mayor Dave Sakrison, is another planning document that sits on a shelf somewhere gathering dust.
Instead, he said, it should be possible for city and county officials to come up with a “living document” that addresses the community’s long-term needs, ranging from the availability of affordable housing to economic diversification and upgrades to local infrastructure.
To get to that point, Sakrison reached out to Grand County Council members during their July 7 meeting for their help in coordinating a planning process.
“Let’s put our collective heads together,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking.”
The two entities plan to discuss a host of related issues at a joint city-county meeting on Friday, July 31, at the Moab City Center, although Sakrison’s invitation drew a mixed reaction from county officials.
Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson and vice chair Chris Baird are sometimes at odds on other issues that come before the council, but both men questioned the need for a planning-stage process.
Baird said he’s more interested in taking the plunge from the planning stage into the action stage. Jackson, meanwhile, said it will take much more effort to convince him that the latest joint visioning process will reveal something that community leaders don’t already know.
He noted that those leaders set Moab on its current course more than two decades ago, when they made a concerted effort to transform Moab into a tourist destination. They reaffirmed that same strategy just three years ago, he said.
“I don’t understand what’s changed,” he added.
Residents in the community already understand that there’s a paucity of affordable housing and workforce housing, Jackson said, and they don’t need another study to tell them it’s a problem that must be addressed.
“How many times do we ask people the same questions?” he asked.
However, Grand County Council chair Elizabeth Tubbs said she’s receptive to the idea of looking at specific issues in greater detail.
“I don’t particularly agree that we’ve covered everything and know everything we need to know,” Tubbs said.
“I’m interested in engaging in the process,” she said. “I don’t know what that process will look like.”
Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine said he believes that discussions between the two entities should focus on two interconnected subjects: housing and economic development.
Levine voiced optimism that the process can improve interlocal cooperation between the city and the county, while producing a planning document that can guide the community over the long term.
Future efforts can also do a better job of involving local residents in the visioning process, he said.
According to Levine, just 175 members of the public took part in the county’s most recent process to develop a new general plan.
Sakrison also sees a larger role for residents to play in that process.
“This has got to be a community effort,” he said.
Based on the comments he’s heard recently, Sakrison said he has the sense that more and more people have come to believe that Moab is not the same place that they love or grew accustomed to. Many people, he said, are feeling the loss of the community’s identity, especially after record traffic over Memorial Day Weekend brought Main Street to a standstill.
While visitation to Moab and the surrounding area is at record highs, he questioned what would happen if gas prices soared to the point that most visitors could no longer afford to make the trip here.
“We’ve got a mono-economy,” he said.
“Are we going to put all of our proverbial eggs in one basket and ride that horse until it drops?” he asked.
When the two councils meet up later this month, Sakrison is hopeful that their discussion will turn to the city’s affordable housing needs.
As it is, he said, the city’s police department has had a hard time recruiting new officers. Likewise, he said, affordability was an obstacle to three potential candidates for a long-vacant city engineer position, which was filled only after the city raised the base salary for the position.
Moab Regional Hospital and the Grand County School District are in the same position, he said, as nurses, teachers and other employees struggle to find homes they can afford to live in.
“We’ve got a situation where land prices are really high and affordable housing is virtually nonexistent,” he said.
City, county councils plan July 31 brainstorming session on Moab’s future
Let’s put our collective heads together … That’s all I’m asking.