Peak View homebuilder seeks $1M decision against Grand

The local developer with the largest project approved under Grand County’s High-Density Housing Overlay is asking a court to nullify restrictions the Grand County Commission imposed on such developments in March.

Peak View Development, the developer, is also seeking at least $1 million in damages, alleging that Grand County breached the development agreement it approved for the Peak View Subdivision last August.

Grand County officials say that the rules regarding occupancy and ownership were in the ordinance as the county originally passed it in 2019.

The authors of the ordinance and the homebuilders using it say that occupancy was the only requirement at the time and that the ownership requirement was added in March, after the commission had already approved the high-density developments.

Jennifer and Tyrrel Johnston, the Peak View developers, made the same claims in their July filing that they did when they appealed their case to the county in May.

Bruce C. Jenkins, the hearing officer selected by Grand County for the appeal, ruled against them in the May appeal. The Johnstons are banking on Judge Don Torgerson of the Grand County District Court siding with them this time around.

Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan said in a filing Aug. 2 that she would respond to Peak View’s complaint by Sept. 1. When asked whether she planned to settle or pursue the case, Sloan said Grand County was “prepared to fight this all the way to a win for affordable housing and the Moab community.”

One developer facing the same barriers Peak View faces, as a result of the March rules and unsuccessful appeal, have given up the fight for their housing projects — or, at least the original vision.

After a hearing officer decided in June against Courtney Kizer and Steve Evers, the developers of Murphy Flats, Kizer said the two would convert their plans for condominiumized duplexes into plans for rental housing instead.

Kizer said the decision is driven by local financiers who, because they face no competition from larger outside investors, were able to leverage larger returns out of the developments in the form of rent.

A consequence of those returns is that, rather than putting starter homes on the market for locals — not second homeowners — to purchase, property managers will instead operate the houses as long-term rentals.

Kizer said that investors outside Grand County expressed interest in her and Evers’s original vision. That would have allowed locals to purchase Murphy Flats houses without needing to also pay for the land, lowering housing costs.

However, the March rules precluded her from selling to those investors, forcing her to turn to the handful of locals wealthy enough to finance a project.