Note: I got to this story late because I was working on the High-Density Housing Overlay story. Zak Podmore at The Salt Lake Tribune had an earlier (better) write-up of the bill. I feel better about giving this story short shrift than the other one.
A Utah Senate committee voted 5-2 on Monday, Feb. 9 to favorably recommend a bill to the full senate that would allow Utah’s 18 cities and towns designated as resort communities, Moab among them, to limit which city roads street-legal, off-highway vehicles can use during curfew hours.
Sen. Mike McKell, a Republican from Spanish Fork, is sponsoring the bill; he was known previously in Moab as the then-representative aiming to peel back plastic bag bans in early 2019 imposed in Moab and Park City. On this occasion, McKell worked with Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus and local advocates for OHV access and use to prepare the legislation that is now moving through the State Legislature.
While Niehaus had originally proposed that the state allow cities like Moab to create a permitting structure to limit the number of off-highway vehicles allowed on Moab’s streets, she shifted her support in December after working with McKell, OHV user groups, and others to ideate on legislation for the state to consider.
“I have met with various groups in Moab, and, as legislation is a negotiation, I have amended my support,” Niehaus said in early December. “I am now supporting the effort to amend code to allow municipalities to set curfews and speed limits. I would also support our ability to designate routes, and I also support limiting this action to resort communities.”
That proposal is now SB 168, which would allow cities to impose restrictions on what municipal road OHVs can drive during curfew hours. The bill would not limit the ability of OHVs to drive on state roads, meaning there would be no change to OHV users’ ability to drive on Highway 191 and Moab’s Main Street at any hour of the day.
Niehaus also emphasized that the bill, if it passes, would not limit the ability of OHV users to transport their off-highway vehicles on trailers. This was in response to a question about which roads the city would close during curfew hours.
“It’ll be up to the city council to work with the community to make [those decisions],” Niehaus said. “And if the council closes all city roads, it doesn’t restrict access. It just means they have to trailer.”
The restrictions would apply only to city and town roads in Utah’s 18 resort communities — counties are not included in the legislation — during curfews, and only in the cities and towns that choose to impose curfews. Cities and towns that do not wish to impose limits may opt to maintain the status quo.
If the legislation passes as is, Moab could conceivably set an OHV curfew of 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. through a city ordinance that keeps OHVs off all city roads during those hours. It could also designate routes that OHVs can use to access recreation areas most easily accessible via city roads — for example, Sand Flats Recreation Area.
If Moab chooses to designate an all-hours route that OHV users can drive to Sand Flats, it will have to be through or near a residential area. Such an all-hours route could through a mid-town route — 300 South to 400 East then Mill Creek Drive, for example — or take OHVs down to the intersection of Mill Creek Drive and Highway 191, passing the ACT Campground and Powerhouse Lane on the way into Sand Flats.
Likely subject to change — and an area where Niehaus said she is willing to compromise — are the curfew hours that cities would be allowed to set. The chair of the committee that considered the bill Monday, Sen. Wayne Harper, said during the hearing that his research suggested that typical quiet hours imposed by private and public campgrounds normally range from 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.
Other senators on the committee expressed their own desires to see the hours tweaked, tightening the limits the legislation would place on cities while loosening the limits that OHV users would face.
The debate over the legislation inspired public comments from both sides of the issue, and the committee allotted extra time for Niehaus to speak to the merits of the bill and to UTV Utah President Bud Bruening to speak against it. Bruening has vocally opposed local efforts to limit on-highway use of off-highway vehicles around Moab, although he did support lowered speed limits that the city and county imposed on OHVs late last year.
Also: The Grand County School District Board of Education has a work session today.
Here’s the agenda for the meeting. It includes presentations on Arroyo Crossing, which is the affordable housing development the Moab Area Community Land Trust is building, and from the district’s instructional coach. There will also be updates on the pandemic and construction of the middle school.