According to Moab City Planning Director Jeff Reinhart, the proposed changes would not only result in smaller lot sizes and a lower maximum building height, they would also clarify several sections of the code. The new language would include more descriptive names assigned to zones, as well as establishing new density regulations for zones that allow multi-family residences.
The most contentious changes, however, are the changes that would allow smaller homes to be built on smaller lots. The changes would only affect the R-2, R-3 and R-4 residential zones.
Reinhart said the changes were written in an attempt to increase the amount of affordable housing available in the city.
“The number-one barrier to affordable housing across the country is the lot size and the associated cost of buying that property,” Reinhart said.
The proposed ordinance would decrease the minimum lot size from 7,200 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
He said that the smaller lot sizes also help create a more sustainable community.
“You’re not having to extend longer and longer utility extensions such as water, sewer and electrical,” he said. “In the long run, it adds up and lowers maintenance costs.”
In addition to reducing the lot size, the proposed code changes would also result in a slight decrease in required setbacks. Reinhart said the setback changes are important to allow developers a little more flexibility in where they place a house on a smaller lot.
Reinhart said that the smaller setbacks also led the city to propose a change in the maximum buildable height that would be allowed in new development. Current code allows buildings up to 40 feet in height. The new code would only allow up to 30 feet.
Moab resident Lucy Wallingford spoke against a number of the changes that are encompassed in the proposed change.
“It feels like we’re being ignored,” she said.
Wallingford said that she felt like the changes would greatly change the character of the neighborhoods in Moab. “It’s all being done under the guise of making housing more affordable,” she said.
Wallingford said that she felt like the changes are too much, too fast. “There are no mitigating aspects to the changes,” she said.
She also once again voiced her concerns about builders having the ability to block a neighboring home’s “access to the sun.”
Moab resident Diane Walker also spoke against the proposed changes. “I’m not opposed to smaller lot sizes and setbacks,” she said. “But I would like to see some language included in the ordinance that protects a homeowner’s solar access.”
Walker said that the reduction in building height is good, but it’s not enough.
Emily Niehaus, executive director of Community Rebuilds, spoke in favor of the ordinance. She said that, while she shares the concerns of some of the other residents, she still favors the change.
“With respect to issues of solar gain, I think that height is more of an issue than the setbacks,” she said. “So I’m actually happy that the proposed ordinance decreases height.”
Niehaus said that Community Rebuilds is considering building in the Evans subdivision and the smaller setbacks “really would help with putting small homes on those lots.”
The Moab City Council will accept written comments on the proposed changes until it’s next meeting on Jan. 8.