T-I Guest Commentary
Proposed zip-line development raises questions...
by McKay Edwards
Nov 01, 2012 | 1560 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by McKay Edwards

Moab Springs Ranch is a mixed-use development with resort, residential and commercial amenities. There are now 19 townhouses, some owned by groups of friends, so that there are about 40 or 50 individuals with property interests in the ranch. Some of these folks live part-time in Moab, many vacation in Moab, encourage their friends to do so and rent out their townhouses when they are not here. Moab Springs employs some terrific Moab folks, pays a lot of property and sales tax, and supports other businesses. We are certainly not the biggest business in town and we have never asked for special treatment.

When Moab Springs Ranch was approved, the Grand County Land Use Code required applicants to notify neighboring landowners in writing of a development application. We have therefore assumed that we would receive written notification of any public hearings for a project on a neighboring property. So it was with shock and dismay that I opened the Oct. 18 Times-Independent to find that the public hearing for the zip-line had been opened and closed.

No one at Moab Springs Ranch was aware of this hearing before it had been closed. The rules of notification have changed since our application, but the Grand County Council still has a duty to accommodate an unanticipated outcome of that change. In this case, a significant community of homeowners has very material concerns which were not addressed in the application, the review or the public hearing.

We are literally downstream from the project and subject to much of the erosion, runoff, noise and visual impact the project may create. As the folks most directly affected by the proposal, we are asking the county council to consider a delay in their scheduled vote on the project, currently set for Nov. 7, to allow our questions to be answered.

I know one of the principals in the project and respect him as an outstanding citizen. I also acknowledge that the public has benefited for many years from the Steen family’s tolerance of recreational activity on their private lands. My questions about the project do not imply a lack of respect for the proponents. I am a developer myself, and believe every landowner has the right to reasonable economic use of their land so long as that use does not impair or diminish the rights of neighboring property owners, or have an unreasonably adverse affect on the community. We should all play by the same rules and respect our neighbors.

We are very concerned about the potential impact of project grading to Moab Springs. The zip-line proposes improvement of an existing historic trail to be used as an “ATV trail” from U.S. 191 to the base of the zip lines. This improved, motorized “trail” is to be 10-feet wide in an approximately 30-foot wide right-of-way. This will require substantial grading, excavation and construction in the hydrologic basin that discharges into Moab Springs Ranch.

We have learned that the county did not require a grading plan for the portion of this trail which traverses the basin above Moab Springs Ranch. A grading plan was required for a lower portion of the trail and that plan shows that there will be cuts and fills measuring as much as 60 feet in width. This will have a visual and storm water run-off impact. Un-engineered grading, as is proposed, is not held to any standards for limits of disturbance, engineering of fill, erosion control and reclamation.

Before Moab Springs was approved we performed an exhaustive stormwater study for the entire basin and installed very extensive stormwater facilities to mitigate all increased runoff from our resort. This was not required of the zip-line. We need to know what the grading plan is, how much area will be disturbed and what the projected storm water runoff impact is to our facilities.

We have other questions related to closing a 120-year historic cattle trail and the long-term use of the trail. Krissie Braun at the county has worked very hard to address these concerns, but they cannot be adequately addressed in the short timeframe.

The right thing for the council to do, under the circumstances, is to postpone the final vote until our questions can be answered. We may disagree with the ultimate outcome, but at least the county would have addressed our questions.

We have material concerns that grading impacts have not been adequately addressed and that significant un-engineered grading will occur on precipitous slopes directly above our residences. In the event that this work fails, it will end up damaging our facilities. The county should not put itself in the position of assuming liability for this impact.

McKay Edwards is an urban planner and developer based in Salt Lake City. He also owns property in Moab.

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