A Tesla competitor is looking to develop in Moab.

A parcel map showing in orange and yellow an 8.9-acre property zoned "highway commercial" and an adjacent 24-acre parcel zoned "range & grazing" with the caption "potential interest from Ford in building out off-road experiential site".

This map shows the area in orange and yellow where Rivian considered building its charging station and an adjacent, 24-acre parcel that it said Ford was potentially interested in developing as an off-road experiential site. Image by Rivian, via Grand County, fair use

Last September, a representative from Rivian Automotive LLC emailed the Grand County Planning Department about the prospect of building a charging station north of Moab, on a property next to the Chevron gas station. In January, Rivian submitted then, weeks later, asked to withdraw its development application.

Rumors began last summer about Rivian potentially building a charging station and showroom in Moab in 2021, but that timing is now in question. However, Rivian and Grand County are looking for another place the company can physically land in Moab.

Engineering challenges related to septic and water at the site came up repeatedly in conversations between Rivian and the county last year as the company drafted its plans.

The site, which is just north of the intersection of Highways 191 and 313, is not an ideal location for either amenity. It is too far from the city to tie into its sewer system; the bedrock there is highly impermeable, making septic an expensive option; and Rivian said that securing a well permit could take over a year.

Rivian wants the charging stations installed before next summer and if water and septic need full approvals just for charging, that would not be possible as getting the well would take over a year from my discussions.

Josh Lyons, Project Manager, GPD Group; Nov. 5, 2020

In the same email, Lyons mentioned the idea of sorting out temporary restroom facilities to get the project off the ground, with permanent amenities possibly to come.

Later, after a site visit with county staff and others, Rivian decided it would withdraw its development application altogether.

There were some substantial considerations that we needed to take into account in order to determine the most appropriate path forward. As a result, Rivian has determined we would like to withdraw our Site Plan Application and will not be moving forward with the purchase of this particular piece of property.

Ashley Broek, Midwest Deployment Manager, Charging Facilities, Rivian; Feb. 8, 2021, following Moab site visit

The company did offer a contrasting piece of news in the same email: It was still interested in Moab.

There were some substantial considerations that we needed to take into account in order to determine the most appropriate path forward. As a result, Rivian has determined we would like to withdraw our Site Plan Application and will not be moving forward with the purchase of this particular piece of property.

Ashley Broek, Midwest Deployment Manager, Charging Facilities, Rivian; Feb. 8, 2021, following Moab site visit

Broek sent the email on a Monday to Grand County Planning Director Mila Dunbar-Irwin, who that weekend left on a two-week vacation. Her departure from the planning department punctuated the time off.

Grand County Commission Administrator Chris Baird picked up the thread the day Dunbar-Irwin’s employment ended, looping in Elaine Gizler, director of Grand County Economic Development. The county met with Rivian a week later, on March 1.

A person familiar with the matter said that Rivian was looking to keep its plans unannounced until they were final, so I am still trying to work out what kind of story The Times-Independent could publish without alienating the company.

Grand County Commission meeting preview

Grand County staff have a habit of updating the commission agenda right up until the meeting starts. I suppose it’s better than having no or fewer materials, but it would be nice to get a notification when something gets added.

To be clear, I don’t think they typically update the agenda itself — that is, the list of items on which to vote or to discuss during the meeting. Statutorily, they cannot change the agenda within a certain amount of time of the meeting. I think it’s 24 hours.

But, I suppose they are allowed to add or change packet materials as they please, and that’s exactly what they do.

Here’s a link to the meeting packet for the meeting coming up at 4 p.m. tomorrow, current as of 10 a.m. today.

Noise enforcement discussion

This is just a discussion item, but it will elaborate on the story I wrote last week about the curfew bill yielding us noise ordinance enforcement.

High-Density Housing Overlay rules and regulations

This might be the meeting when a decision is made on whether the county really wants to interpret the land use code the way Christina Sloan and the Grand County Planning Commission is pitching it.

The hospital is expanding.

There’s some kind of mechanism by which Moab Regional Hospital is securing a federal loan through the county. I’m not clear on who exactly is guaranteeing the loan — whether it is the county or the federal government. It seems like it’s the feds, but for some reason, the county has to do some kind of approval.

I hope to learn more tomorrow.

The county is extending its public health order.

Face mask requirement will stay in place. No exceptions for vaccinated people.

Studies are starting to show that the vaccine does prevent the disease from spreading; in other words, it seems to address the concern about people carrying and spreading the disease if they are vaccinated, even if they get no symptoms.

