Grand County commissioners considered whether to give a green light to an “intent to apply” for a special event permit that didn’t meet the deadline under the county’s recently implemented special events permitting process. The organizers of the Moab Redrok Roundup off-road event said that outdated information on the county’s website misled them about the process. Commissioners discussed the matter at length and ultimately voted not to approve the intent to apply.

The county spent many months crafting a special events permit process that would allow county leaders to consider the impact of events across the calendar, rather than the impacts of each event individually. Organizers must submit applications on quarterly deadlines so staff and commissioners can evaluate what types of events are happening, where the calendar is crowded, and what kinds of events could add more variety and opportunities for the local community.

The “intent to apply” step is a preliminary description of a proposed event with enough information for county staff to determine whether it’s a “high impact” event—if it is, the commission considers the intent to apply and either gives organizers a nod to continue with a full application, or indicates that they’re unlikely to approve the event. In the latter case, organizers are spared the investment of completing a full application—a very involved process.

Commissioner Bill Winfield brought the issue to the Feb. 21 meeting.

“My original reason for bringing this was because there was a discrepancy on our website,” Winfield said. “So to me it was a legal issue, and that’s why I raised the concern over it.”

Redrok Roundup organizers Marc Pett, Troy Harris and Kent Green said county webpages directed them to the previous special events ordinance, even after the new process was in place, so they were unaware that the deadline they would have had to meet to apply for their June event had already passed. County staff confirmed that outdated links remained active on the website.

Commissioner Kevin Walker pointed out that correct information on the website would not have given organizers the opportunity to submit an application by the deadline—by the time they looked at the website, the deadline had already passed.

“If the website had been accurate they would have realized immediately that they were too late to apply for their June 2023 event,” Walker said in an email.

Walker noted in the meeting that even if the Redrok ITA had been submitted on time, it was unlikely to have been approved. In the batch of ITAs that would have included the Redrok Roundup, the commission didn’t green-light any new motorized events—and some applicants were turned down simply because the dates they wanted to hold their event were already stacked with other events, Walker said.

“I feel very strongly about the process here, and I think no matter what kind of event this was—if this was even a relatively low-impact event—I think we should decide these things in groups and not one at a time,” Walker said. “I feel bad that you missed the deadline—those things happen… but that’s not enough to change the rules.”

Pett, Harris and Green described the mitigations they planned to use to address the impacts of their motorized event; it would be based at Red Cliffs Lodge to minimize disturbance in town; there would be security and a no-tolerance policy for misconduct; environmental stewardship would be paramount, and all guided rides would have at least three guides trained in etiquette, stewardship, and local knowledge. While commissioners commended the thought organizers had put into mitigation, they were hesitant to make an exception to the process.

“We’re trying to be more holistic about our special events,” explained Commissioner Trisha Hedin. “We really want to find some balance within our events. In order to do that, and to do it holistically, we need to have all the events come in at one time.” She added that a denial of the intent to apply this year doesn’t prevent the organizers from trying again.

“If it doesn’t go this year, you apply next year,” she said. “It’s not that your event is dead in the water.”

Commissioner Mike McCurdy expressed the view that the county had made an error, and should make an allowance for an applicant misled by that error.

“We made the mistake,” McCurdy said.

Commissioner Evan Clapper disagreed. While there may have been incorrect information on a county webpage, he said, there was a lot of publicity regarding the new special events permitting process.

“This was a pretty widely discussed, well-publicized, multi-year process,” Clapper said.

County Attorney Stephen Stocks agreed that the new procedure had been discussed in many public meetings, but said it was unfortunate that the organizers were allowed to begin the intent to apply process outside the deadline at all.

“From a legal standpoint, I think there was notice, I think there was information out there, we had public open meetings, I think those existed when we did the original changeover,” Stocks said, though he also said the county needs to be quicker to flag applications being submitted outside the system’s deadlines.

Commissioner Mary McGann suggested that if the organizers could move the date of their event from June, which is in the second quarter, to the fourth quarter, they would be able to meet the ITA deadline. Organizers said they’d considered that, but it conflicted with other off-road events and with availability at Red Cliffs Lodge.

Kimberly Bolton, director of sales and marketing at Red Cliff Lodge, echoed this and added her own frustration with the county’s transition to the new special event permit process. Last year she applied on behalf of the lodge for a concert event, and found the process confusing and frustrating, with outdated information and incorrect contacts listed on county webpages.

McGann found it a difficult issue.

“It was a very long, arduous process to get our special events ordinance up and running… we really wanted to be able to look at it as a whole, and not piecemeal. And so I really want to honor that,” she said. “But I also recognize that there were some issues with the website.” She added that when starting a new process, it’s important to be flexible and adjust as necessary. At the same time, the commission received 65 public comments opposing the Redrok Roundup event; members of the public also called in during the ‘citizens to be heard’ part of the meeting to ask commissioners not to approve the Redrok ITA.

Commissioners voted not to allow the Redrok Roundup application to proceed. Commissioners Walker, Clapper, Hedin and Jacques Hadler voted against allowing it to move forward; McGann abstained; and McCurdy and Winfield voted to allow it to go forward.