If anyone wants to open a new bed-and-breakfast operation in unincorporated Grand County, they’ll have to look beyond Spanish Valley’s residential neighborhoods.
The Grand County Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to restrict future B&Bs to the county’s Overnight Accommodations Overlay Zone; chair Jaylyn Hawks voted against the majority.
“I think the issues could be worked out without taking this drastic measure, so I am voting against (it),” Hawks said.
The overlay zone doesn’t have contiguous boundaries, and instead applies to multi-family residential units at developments like Puesta del Sol, Solano Vallejo, Rim Village and Coyote Run.
Grand County Council member Curtis Wells said the council’s action allows B&B operations to continue to a certain extent.
“But it’s important to me, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, as Moab continues a trend toward a resort community, that folks are able to be protected from commercial activity in residential areas,” Wells said. “And anyone interested in pursuing overnight accommodations, commercial zoning provides for that, as does some residential.”
Hawks, who owns an existing B&B, said she realizes that some people believe she has a conflict of interest on the issue. However, she noted that she did not stand to gain from her votes on the issue.
“I want you to know that had I ever been voting in favor of a solution that would benefit my business, I would have recused myself,” she said. “My votes have been in favor of a solution that would actually add competition to my business, so (I just wanted) to get that clarification out there on the table.”
Council members acted just over six months after they first imposed a moratorium on new B&Bs beyond Moab’s city limits, following a dramatic increase in reports of nuisance-like impacts, such as noise and increased traffic. The council extended its moratorium in November, giving members more time to review separate recommendations from the Grand County Planning Commission, including the one that a majority of council members ultimately approved.
Many of the complaints about B&Bs have come from the Highland Drive and George White Road area, where residents like Dennis Silva have said they are concerned about the commercialization of the county’s residential neighborhoods.
“Our homes in our neighborhoods are our refuge from the robust visitor services economy that has become an identity for our community,” Silva said in a letter to the council.
Sunset Drive residents Earl and Teri Underwood own a house that’s directly across the street from a new B&B. Since it opened for business, Earl Underwood said, their privacy has been ruined.
“At times there are crowds of people partying on the deck of the B&B,” Earl Underwood said in a letter to the council. “Even in the middle of the night we have been woken up by the sound of trucks attempting to park huge trailers loaded with ATVs. The entire character of our neighborhood is drastically changed for the worse.”
Down the hill in the nearby Old City Park area, the Sego Lily Guest House is one of five licensed B&B operations on the same street, according to Sego Lily co-owner Terry Carlson.
Both Carlson and his wife had urged the council to keep owner-occupied B&Bs legal. But after the council reached its decision, Carlson said the couple are “kind of OK” with the new restriction, which limits the number of prospective rivals who might otherwise have opened new B&Bs.
“While we’ll enjoy the restricted competition, we’ll feel bad for our guests who like to (experience) the uniqueness and the flavor of our neighborhoods,” Carlson told the Moab Sun News.
Like other B&Bs in the Old City Park area, Carlson said, the Sego Lily Guest House accommodates two people at a time per room, and in the six years since they launched their B&B, they’ve never had to deal with visitors who throw big parties.
“We’ve had absolutely nothing like that anywhere on our street,” Carlson said.
In fact, he said, most guests who write online reviews of Sego Lily said they value the quiet, peaceful and secluded neighborhood.
“It’s just a whole different flavor than the ones up there (on Highland Drive),” Carlson said.
Looking at the long-term picture, Wells said, Grand County is headed down the path where there’s ample commercial opportunity for lodging accommodations.
“And if we don’t work proactively and reactively to a certain extent, to protect residential quality in certain areas, I think it would be a big mistake,” he said.
Wells said he appreciates the planning commission’s willingness to look at a compromise that would have preserved the right to own B&Bs in the county’s residential zones, with new conditions attached. Those proposed conditions would have included annual inspections to ensure that the owners are in compliance with the county’s regulations; a minimum separation of 1,500 feet between new B&Bs and existing ones; and a requirement for owner-occupied and -managed B&Bs, among other things.
But Wells said he thinks that proposal would have added an “unrealistic depth” to the county’s enforcement abilities, creating a “bit of a bottomless pit of detective-type work.”
County resident Amanda Wilson questioned why the council is making such broad changes for a “few bad apples.”
“Why are you letting a few poorly run businesses change other (residents’) opportunities in the future?” she asked in a letter to the council. “Why are you not focusing on making it harder for these trouble makers to operate instead of stifling growth?”
As an alternative, she suggested that the council should consider a “three-strikes” rule that penalizes B&B owners who have been the subject of at least three complaints.
“Yes, it requires more enforcement but that is just the nature of our town these days,” Wilson wrote. “Enforcement is a necessary thing when you have so many people who are just here to play, make a quick buck, or have a (second) or (third) home they can use as nightly rentals because enforcement happens rarely.”
Hawks casts dissenting vote against stricter regulations