Moab City and Grand County council members said residential quality of life, water, housing, planning and growth are areas of importance as the councils move forward to address the community’s biggest challenges in 2019.

The Moab Sun News recently asked Moab City Council and Grand County Council members what inspires them in their work as council members and what solutions and changes the community may expect to see this year. Moab City Council members Rani Derasary and Karen Guzman-Newton along with Grand County Council members Terry Morse and Mary McGann provided responses, pointing to a strong desire to focus on managing growth and respecting the quality of life for residents. This feature has been edited for length.

Q: What inspires you to be a member of council at this point in time?

Derasary: The creativity, thoughtfulness and passion of Moab area residents. I’m fortunate to speak every week with hardworking individuals who make our community the unique place it is. I’m inspired by every one of them “making it work” in Moab even though that is not an easy thing.

Guzman-Newton: Our community is changing so quickly that I felt it was time to serve. I don’t have a problem putting my foot on the brake and taking the time to make informed decisions that will outlast our lifetime and potentially build a more resilient community for our children. 

Morse: I was asked to serve at a time when many people in our county see the need for definitive actions on issues that we need to address now if the quality of life is to be preserved in the future. Spending a few years lending a lifetime of experience to focus on some of these issues is little enough that I can give back.

McGann: My desire to serve the citizens of Grand County.

Q: What are you excited about for the community going into 2019?

Derasary: I am looking forward to spending the coming year focusing more on resident quality of life. We’ll have our annual Moab City Council retreat in early February, and there we’ll discuss council priorities for the coming year. My priorities for 2019 include communicating to our state representatives that we want to retain local control; retaining a water attorney for the City of Moab to look out for the community’s water resources long term; determining what we can do to update code and expand enforcement to address resident stressors; continuing to adopt tools to address the housing crisis; and undertaking a community-driven vision process for Moab’s future that includes a long term land-use map to help guide planning.

Guzman-Newton: That the city is working to address the many issues facing our community, from purchasing land for an affordable housing development to addressing sustainability goals and the county’s efforts in preserving our natural resources.

Morse: Some of the very real probabilities of getting a start on creating some meaningful affordable housing.  

McGann: Protecting the Dalton Wells, Willow Springs and Mill Creek areas of our county. Working with the Utah legislators during this year’s legislative session, and lobbing in Washington, D.C. to maintain the funding for the UMTRA (Uranium Mill Tailings Removal Action) project, and essential air. Working to make sure the veterans in Grand County have access to housing vouchers for veterans.

Q: What do you see as the community’s biggest challenges to address in 2019?

Derasary: Getting clear on our water supply, in the City of Moab as well as Grand and San Juan counties, and how we will collaborate moving forward. Keeping up with and planning ahead for the fast pace of change and growth in and around Moab. Advancing housing initiatives in a way that engages and educates residents about our options, respects their input and discourages any one group belittling another.

Guzman-Newton: Besides reasonable house prices for residents, a huge concern for me is that there is no available space for commercial businesses. Any remaining land continues to be developed for nightly rentals and hotels. We are not offering the best experience for full-time residents or for the tourists that are coming and spending time in our valley.  

Morse: Actually getting something done instead of just talking about it and then shuffling it off to whoever comes next.

McGann: Balancing property rights with the need for affordable housing. Making sure the Utah State University campus moves forward. Finding ways to support a more diverse economy. Analyzing the upcoming water study to assist in the development of policies that will protect our water.

Q: What solutions are you working on for any of the issues that have been brought up in the agendas or in meetings?

Derasary: We as a council have asked staff to look at how we can enhance code enforcement to deal with the main nuisance issues we’re hearing about from residents (noise, traffic, landscaping, trash, parking). Staff will be returning with recommendations on that. I have also asked about alternatives to complaint-driven code enforcement. With the Planned Affordable Development ordinance (PAD), I’ve requested visuals that can help me and residents understand what is currently allowed in the proposed zones, versus what build-out under a PAD would look like. The city has committed to hiring a water attorney to advise us on the complex issues facing us.

McGann: All solutions require teamwork. I will be working on helping to create a smooth transition to a new form of government; the creation of an agreement between Sovereign Lands and Grand County to protect the Dalton Wells and Willow Springs area and creating a short-term and a long-term plan for the Mill Creek/Power Dam area.

Q: Moab and Grand County are growing. How are the city and county working together to complement each other?

Guzman-Newton: We are constantly working together as we all realize we are one valley and trying to work towards common goals. We have recently had joint-council meetings and a first-ever town hall meeting where city or county officials responded to citizens. We plan on continuing these productive work sessions.

Morse: At this point I do not think they are working together very well on anything. This is not that the two entities don’t want to, it is more of a result of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

Q: What changes should the community look for from the city and county in 2019?

Derasary: Since we don’t produce a shared vision, that’s hard to answer. I think it’s important to remember that this is a democracy and the change you see should reflect what you’ve asked for from people you’ve elected. I can’t speak for others, but I campaigned in 2015 on issues of wanting to attack the housing crisis, upgrade infrastructure, preserve our air, water and neighborhoods, and enhance quality of life, finding balance for residents and tourism.

Guzman-Newton: There are lots of changes coming down the pipeline, from the numerous hotels that were previously approved, to U.S. Highway 191 being widened from the north side of town to the Colorado Bridge. We are working on recycling options for residents and businesses. The start of construction of a free million-dollar solar array from Rocky Mountain Power at the golf course. Educational outreach on water consumption, all the way to character education from K-12 to new programming and educational opportunities at the high school and USU. This is a small example of the changes we will see in 2019.

Council members point to residential quality of life, water, planning and growth

“I can’t speak for others, but I campaigned in 2015 on issues of wanting to attack the housing crisis, upgrade infrastructure, preserve our air, water and neighborhoods, and enhance quality of life, finding balance for residents and tourism.”