However, if you create an exception for vaccinated people, how would that work on the ground? Do you get people to carry around their CDC-issued vaccine card even though they would be so easy to counterfeit? You also create an environment where fewer and fewer people are seen wearing masks in public; do we want to start that, yet?

On the other side, we need to give people some tangible reason to get the vaccine. Having the promise that you (probably) won’t develop COVID-19 if you get the shot isn’t enough; people want to see their friends and family, and they want to take off their masks. When will that happen?

Fall go boom

A photo showing the silhouette of a helicopter back-lit by green light to the viewer's left and red light at the viewer's right, with the moon also visible above

Emergency lights illuminate dust kicked up by a Classic Air Medical helicopter landing on a road near the site of a climbing incident Saturday evening. Photo by Classic Air Medical

Saturday afternoon, a woman survived a 20-foot fall while climbing in the Deadman’s Buttress area in Long Canyon. Grand County Search and Rescue dispatched two helicopters: Classic Air Medical and, as a backup, a hoist helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety. The team ended up using the backup.

The woman, a 26-year old from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, fell onto a wall hundreds of feet above the road. Personnel with Grand County EMS, the Bureau of Land Management, Grand County Sheriff’s Office, and Grand County Search and Rescue hiked to her to stabilize her.

Classic Air performed a toe-in landing near the site, which involves keeping the helicopter rotors going while part of the landing skids sit on the ground because a full landing is impossible. Such landings can be precarious, so Classic Air dropped off supplies but did not extricate the woman.

The search and rescue team had dispatched a hoist helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety as backup. That helicopter lifted the woman out and took her to a trauma center — likely St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

It looks like you get to the Long Canyon road by going toward Dead Horse Point, and then after making the left onto the road that leads into the state park, you make another left to get off-road.

Grant for personalizing learning

Photo of four people wearing masks, with the middle two holding a check together

Grand County Education Foundation Co-Chair Melodie McCandless, second from right, presents a check to Grand County Middle School Principal Cari Caylor. They are joined at left by Steve Kennedy, secretary of the Grand County School District Board of Education and Danette Johnson, other co-chair of the foundation. Photo by Amanda Knill via Grand County School District

The Grand County Education Foundation recently received $15,000 in grant money, providing the Grand County School District with data collecting software that will support more personalized learning in the classroom.

A charitable arm of Stellantis, an automotive manufacturer that owns vehicle brands including Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and others, provided the grant money. With it, the school district purchased software from Panorama Education, an organization that helps educators collect and use data to improve student outcomes in various areas, including social-emotional learning.

Amanda Knill, the community coordinator for the school district, said that 300 teachers will administer the program to 1,200 students, allowing them to evaluate students’ social and emotional readiness and their strengths and weaknesses.

“We are very thankful to the Grand County Education Foundation and the FCA Foundation [funded by Stellantis] for their partnership on this important grant,” said Grand County Middle School Principal Cari Caylor. “The Panorama Program will provide powerful analytics which will allow us to tailor strategies so that we can [home] in on each students’ needs.”

Seekhaven is running a campaign to raise $30,000.

Seekhaven Family Crisis & Resource Center, a Moab-based advocate for survivors of domestic violence,is running a campaign to raise $30,000 — its 30-year anniversary campaign. They are also collecting stories from its history from community members, prior staff, board members, and volunteers. Here’s an anonymous story they shared as part of the campaign:

I returned to Moab after many years away, I have family here in Moab. I fled a violent relationship when I realized that I would not live much longer if I stayed. I came with nothing. I was skeptical at first. I was ashamed. But more than anything, I was afraid. But I can say that for the first time in many years, I like me and what I am capable of, and I owe it all to the support I received from Seekhaven.

Anonymous Seekhaven shelter resident

News from elsewhere

KUER: The Clock Is Running Out On An Effort To Create A New State Park North Of Moab

Kate Groetzinger has a story out this morning about the Utahraptor State Park bill. The headline alludes to how close the end of the legislative session is and how it might not pass.

There are other bills that I think the legislature really wants to pass before the session ends, like the reform of the Transient Room Tax, so it seems like they will extend the session until those middle-of-the-pack bills (legislative leadership already got their priority bills passed) get their hearing.

Others, like a bill that would allow homeowners to operate their primary residences as short-term rentals (as long as they live in the house full-time most of the year), are currently held up in their first committee. Others have gotten failed votes. All those feel as good as dead.