The Grand County Council effectively pressed the pause button on all new applications for overnight lodging. In a 6-0 bipartisan vote Tuesday, the council enacted a six-month moratorium on the applications effective immediately. Their decision garnered applause from a packed council chambers.
The new moratorium applies to hotels, motels, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, condos and townhomes. Effectively all types of overnight lodging applications and permits are now on hold. County documents say the moratorium will give public planners time to suss out the best zoning for all commercial businesses. Some council members expressed a real interest in change especially when it comes to protecting economic diversity.
"Can't remember a time when someone said to me, 'I wish there were more hotels in town,' now they're saying 'What are we doing about all these hotels?' Hopefully, this will give us some time and find a vision," said Council Chair Evan Clapper.
The text of the council’s moratorium on overnight lodging applications includes a downright laundry list of arguments supporting its appropriateness at this particular moment.
The text highlights Moab’s recent economic nexus analysis, which confirmed a connection between new lodging development and an increased demand for below market rate housing. It also points out the median sales price for housing in the Moab area – a figure that jumped 51 percent in five years while wages increased by a mere 11 percent in the same time period.
Water concerns related to growth also make it into the document – one section points to a recent water study that found safe yield in the Moab area is less than previously estimated. Add overall impacts to impacts to emergency services, jobs and infrastructure.
County documents indicate 4,000 hotel rooms and overnight rentals already exist in the Moab community, and there’s roughly 1,000 more in the planning stages. In the packed council chambers Tuesday, audience members used the words overwhelming, unsustainable and out of control to express their desire for the moratorium. Recently 100 residents signed a petition asking local leaders to put the pause on short term accommodations.
Now that the moratorium is underway, Grand County’s planning commission and economic development department must take a deep dive into the land use code to see if zoning could help address a myriad of local concerns when it comes to overnight accommodations.