Pictured, Grand County Sheriff's Office deputies set up decibel monitoring equipment on a modified rock-crawler at Sand Flats Recreation Area on May 27, 2021, watched by Grand County Commission Chair Mary McGann. [Maggie McGuire / Moab Sun News]


In the final days of the Utah Legislature’s General Session, hundreds of bills can be fast-tracked and passed quickly to squeeze them into the annual 45-day session. This week, Moab leaders expressed alarm at one such bill, a last-minute amendment that many see as directly targeting local ordinances regarding noise levels from UTVs and ATVs, with one Grand County official describing the revised legislation as “as bad as imaginable.”

The bill, HB146, was written to control how Utah municipalities regulate food trucks and mobile commercial kitchens. Tuesday night, Sen. Curtis Bramble (R-Provo) introduced an amendment that also prohibits local governments from enacting restrictions on businesses that rent or sell all-terrain vehicles.

The amended bill, which states that a “political subdivision may not enact or enforce an unreasonable noise ordinance that imposes a fine or other penalty for the operation of a street-legal ATV,” was passed by the Senate on March 2 and approved by the House on March 3.

“This prohibits the County’s entire Title 5 regulation of ATVs as well as noise enforcement by the City and County,” Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan wrote. “In my opinion, this is an illegal restraint on our police power and I’m teeing up constitutional litigation.”

The City of Moab took a more measured tone, issuing a press release stating that officials were working with a legislative lobbyist to communicate with Sen. Bramble, who “assured City representatives that his intention is not to undermine the City’s ability to take measures to try to reduce noise in our community.”

“We have questions about the amendments to the bill related to OHV noise enforcement and business licensing regulations, and how those amendments could impact the City’s ability to regulate OHV noise in our community,” the press release stated. “The City’s legislative team is reviewing the language of Senator Bramble’s amended bill and will work to make changes that will ensure that our noise ordinance will not be undermined.”

Local leaders have been wrestling with this issue for years after a 2008 Utah law allowed UTVs to become “street-legal” in the state, provided they comply with criteria covering registration, safety features and muffler requirements. A proposed state law that would have allowed Moab to place a nighttime curfew on UTVs was defeated in the 2021 General Session.

One avenue for local government to address resident complaints about noise on city streets was to exert its authority in regulating local businesses. That effort has met with some resistance and frustration from UTV rental and tour business owners.

Earlier this month, the Grand County Commission discussed efforts to update Title Five of the county code, which defines business licensing regulations, to make the licensing process for ATV/UTV businesses align with a noise ordinance passed in the spring of 2021.

Updates made to Title Five last year included a requirement that ATV businesses have their fleets tested annually for compliance with the noise ordinance. Business owners criticized the updates, pointing out that the testing deadlines don’t make sense for businesses that replace their fleets each year. Another provision of the code, which was passed last spring, says that three proven code violations by an ATV business or customer of that business could be grounds for revocation of that business’s license.

At the Feb. 1 meeting, Lori McFarland, co-owner of a High Point Hummer, spoke strongly against officials rewriting code without first holding a public hearing.

“You wrote bad ordinances and made hard deadlines without providing a pathway for compliance. You’ve willfully impeded the commerce of a large class of Grand County businesses and clearly caused damage to my business,” McFarland said.

Presenting his amendment to the food truck bill on the Senate floor, Sen. Bramble said that he believed if cities “want to impose a sanction for noise or speed, there are laws under our traffic code that allow them to do that,” as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.

“The business license registration is not the place to try to impose a whole new vehicle regulatory structure, inspection structure, or noise structure,” Bramble continued.