At their regular city council meeting on Nov. 9, the Moab City Council discussed and voted on a myriad of infrastructure updates, including on the sewers, Mill Creek Canyon, and Pack Creek Bridge. The city also discussed updates to their Water Conservation Plan, which is due to the state by the end of the year. [See full coverage on the front page of this edition. -ed.]

Accessory Dwelling Units

The term “accessory dwelling unit,” or “ADU,” refers to small independent living spaces on the same lot as a single-family home, like mother-in-law buildings, basement apartments or an above-garage studio. The structures can be attached to the home or be a separate structure but use the existing infrastructure, like water and sewer, of the house.

As Moab suffers from a housing shortage, in October, Moab City Planning Director Nora Shepard presented an ordinance “amending the text of the Moab Municipal Code to allow accessory dwelling units in all residential zones.” Moab hasn’t updated its ADU code since 2018; since then, the Utah State Legislature passed House Bill 82 to allow for more internal ADUs in single-family homes and add enforcement provisions to make sure internal ADUs aren’t utilized for short-term rental.

This ordinance is intended to remove barriers that prevent more residents from building ADUs and to encourage residents to build ADUs for the purpose of creating more workforce housing. Shepard pointed to a handful of other communities in Utah and Colorado that successfully utilize ADUs for workforce housing, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Durango, Crested Butte and St. George.

The city council discussed their outstanding questions about the ordinance—concerning whether the owner of the primary residence needed to live on-site, minimal rental periods, and enforcement—in a workshop on Nov. 9. At the workshop, the council decided the document with new regulations must go through a legal review. At the regular city council meeting on Nov. 9, the council unanimously voted to table the ordinance until the next meeting on Dec. 14, the last city council meeting of the year.

Sewer Rates

The city of Moab has 140,244 feet of sanitary sewer pipes winding below the city. According to City Engineer Chuck Williams, 32% of those pipes are 50-60 years old, and 29% are over 60 years old. The system needs repairs, and in the past three years since the Moab Sanitary Sewer Master Plan was adopted in 2018, there have not been enough funds generated to meet those repair needs.

The city is raising sewer rates to make up for the deficit. The monthly sewer rate for a single-family household in Moab is currently $21.60. In October, the council decided to move forward with two options to raise the rates: Option A would raise rates to $42.79; Option B would raise rates to $35.54. Both options would raise rates over the course of six years.

Councilmember Rani Derasary asked about the deterioration of the pipes, and if the council should worry about having to raise the rates again in the future because the pipes are even worse.

“We’re gonna end up replacing the entire system over time,” said Chuck Williams, city engineer. “I think after ten years, people will have to re-evaluate the rates.”

The council voted 4-1 to implement Option A, with Councilmember Mike Duncan dissenting. Duncan indicated he preferred Option B. Next year, the monthly sewer rate for a single-family household will jump up to $27 and will increase each year until reaching $42.79 in 2028.

Mill Creek Recommendations

Mill Creek Canyon is a popular recreation spot, especially in the summer, as it provides a place to swim just outside of town. Mill Creek Canyon is unique, according to Kara Dohrenwend, who worked on the Mill Creek Canyon collaborative, in that the trailhead for the canyon is located in a residential area. When the trailhead parking lot fills up, the neighborhood becomes the overflow lot.

The MCCC was formed to identify the impacts of visitation on the canyon and find viable solutions for it. In June 2021, the collaborative presented a set of recommendations to the city which were decided upon after years of research and two community surveys.

At the Nov. 9 city council meeting, the MCCC asked the city council to sign a letter to the Bureau of Land Management supporting its recommendation. Grand County recently considered similar letters to the BLM, but decided to table the issue for further review in light of stakeholder disagreements regarding some of the recommendations. [See “Managing Mill Creek,” Nov. 4 edition. -ed.]

Stakeholders including Moab Solutions, a nonprofit with a focus on public lands and environmental stewardship; Ride With Respect, an off-roading environmental group; and the Grand County Sheriff’s office have spoken out against a proposal to move the primary parking lot serving Mill Creek Canyon from Powerhouse Lane to Potato Salad Hill, which is accessible off of Sand Flats Road. Moab Solutions created its own plan, referred to as Alternative A+, that it asked the city council to also recommend to the BLM.

Dohrenwend urged the commission to support the work done by the MCCC. Moab Solutions’ alternative proposal could be addressed during the BLM’s process, she said, “rather than considered equal to a series of recommendations developed with extensive and widespread public input over a series of years.”

Councilmember Tawny Knuteson-Boyd noted that the council asks community members to serve on boards like the MCCC, and if the council “at the 11th hour dismisses their work because there’s a dissenting voice or two, we really risk damaging those relationships.”

The council voted unanimously to send the letter supporting MCCC’s recommendations to the BLM.

Pack Creek Bridge Widening Agreement

The council unanimously approved an agreement with the Utah Department of Transportation to proceed with a bridge widening project. The project will replace the failing steel walkway on the 400 East Bridge over Pack Creek, and will widen the east side of the bridge to accommodate pedestrians and bike lanes.

The bridge was originally built in the 70s and thus, doesn’t have any bike infrastructure, said Chuck Williams, city engineer. But now, Moab is “a bike community,” he said. Five of the six bridges in town are too narrow for full-width bike lanes (five foot lanes)—this project would bring that number down to four.

The project is estimated to cost $740,000 with a fifty-fifty cost share between the city and UDOT, and the city’s share is budgeted in this fiscal year.

The Moab City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Moab City Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at