With less than two weeks to go before the city holds its municipal election on Nov. 3, voters had one more chance to hear the six Moab City Council candidates address some of the most pressing issues facing the community.
The Grand County League of Women Voters sponsored a forum this week that reacquainted local residents with the six candidates who are running for three at-large, nonpartisan seats on the council. The candidates were divided into pairs, and moderator Christy Williams of KZMU Community Radio asked each group of two candidates different questions that tackled issues ranging from affordable housing to downtown traffic and noise from utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs). Audience members also had the chance to quiz the candidates directly.
Kelly Mike Green
Green was a longtime social worker for the State of Utah who recently retired after almost 30 years. He has also volunteered through his church for charitable activities, and previously worked as a scout leader.
As the first candidate to answer a question about bicycle access on Main Street, Green said he is not in favor of adding bike lanes or trails along the route, due to concerns about safety.
To address the issue of growing congestion on Main Street, Green suggested that the community needs to come up with an alternate route for large commercial trucks that pass through Moab. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) should study those options, he said.
Looking into the future, Green is concerned about trees that the city planted along 500 West. The area has a higher crime rate, he said, and he believes that as the trees grow, they could create potential safety problems for pedestrians and others who are passing through the neighborhood.
Switching to the subject of the city’s general plan, Green said he believes the city has come up with some good, thoughtful planning in regards to Moab’s future, as well as its water supplies.
In the near term, Green said the city must plan ahead for the phased development of Utah State University-Moab’s plans for an expanded campus. Over the longer term, he said the general plan must be a “living document” that can change over time, since Moab may well change in the years to come.
Cook is a retired banker and bank manager who was involved in commercial and real estate lending at First Security and Wells Fargo banks. He was later promoted to area manager and oversaw bank branches in Blanding, Monticello, Moab, Duchesne, Roosevelt and Vernal. Cook served on the hospital board for eight years, including a stint as its chair for most of those years.
Like Green, Cook voiced opposition to the idea of new bike lanes along Main Street, noting that the heavily traveled route must accommodate cars and trucks. In order to add bike lanes, he said that parking spaces downtown would have to be eliminated.
As an alternative, he suggested that the city could find a central parking area for bikes, but he was ultimately more concerned about pedestrian safety downtown, as opposed to bike access on Main Street.
“Bicycles do not take as much precedence in my mind as pedestrians,” he said.
Cook previously encouraged trucks and travelers who do not want to stop in Moab to use an alternate route on 500 West. But in response to a question from Moab resident Marc Thomas, he said he no longer believes that option is feasible.
In terms of revisions to the city’s general plan, Cook said he’d like to see more public involvement in the process.
“We really maybe have come (up) short in keeping citizens informed,” he said.
Jones has owned and operated the local architecture, planning and development firm With Gaia Design for 12 years. He’s currently serving his sixth year on the Grand County Planning Commission.
Tackling the issue of affordable housing, Jones said that denser development can offset high land costs inside the city limits. To mitigate impacts associated with higher densities, Jones said the city could utilize existing ordinances to create buffers and shield existing homes from new developments.
As a planning commissioner, Jones said he understands the value of zoning to protect neighborhoods. Over the years, he said he’s worked on both sides of the table to facilitate development, while benefiting the community.
The City of Moab will play an important role in the development of Utah State University-Moab’s expanded campus, and Jones said the project could be optimized through commercial development in the area.
As a council member, Jones said he would look at current zoning regulations to make the most of the new neighborhood. Closer to the city center, Jones noted that Moab’s existing commercial district extends far beyond Main Street, and Jones said he would use his experience to help downtown realize its full potential.
As UDOT and others work on studies to address the traffic bottleneck on Main Street, Jones suggested that Moab could draw from other cities’ solutions to their own traffic problems.
“We don’t have to just settle for the situation as it is now,” he said. “It can be improved.”
Knuteson-Boyd works as a clerk for the Grand County Road Department; she also serves on the Grand County Historical Preservation Board.
She said she doubts that there’s one magic solution to the city’s affordable housing problem. But she has credited the combined efforts of entities like the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah for their work to date, and said she believes they will come up with some interesting plans in conjunction with USU-Moab’s expansion plans.
She believes the project would be more advantageous if its combines the campus and student housing components with the right amount of commercial development. In any event, she said, the expanded campus will go a long way toward diversifying the city’s economy.
From her own experience, college towns that she’s lived in are vital largely because of a college’s presence in the community.
“It’s always been an incredibly vibrant part of town,” she said.
In the future, she believes that the university’s plans to expand the campus will require a financial commitment from the city, and at some point, the council will have to examine the possibility of making that commitment.
Traffic-wise, Knuteson-Boyd has come up with her own short-term solution to heavy traffic on Main Street: She simply avoids it altogether. Moving forward, though, she said she’d like to see the city council cooperate with UDOT and other agencies to ensure they come up with 21st Century improvements to Moab’s traffic-related infrastructure.
Christine “Cricket” White-Green
A lifelong resident of Moab, White-Green grew up on the White Ranch – known today as the Red Cliffs Lodge. She has been a title agent for 21 years, working on land and water searches, and examinations specializing in State of Utah water conveyance forms. She continues to work part-time on water rights issues, while helping her husband Kent run Moab Cowboy Country Offroad Adventures.
White-Green fielded a question about allocations for transportation-related improvements, and if she had her druthers, the city would repair its sidewalks, fix its potholes and improve pedestrian crossings on Main Street. She said that any extra money to repair those flaws would ultimately save the taxpayers money.
As far as UTV-related noise and traffic goes, White-Green said the city needs to enforce the laws that are already on the books. Recently, she noted, police pulled over an illegal UTV driver, and if others are stopped for violating the laws, the word will quickly get out that scofflaws are not welcome.
“We only have to do that a few times,” she said.
White-Green also reiterated that the city should install signs at both ends of town reminding visitors that traffic and noise ordinances will be strictly enforced.
“I believe that alone will handle the problem,” she said.
As a title agent, White-Green said she’s worked hard over the years to make sure that she’s represented everyone. If elected, she said she will try to do the same.
Derasary is the former program director of Canyonlands Community Recycling. She previously served on the WabiSabi board from 2008 to 2013, and has volunteered with Arches National Park, Grand County Hospice and Splore. She currently performs administrative work for Moab artist Serena Supplee.
If elected, Derasary would like to see the city prioritize its funding for transportation projects, including sidewalks that have been damaged by tree roots. It’s definitely one area where the city could benefit from more flexibility in how its funds are spent, she said.
Derasary is hoping that the city’s UTV noise committee will report back to the public with any recommendations it has come up with to date. She suggested that the council could pass some of those suggestions on to the Utah Legislature, which “basically usurped” local control over UTVs by passing laws that apply across the state.
Over the longer term, she said the city could approach UTV manufacturers and ask them to install quieter engines, or develop technologies that lower decibel levels.
When asked if she can represent all of her constituents – and not just those she agrees with – Derasary said she’s committed to listening to everyone.
She acknowledged that she can’t make everybody happy all of the time, but she said she’s tried to work across the board.
“I think that none of us would be running if we didn’t have the desire to serve everyone,” she said.
Discussion focuses on affordable housing, traffic and UTV noise
Anyone who missed the forum can still catch up on it, beginning next week. The Grand County League of Women Voters will post a video of this week’s forum on YouTube on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
To read the Moab Sun News’ profiles of each candidate, go to: www.moabsunnews.com/news/article_5c32607a-7369-11e5-adbc-7f8a12f10a3e.html.