Dear Editor:

I write regarding the Moab area land use planning currently in progress during the six-month moratorium on permitting new overnight rentals.

I fully support option 5, called “No Growth,” presented at the April 30 planning workshop. I think this title is quite misleading, and scared some people away from supporting it at the workshop. It is actually an option for no new overnight rentals, other than the 1,200 or so new rooms already permitted but not yet completed (or even started in some cases).

This option does not impact other types of growth, and in fact encourages other commercial, residential and community services growth. This was unclear that evening, especially as the voluminous information on the growth options was not available to read before the workshop. I don’t think there were bad intentions by Landmark’s consultants or planners, and I don’t want to look backwards, but I think the naming and meeting circumstances might have really skewed the opinions stated in the workshop. Everyone I’ve talked to in town thinks there are too many hotels, and that is without those already permitted and not completed (which many people are not aware of).

Traffic is horrid. Water use may be depleting our groundwater supply, but not all the information is in the planning documents. I urge the City of Moab and Grand County’s councils to not permit even one more overnight rental, whether hotel, motel, condo, campground, Airbnb or bed and breakfast. (And we need to stop advertising, but that may be a later discussion.)

Water availability is vital. Just how much water is used by overnight rentals, with showers, toilets and landscaping, as well as sheets and blankets washed daily? We need to pause to more fully understand this and other factors relating to our water supply. 

The compromises to option 5 that I would find most palatable would be to potentially allow very limited new overnight rentals sometime in the future. Because of the recent (and upcoming) overbuilding, I think there should be some number of years of no new overnight rental permits, perhaps with review of that policy every “x number” of years. The review could look at visitation trends, water supply, tourist impacts, traffic, etc., before deciding whether they would potentially allow some permits in the following years, until the next review.

I’m concerned about putting all new potential hotels on the north end of town, an element of Option 4 presented at the workshop. I don’t really understand that strategy. It does nothing to improve traffic where it is worst on the north end of town, all of those visitors in the hotels will drive to breakfast and dinner downtown anyway, and it makes an ugly entrance to town. This strategy will drive up land prices in that zone, so no one will start restaurants or any other business there, as overnight rentals are most lucrative.

If any future overnight rentals are eventually allowed, I would be in favor of prioritizing smaller campgrounds or motels with a limited number of units, which would encourage and support local ownership.

If option 5 is not adopted, at the least the current “use by right” for overnight rentals must be eliminated, with any future overnight rental permits only allowed by vote of the city or county councils.

Thanks to planners, consultants and council members for taking on this difficult issue. 

Mary Moran