County expected to meet deadline on OHV business license changes

The Grand County Commission will meet virtually on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. to possibly take action on changes to its land use code and general ordinances designed to address noise pollution created by off-highway vehicles.

The county has until April 18 to put new rules in place before its six-month moratorium on OHV businesses lapses. State law prevents the county from renewing the temporary restriction on businesses, so county officials plan to establish new rules Thursday morning.

The meeting will come after 4.5 hours of meetings so far this week to discuss the new business licensing rules and noise ordinances. The first meeting Monday brought owners of OHV-related businesses in Grand County before the commission for a discussion of the issues.

The second meeting, on Tuesday, was between the commission, county staff and a noise regulation expert, Les Blomberg, who the county has hired as a contractor to guide their discussions of the proposed rules.

Blomberg has reviewed and compared noise ordinances of hundreds of counties and municipalities across the United States and regularly works with entities like Grand to establish and review their own noise rules.

What is up for debate

The ordinances and land use amendments the county is considering would, in the form most recent introduced publicly, restrict the size of tour-led OHV caravans, limit the noise levels of OHVs owned by local businesses, and cap the total number of business licenses that the county grants to OHV-related businesses at five.

That is the number of businesses in the county that already have a license from the county, but the largest outfitters and guide services with OHV fleets have business licenses with the city, which is following its own process for regulating the businesses.

To date, perhaps the most controversial facet of the proposed rules is a rule that would restrict the size of the OHV fleets that any business in unincorporated Grand County can have. Any business that already has 12 or more OHVs would be able to maintain but not grow their fleet; smaller fleets would only be allowed to grow to 12.

Fleet sizes the key disagreement

The rule, viewed by local business owners as a restriction on the growth of the businesses, has been criticized as an attack on the “American dream” and as being unpatriotic.

“You have no right to constrain my business and limit my fleet at all,” Jennifer Johnson, co-owner of Epic 4x4 Adventure. “Not only will it be met with legal challenge; we will band together.” Johnson got head nods from some of the other business owners on the call.

Johnson said that she and other businesses were willing to concede on restrictions that the county would place on the noise levels of the business’s OHVs and the limit caravans to six vehicles including the guide.

“We’re happy with caravan size. We’ll buy equipment for our machines to make them quieter. We’re willing to do all of that, but as soon as you start talking about limiting our fleets when there are [businesses licensed in the city] with hundreds … That is when we will come out swinging,” Johnson said.

Change of plans on general noise ordinances

Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan said Tuesday that the county and sheriff’s office have backed off of plans to establish a vehicle checkpoint in Grand County this summer that would include noise checks on vehicles.

The checkpoint had been an idea some county officials had wanted to pursue as a means of creating first-hand awareness of noise ordinance rules that the county is looking to pass.

Although new business license rules are expected to pass Thursday, the general noise ordinances the city has been forming are still in the works and might not pass at the same time.

A desire to avoid giving citations in the first year of the new rules being in effect, in combination with delays on new ordinances, has inspired her and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office to pivot to a voluntary noise testing event that would be held in the Sand Flats Recreation Area.

“I’m very supportive of not issuing citations for the entire first year after we’ve passed these ordinances and use that first year and use this voluntary testing event to not just train the officers and educate the public but also collect data on all the various emission outputs from the vehicles,” Sloan said.

One dead in Canyonlands fall

One person died in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park Monday afternoon after a 50-foot fall. The victim succumbed to their injuries, according to Andy Smith, the director of Grand County EMS.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and rangers with the park service are investigating the fall, according to Smith. The Times-Independent was unable to reach either prior to press time. The identity of the victim and the circumstances of the fall have not been released.

Child and car collide on Holyoak

EMS also responded Sunday afternoon to Holyoak Lane after a child riding a bike collided with a car, resulting in minor injuries. The Grand County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident, according to Smith.

Couple calls for help after getting stranded on Castleton Tower

Finally, a couple called for a rescue off of Castleton Tower Monday evening after discovering that their rope was too short to get them down, according to a dispatch sent to Grand County Search and Rescue sent just before 9 p.m.

The newspaper was unable to reach the sheriff’s office, which oversees search and rescue, for details on the incident.