There was a rumor floating around over the summer that Rivian, an American automaker founded in 2009, was planning to build a charging facility in Moab. I missed the rumor at the time, but I discovered it recently while working on NewsBot to ensure that I don’t miss this kind of thing.
I put in a GRAMA request with Grand County to get emails exchanged by Rivian and Grand County about the plans since, if they really were serious about doing that, they would have to go through the county.
It turns out they were serious, so I got a load of emails in response to the request. The first set is emails from the inbox of Mila Dunbar-Irwin; the second set is from the inbox of Amy Mayberry. (In a separate matter: both resigned two days ago.)
There are a lot of emails, so I have not yet read them all. I was working on this other story:
Hinkins sinks OHV curfew bill; noise ordinances could be the next frontier
A bill backed by Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus to address noise from off-highway vehicles narrowly failed on the floor of the Utah Senate 18-19 on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
One switched vote would have changed the outcome, and Moab’s State Sen. David Hinkins, R-Ferron, was among the opposition. He said that Moab constituents from whom he had heard were split on the issue, and he was concerned that the city was not using existing tools — noise ordinances in particular — to address the issue.
The vote against the bill came even after legislators changed the curfew times in the bill to 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The original proposal would have allowed resort communities like Moab to set curfews on off-highway vehicles for up to 12 hours starting at 8 p.m. The curfews could only have had effect on city streets — not state or county roads.
Prior to the bill’s failure, Niehaus, who worked with State Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and local OHV users and businesses to create the bill, said that she supported the bill “as it was written.”
Niehaus did not immediately respond to requests for comment in the minutes after the bill failed.
The bill could conceivably return to the Senate floor before the end of the session, but the vote against its reduced form Wednesday suggests that it would need further amendment before it could stand a chance of becoming law.
In the course of considering the bill, Utah legislators frequently asked its backers whether resort communities — Moab in particular — have sufficiently explored alternatives for controlling OHV noise problems. In particular, lawmakers have asked about enforcing noise ordinances that many believe should address the issue.
According to Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan, addressing OHV noise this way might be possible, but it would not be as easy as it might seem at first.
The evidence that cities and counties can use in court to prosecute a case regarding excessive noise is not as easily gathered as evidence of speeding or reckless driving. Rather than pointing a radar or camera at a car to ascertain or capture its speed or driver’s behavior, measuring the noise of a vehicle requires a much more controlled environment.
For this reason, Sloan and legislators have discussed the possibility of creating a law that officers may pull over a motorist if they have probable cause to believe the vehicle violates local noise ordinances. This would add noise violations to the list of other offenses for which traffic stops are permissible, such as expired registrations, speeding, and others.
But, even in this case, challenges face officers who would be tasked with taking sound measurements. The overall environment would have to be quiet enough for an accurate reading of the vehicle’s sound, and specific equipment is needed for the tests to hold weight in court.
On top of it all, Sloan said that the tests could also require at least two officers on scene to bolster safety, since the test involves revving the engine of the vehicle while someone else stands behind it with a measuring device.
According to Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge, his agency would need “at least two sound meters and more officers” to enforce noise ordinances this way. Nonetheless, as Republican legislators push the issue in response to McKell’s and Niehaus’s bill, a constituency in support of enforcing noise ordinances appears to be growing.
As the legislative session draws to its end, and with the session’s sole effort addressing OHV noise having failed, the prospect appears diminishing that any state law on the matter could take effect before Moab’s 2021 tourism season begins.