On the long journey toward establishing housing affordability in Moab, allowing development to move forward will be key. Houses cannot become more affordable if there are not enough of them, so when a person like Larry White comes along, looking to build four new houses on his 6.5 acres of land, that’s the sort of project you want to allow.
Grand County Commissioner Trisha Hedin, as the representative of the county district that encompasses the most rural areas of Grand County, is positioning herself to be the primary opponent of housing development in Moab.
Hedin opposed the project White brought before the Grand County Commission on Jan. 19. He sought to refactor 6.5 acres of land into six lots for six homes total, in conformity with the underlying rural residential zoning, which calls for no more than one housing unit per acre.
He had backing from some locals on the project. Walt and Carey Dabney, residents of Rosetree Lane, wrote the commission to support White’s request because it would result in a larger, two-acre lot that would “allow the preservation of this agricultural land” and be “positive for the area and the county.”
Direct neighbors of the project felt differently and filed a lawsuit against the county for allowing White to subdivide the lot. In her petition to the 7th Judicial District Court, Christina Brinegar, the lead petitioner, said the commission’s decision was “capricious, arbitrary, unreasonable,” and the result of “procedural errors.”
In a motion to dismiss the petition, Grand County Attorney Sloan denied the allegations and said that Brinegar had no standing to bring the lawsuit.
One of the key contentions here is that White’s original plat for the property defined the minimum lot size to be 1.0 acre. Now, he wants to have two of the lots be larger — around 1.7 acres — and the other four to be smaller — from about 0.4 to 0.6 acres.
Does this clash with the underlying zoning, which calls for no more than one housing unit per acre? On first blush, it might seem like it. The reality, though, is that these six lots are part of one, larger plan: a Planned Unit Development.
A Planned Unit Development is a subdividing mechanism that is more flexible than a typical subdivision but requires more oversight. In this example, White has six lots on 6.5 acres that he wants to develop, and the PUD he has — the Creekside Estates Planned Unit Development — dictates how that will happen.
Of course, the petitioner made more complaints than just about the alleged clashing of the underlying zoning and the PUD. They’re all in the petition she filed, which also came with six exhibits. I’m working on a way to list all the files here.