A map of the Grand County “High Density Overlay” draft will be available at the public workshop on July 10. [Courtesy image from Grand County Planning Commission] 

HD Overlay Types

HDH25a - 25 units/acre - 45 ft max height

HDH25b - 25 units/acre - 35 ft max height

HDH15 - 15 units/acre - 35 ft max height

HDH10 - 10 units/acre - 35 ft max height

HDH5 - 5 units/acre - 35 ft max height

The Grand County Planning Commission held one of their bi-monthly meetings on June 12, addressing several key issues affecting land use in Grand County.


The Grand County Planning Commission, in partnership with the Grand County Department of Community and Economic Development, has been working on a “High Density Overlay” plan for the county since last year.

The two planning bodies have been looking at current residential zones and identifying areas that could support denser housing. They’ve used data collected in a study conducted by BAE Urban Economics and solicited public input to draft a proposed overlay map that will guide the county council in considering applications from land-owners to increase housing density on their properties.

The overlay is still in the drafting stages, and the planning commission is preparing to put the latest version to another round of public comment.

The commission set July 10 as the date of the first public workshop examining the current draft. Times and details are not yet confirmed, but the commission has decided that the style of the workshop will be informal and fluid — there will not be a presentation at a set time, but rather a display with maps and written information available, and a commission member present to answer questions.

Members of the public will be free to come and browse at their convenience. For more information on the High Density Overlay, visit grandcountyutah.net/943/Current-Upcoming-Projects.


The county land use code defines what types of buildings and activities are allowed in different zones. It is meant to be a detailed reference that can answer specific questions like which businesses are allowed in “light industrial” versus “heavy industrial” zones, or how businesses and residents may dispose of waste in different zones.

The land use code is under constant review.

“In the last couple years we’ve had, oh, 15 changes to the code — it happens all the time,” Mary Hofhine, the community development coordinator in Grand County, and a member of the planning commission, said.

The land use code must agree with and complement the county’s General Plan, which is updated on a schedule.

The General Plan identifies county issues and community values, and makes recommendations on the direction of future development. In 2008, Hofhine said, the county adopted a new General Plan, which in turn required an overhaul of the land use code.

Aside from these major updates, the Planning Commission is refining the language in the code.

At the June 12 meeting, the commission discussed the existing definition of “food processing” in the code.

Large-scale food processing, especially when it produces large amounts of waste or strong odors, seems to belong in an “industrial use” category, but commission members don’t want to hinder small-scale operations, such as the Castle Valley Creamery or the Ye Ol’ Geezer meat shop.

Hofhine will clarify and sub-categorize the definition, and it will be further discussed at the next commission meeting.


The commission reviewed a preliminary plat for a new subdivision that, if approved, will be built off Sunny Acres Lane.

The plat covers approximately five acres, in a parcel that is zoned “rural residential.”

The parcel would be subdivided into five lots for residential use. Before the plans can be sent to the Grand County Council for final approval, they must comply with county standards for road quality and drainage. The developer has been working with the county road department and the county engineer to determine what needs to be done in these areas.

One speed-bump arose regarding the county boundary as shown on the plat map. The map shows the entire proposed subdivision in Grand County — however, some county officials have said that part of the subdivision, or the access road to the subdivision, is in San Juan County.

Hofhine presented the preliminary plat to the commission, and explained the discrepancy over the county boundary that had recently been noticed. She is waiting for a determination from land surveyors or county recorders in Grand and San Juan counties.

“The interest of Grand County would be, that that road is going to have emergency fire access to part of the subdivision,” said Gerrish Willis, planning commission chair.

In Grand County, developers have an obligation to bring access roads, even if they already exist, up to standard for emergency vehicles. It is unknown if San Juan County enforces the same standards, or if they will claim the road in question as part of their road system.

“The concern that I would have,” Willis said, “is that if San Juan County doesn’t participate… it’s our subdivision, but the access might be through a substandard road to our subdivision.”

The commission does not have the authority to deny a subdivision, only to require that it meets county regulations before being considered by the county council.

Commission member Emily Campbell expressed her hesitation in approving the plat, which provides for low-density residential lots at a time when the county is scrambling for high-density, affordable housing options.

Campbell noted that the more time the county takes in determining high-density housing zones, the fewer parcels that will be available. She expects that the lots in the subdivision will be outside the price range of most Grand County residents, and will likely be purchased as second homes by non-residents.

“Here we are, once again, looking at a lot that could otherwise be used for [moderate income] residents, and instead is being considered for other uses,” Campbell said. “And I think that’s a shame.”


The City of Moab is taking steps to protect its clear night skies by drafting lighting regulations that limit light pollution. Grand County is following suit.

Using a lighting ordinance from Flagstaff, Arizona, as a starting point, the planning commission is reviewing standards and definitions and adapting them to Grand County.

They discussed the practicality of a rule prohibiting light fixtures that allow light bulbs to be seen from neighboring properties, and how much time will be allowed to bring existing lights into compliance with the new ordinance, both for county buildings and for private residences.

The lighting ordinance is still under discussion. Once the commission has revised it to a complete draft, there will be an opportunity for public comment, and the ordinance will be reviewed and probably reworked again.

“That’s their job,” said Hofhine of the commission, “to make sure it looks good before they send it to the public.” Eventually the county council will vote to pass or not to pass the revised ordinance.

Planning commission meetings are open to the public. Their schedule and meeting agendas can be found at grandcountyutah.net/209/Planning-Commission.

Public workshop planned; Land-use, new subdivision, night skies on agenda