UTVs on 300 South. [Moab Sun News file photo]

Grand County has submitted a formal response to a lawsuit filed by ATV advocacy group the  BlueRibbon Coalition and 11 Moab businesses against the county, as well as Moab City, over noise ordinances and business licensing regulations. 

The plaintiffs claim $1 million in damages and say the county and city are deliberately targeting ATV users. County Attorney Christina Sloan submitted a reply on Oct. 17 denying the plaintiffs’ claims for relief and specifically addressing itemized claims made in the complaint. 

For example, the complaint alleges in multiple places that the county and city enacted their codes “for the purpose of targeting and inhibiting the use of ATVs in Grand County and the City of Moab.” The county’s response states that the county’s actions were intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of county inhabitants, were made in response to many complaints specifically citing ATVs, and in acknowledgement of the measurable impacts of ATVs on noise levels in the county. 

The county’s answer also denied the complaint’s characterizations of the public process through which the commission passed its ordinances. The complaint says that “in or about spring of 2021, Grand County Commission began proposing noise ordinances in County meetings, to which they received opposition, and which they eventually shelved at each meeting.” Its next claim states that “certain Plaintiffs attended public hearings, voiced their opinions to the Grand County Commission, and informed the Commission of the effect Title 11 would have on ATV businesses. Nevertheless, the Grand County Commission chose to adopt Title 11.” (Title 11 contains the county’s noise ordinances.)

In response, the county’s answer says that the process of updating Title 11 included public hearings and meetings; workshops and meetings with the ATV business community facilitated by Utah State University and the Moab Chamber of Commerce; consultation with groups such as the Motorized Trail Committee; and vehicle noise testing days. Regarding opposition to the updated Title 11, the county’s answer says that the county received about 337 comments from local residents in favor of the regulations and about four from local residents who were opposed to the regulations. 

The complaint also claims that most stock model ATVs cannot meet the noise standards in the county and city codes; based on extensive testing, the county found that most stock models can, in fact, meet its standard of 92 decibels measured using a standard stationary test performed at 20 inches from the tailpipe. 

Plaintiffs complained that noise testing requirements for business ATV fleets were unclear and couldn’t be completed by the imposed deadline. The county’s answer explained that the county made sheriff’s officers available to conduct sound tests on business fleets, hosted multiple sound testing events to accommodate business schedules, and that the deadline to complete these tests was extended to accommodate fleet turnover that many businesses complete during the winter months (otherwise, the county may have been testing vehicles that were about to be retired from use, and may have missed testing new vehicles that would be used in the coming season.) 

“Grand County has acted at all times to further the legitimate governmental interest of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of its inhabitants and its visitors. And its actions are grounded in science, law and equity,” the county’s answer reads. 

In an email, Sloan separately emphasized that the county’s Title 5, which regulates business licensing, was updated in May to comply with Utah’s HB 146, a law that prohibited several clauses that had been in the code previously. Sloan noted, too, that the county’s moratorium on new ATV events was terminated earlier this month, and that the Grand County Commission has publicly discussed its intention to lift the cap on ATV business licenses pending updates to the county’s land use code. 

Links to the complaint and the answer are available on the county attorney website, grandcountyutah.net/attorney. A tab labeled “Community Interest Civil Litigation” on the left sidebar contains a link to information about the BlueRibbon Coalition lawsuit.