This past spring, tenants of a Moab mobile home park found out that their neighborhood was slated to be redeveloped into Lost Springs Apartments, an 80-unit long term residential complex. In a March 16 letter to tenants, property owner Hampton Roads, LLC offered a $400 move-out credit to those who vacated their units by June 30; they also offered tenants a month of free rent in the new apartment building, once complete.
The letter also says the owners anticipated that construction would begin this fall, but the project has been delayed.
“We don’t have a timeline,” said Josh Godfrey, a representative of 2nd Story Capital, the development company in charge of the project. “We’re still in the process of receiving the permit from the city.”
The development’s site plan was approved by the Moab City Planning Commission, and the next phase is for the building department to review the plans in detail to verify that they meet building code requirements, before issuing a building permit.
City Building Inspector Barry Ellison said the city uses a third-party reviewer when the process is likely to take a significant amount of time. A plan for a single family residence might take a few hours to review, for example, while reviewing plans for an apartment or hotel can take up to 100 hours—time city staff don’t have.
Godfrey said acquiring the building permit could take weeks or months, depending on how busy the third-party reviewers are, how many notes on the plans they have, and how much the holidays slow down the process. The developers can’t make any substantial changes to the plan—for example, to the number of units or the height or footprints of the building—during this phase.
Once a building permit is issued, it’s valid for six months from the last inspection, Ellison said. If the building doesn’t have an inspection in that time period, the permit will expire.
When the site plan was approved, the developers agreed to abide by a pending city ordinance establishing an assured workforce requirement for new developments in R3 and R4 residential zones, provided that the ordinance was passed by April 10 of this past spring. The city council wasn’t able to meet that deadline, however—it spent some time negotiating with groups concerned about property rights. The city’s assured workforce housing ordinance passed in August; by then developments bound by the pending ordinance agreement were released from their obligation.
The assured workforce housing ordinance would only have applied to part of the Lost Springs Apartment development, resulting in about four units deed-restricted to Grand County workers; currently, Godfrey said the developers don’t plan on deed-restricting any of the units. Overnight rentals are not allowed under the zoning of the property, so all the units will be long term residences.
Meanwhile, all the tenants except a property manager have moved out of the mobile home park. At least one tenant moved his trailer to another location, Godfrey said, and the Moab Valley Multicultural Center helped tenants relocate.
At the time the site plan was approved, city officials were optimistic and welcomed the planned apartment building as a much needed boost to the local housing stock—though at the same time, they expressed regret that it came at the cost of losing existing low-income homes and upending the lives of current tenants.
However, it’s unclear when the new apartments might materialize.
Godfrey said that the project might see more delays due to high construction costs—“the highest we’ve ever seen”—and the highest interest rates since 2007.
“It’s making it extremely hard for developers to build anything—because nothing pencils,” Godfrey said.
In March, Godfrey told the Moab Sun News,
“There’s a chance that this gets approved and we can’t make it pencil—construction costs are too much or we can’t get financing… There’s a variety of things that could happen where it could potentially not move forward.”
For now, the property is mostly vacant and quiet. With the gap between tenants vacating the property and construction of the new apartments, the likelihood that former tenants will be in a position to take the owners up on their offer of a month’s free rent in the new building is low.