At its Oct. 5 meeting, the Grand County Commission considered two development proposals: an RV campground in the Willow Springs area, which the body declined to approve, and the final plat of the Creekside Estates development, which was approved. Both projects have generated a lot of discussion in past meetings and have prompted community members to ask, “What kind of community do we want to be? What’s our vision for the future?”
The commission considered an application requesting that the Overnight Accommodations Overlay RV Campground District be applied to a 12-acre parcel on the west side of Highway 191, across from the Willow Springs Road, to allow for the construction of an RV campground and commercial center. Local resident and business owner Reed Pendleton has been working toward getting the project approved for over a year. [See “Proposed RV campground at Willow Springs debated,” Sep. 23 edition. -ed.]
The location of the proposed campground is in the radius of two community-wide efforts that have taken place in recent years: it’s within the boundaries of a Small Area Plan that was developed last year, with public input, to guide the development of the north Highway 191 corridor approach to Moab [See “Planning the gateway to Moab,” Jul. 23, 2020 edition. -ed.], and it’s also near the site of the newly designated Utahraptor State Park.
The planning commission declined to offer a recommendation to the county commission on whether or not to approve the application. Those in favor pointed out that Pendleton is a local developer with a proven track record as a business owner in the county, and that the project complies with the county’s overnight accommodation standards, including things like graywater systems and open space. They also noted that the project design includes employee housing.
County commissioners commended Pendleton on his project design and consistent involvement in public planning processes. However, the body voted 5-0 against applying the OAO-RV/Campground District to the parcel, saying it’s against the vision that the community put forward through surveys during the crafting of the Small Area Plan. Commissioners Mary McGann and Gabe Woytek were absent from the meeting.
Elissa Martin, associate planner for Grand County, told the commission that of 1600 overnight units that were slated to be built in 2019, when the Overnight Accommodations Overlay ordinance was drafted, 711 more units remain to be built. In 2019, community members were already concerned over the ratio of overnight rentals to permanent residential units; commissioners said they couldn’t countenance increasing lodging while construction is still catching up to the number of units that raised alarm two years ago.
“We’re having a crisis of worker shortage and affordable housing, and people who are working in town are having to drive farther and farther away in order to live,” said Commissioner Sarah Stock. “We need to really focus with the community on addressing those things before we open the floodgates to new overnight accommodations.”
Several commissioners also referenced survey results from a questionnaire that was distributed during the creation of the Small Area Plan, that showed that 75% of respondents disapproved of RV campgrounds as an appropriate use in the area.
Commissioner Jacques Hadler said he was on the fence about the project, but was persuaded to vote against it because of a public outcry against more overnight accommodations.
“For me, more overnight accommodations is not the vision that I see and not what I’m hearing from constituents,” agreed Trisha Hedin.
Creekside Estates is a development in Spanish Valley in which the owner plans to subdivide a 6-acre lot into 6 separate lots as Phase II of the development. The plan was approved in 1997, but the issue came up again last year when the property owner, Larry White, asked for an amendment to Phase II of the plan that would allow the six new houses to be “clustered.” Creekside Estates is within the rural residential zone, which requires a minimum lot size of one acre. Each house would still be on a one-acre lot, but they would be grouped together rather than spaced out evenly over the six acres. The commission approved the amendment and a preliminary plat in January, despite opposition from some neighborhood residents who argued that when considering how many lots can fit on a parcel, only buildable space should be considered—and using that approach, the 6.48 acre lot would only legally be able to accommodate four new lots. [See “Just what is ‘rural character’?”Feb 11. Edition. -ed.]
Hedin opposed the clustered development throughout the process. She’s a Spanish Valley resident and said the rural character of the area is being compromised by the clustering strategy.
“There’s this misconception that people want clustered development,” Hedin said. “I live in one of the communities, and I will tell you, it has a huge impact.”
She emphasized the importance of an effort that’s underway to conduct a survey of Spanish Valley residents to understand what they want to see in terms of future development.
“People choose to live out in rural areas because they like that kind of space,” said Hedin.
The Grand County Commission meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Grand County Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net. Residents can email email@example.com to automatically reach each County Commission member, the commission administrator, the associate commission administrator, and the county attorney.