The definition of squeeze play is:
1. Baseball: A play in which the batter attempts to bunt so that a runner on third base may score.
2. Informal: Pressure exerted to obtain a concession or achieve a goal.
In the economic game between SITLA/Lionsback/USU and the City of Moab, the second definition is status quo for these projects.
In the audio transcripts of the Jan. 19 SITLA Board meeting and judging by the comment of a board member, “Developing in Moab is like pulling teeth (laughter),” they hold an adversarial opinion of our community. The Lionsback development has been well documented in the past few months. Recently there has been a change in language regarding the size of the hotel, changing wording from 50 “units” to 50 three-bedroom units. SITLA believes Moab “really needs this kind of activity center. We think we can convince them.”
Further along in the transcripts, the board members discuss a request from Moab for a $250,000 capital investment to begin a roughly $4 million road improvement project for the proposed USU campus. “Is this the same Moab, Utah, that we’re finding problems with (more laughter)?”
In discussing the road improvement participation and right before suspending interactions between board members and the director to take this subject into closed session, other comments were made. “With the political climate of Moab, do we have a reliable partner in Moab?” “Do we have a better chance of getting a partner before we’ve written a check or after we’ve written a check?” “I’m ready to play hardball.”
SITLA can profit generously in these projects even though Lionsback off-site costs (bringing utilities to the project, sewer connections, road improvements, etc.) have more than doubled since it was first approved in 2009, thus the developer needs triple density. SITLA has 240 acres bordering the prospective USU campus that can command top dollar from developers for high density housing. How much of these monies wind up in Moab? Let’s publish those numbers (cost to Moab versus income to schools).
Pesky Moab is a stumbling block to SITLA. It would like to exert informal pressure to have its way with us, not go through the public process on any of its projects. Are we going to allow continuous squeeze plays? Let’s stand up to outside developers and the State of Utah. Urge the city council to rescind the ruling that stopped Lionsback from going back to the public process. Find out just how many people could populate the resort, casitas and homes? The USU campus is a huge can of worms. Let’s look at all aspects of it. It might not be the golden goose.
Moab is neither a commodity nor a joke.