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. Credit: Maggie McGuire/Moab Sun News

In the last days of the 2022 Utah state legislature general session in March, the state legislature passed House Bill 146, which limits municipalities’ power to regulate businesses; language added in a last-minute substitute version (which was passed) specifically addressed municipalities’ power to regulate all-terrain vehicles, especially pertaining to noise. 

The bill directly affects Grand County’s ATV business license regulations and could affect both the county and the City of Moab’s noise ordinances, passed in 2021. The noise ordinances limit ATVs to 92 decibels; according to local ATV businesses, this prohibits the use of stock machines. Following HB 146 passing, 13 local ATV businesses and an ATV advocacy group filed legal claims against the city and county, asking for around $1 million in damages for harm caused by the regulations. 

At an April 26 meeting, the city council agreed unanimously to enter a joint defense agreement with Grand County. 

The claims filed in early March by the nonprofit advocacy group BlueRibbon Coalition, along with the 13 ATV businesses, describe the 92 decibel limit as unreasonable.  

“Claimants have been forced to sell equipment, reduce inventory, cancel bookings, and spend countless hours preparing to ‘comply’ with Moab City’s unlawful Ordinance. They have lost wages, bookings, revenue, sales, inventory, and employees as a result,” the claim against Moab says. 

The substitute bill’s sponsor, Senator Curtis Bramble (R., District 16), said the bill wasn’t intended to damage Moab’s noise ordinance; rather, he said, the bill was intended to prohibit “unreasonable” regulations. 

“Moab adopted an ordinance that puts what they believe is a reasonable noise restriction on a reasonable hours-during-the-day basis,” Bramble said, adding that he believed HB 146 would do no harm to that ordinance, though he went on to note that not everyone agrees that the ordinance is reasonable. Whether the city’s noise ordinance is reasonable or unreasonable, he said, is “a test for the courts.” 

Several provisions of the Grand County code are in direct violation of the bill; Title Five of the Grand County code limits ATV fleets in the county to 18 vehicles for businesses that guide clients but don’t rent vehicles and limits rental fleets to the number held at the time the code was enacted in 2021. 

In March, Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan told the Moab Sun News that “the county has no liability for imposing the Title 5 regulations prior to HB 146 passing. And our noise ordinance is based on a year of process and data, is reasonable, and is legal under HB 146.”