The Moab City Council continued discussion on recycling and passed a measure designed to keep Moab’s stars visible in the night sky.

At the Aug. 13 meeting, council members unanimously voted to require that all outdoor lighting conform to International Dark Sky standards within five years. Both residential and commercial properties are impacted by the ordinance.

The new lighting standards will take effect immediately for new construction. Grand County passed a similar ordinance in April 2019.

The proposal was not without debate, with some questioning the five-year timeline for compliance. However, Moab City Attorney Chris McAnany pointed out that removing the deadline would essentially gut the proposal.

“If I had a floodlight on the side of my house that that didn’t comply,” he said, “I could keep that indefinitely: that would be certainly defeat the point of the policy.”

That idea didn’t sit well with Councilwoman Tawny Knuteson-Boyd.

“It doesn’t make sense that we go through all these gyrations and challenges to be a Dark Sky Community and then just say, well, we’re not going to really enforce it,” she said.

Councilman Kalen Jones pointed out that Moab’s General Plan has a goal of receiving an International Dark Sky Community designation, which requires such a timeline.

Awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), an International Dark Sky Community is defined as a “community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies.”

Besides, Jones said, the ordinance has plenty of community support.

“This code and its twin over at the county have been through multiple public hearings and public meetings without notable opposition,” he said.

The ordinance requires the use of outdoor lighting that minimizes glare and light pollution, whether from residential exterior lights or commercial signage. Other cities that have been named as International Dark Sky communities include Sedona, AZ, and Torrey, UT.

Castle Valley resident Mary O’Brien spoke during the public comment section of the city council meeting in favor of the Dark Skies designation.

“I look forward to following your example and working on a Dark Sky ordinance in Castle Valley,” she said. “This is really a step that gives people a kind of hope that a community can grapple with issues like crowding and light pollution and noise.”

The ordinance passed with applause from the public in attendance.


Rosemarie Russo, the city’s sustainability director, informed the council on the progress Moab has made on reducing reliance on fossil fuels and focusing on renewable energy sources.

“For a decade, we were only getting 1% of our energy from renewables,” she said, “and in the past two years, we’ve got it up to 5% community wide, and the municipal government has it up to 29%.”

With those rapid results, Russo seemed confident that the trend towards renewable energy adoption will continue.

“Moab, Park City and Salt Lake City have been working together with Rocky Mountain Power and the Public Service Commission to see how we can accelerate the adoption of renewable energy,” she said, “and we had a great success in March, when the legislature passed the Community Renewable Energy Act.”

The Utah State Legislature passed the Community Renewable Energy Act, a bill that creates a framework for communities to move towards using 100% renewably sourced electricity, at the tail-end of the 2019 general session.

“A lot of people didn’t think it could happen in Utah,” Russo said, “but it did.”

Part of the Act requires municipalities to adopt a goal of achieving 100% of the annual electric energy supply for participating customers from renewable energy resources by 2030.

“So tonight,” Russo said to council, “the resolution before you is just to accelerate our existing community-wide goal by two years.”

The ordinance passed unanimously.

“That’s one I wish I could vote for,” said Mayor Emily Niehaus, “it’s just very exciting.”


The ongoing discussion of proposals to require the recycling of construction waste did not go nearly so smoothly.

A proposed ordinance would require new construction of over 5,000 square feet to recycle 50% of its construction waste. The ordinance proposed at the Aug. 13 meeting specified that construction debris as including asphalt, wood, porcelain, and concrete

“The idea is we’re trying to get the contractors to either recycle or re-purpose or reuse this material,” said Sustainability Director Rosemary Russo.

The council questioned if the recycling plan was achievable as written.

“Nobody’s gonna be surprised when I say I strongly support recycling at a construction site,” said Mayor Niehaus, referring to her role as founder of Community Rebuilds, a local construction nonprofit, “but I’m concerned about the wording here.”

The main concern of council members was a lack of clarity on what organizations would be able to receive and process recycled materials.

Councilman Mike Duncan cited comments from Evan Tyrrell, district manager of the Solid Waste Special Service District.

“He sounds like he’s not going to be ready to handle it by the end of the year,” Jones said.

“I don’t know that our partners in processing would be prepared for the volumes you’re talking about,” agreed Moab City Manager Joel Linares.

The council agreed to lay aside the required construction recycling issue for the moment, to revisit in the future.

“Long term, I think that doing construction recycling is a great thing,” said Councilman Kalen Jones, “but I think more work needs to be done up front,” he said.

“This is really a step that gives people a kind of hope that a community can grapple with issues like crowding and light pollution and noise.” Mary O’Brien

  • City council unanimously passes outdoor lighting ordinance
  • Council approves an accelerated goal for using renewable resources
  • Plan for mandatory construction recycling needs more work