In 1999, Mr. Jewett and his partner came before the Grand County Planning and Zoning Commission for approval of their “Moab Scenic Tram” project. The parcel is zoned Highway Commercial on its lower end and Range and Grazing on its high end. The Moab Scenic Tramway on Kane Creek Road had previously been approved with a set of conditions by the Moab City Council. P&Z applied the constitutional principle of Equal Protection Under the Law by imposing equivalent conditions on this tramway in county jurisdiction.
Condition 4 of approval required Jewett to post a seven-year bond to provide Grand County with the funds to dismantle the tram and upper-level structures in the event the tramway failed and was abandoned. On Aug. 4, 1999, Mr. Jewett asked me what the bond had to dismantle. I said that only above-ground structures had to be removed, consistent with the city of Moab’s requirements. I estimated an adequate bond to be about $60,000.
After the tramway was built, Mr. Jewett came to get his business license. P&Z staff asked for the bond to be posted, per the conditional use permit’s approval condition No. 4. For unknown reasons, Jewett insisted we wanted a restoration to National Park Service standards costing over a million dollars, that our bonding requirement was arbitrary and unreasonable, and he refused to negotiate the much lower bond we expected. He sued the county for damages due to our alleged unreasonableness keeping him from opening for business.
After legal maneuvering, the county attorney calculated it would be cheaper to the taxpayer to settle with Mr. Jewett than continue. The settlement agreement provided that Grand County would pay Mr. Jewett $200,000 while Mr. Jewett would post a $60,000 reclamation bond, obtain his business license and commence operations. To date Mr. Jewett has not posted a bond or obtained a business license, so the county hasn’t paid him anything, much less $2 million, as some have claimed.
I always suspected this “world’s shortest tramway to nowhere” was a “camel’s nose under the tent” deal to get the upper land rezoned for a high-end restaurant or resort, as you find at the top of other tramways Mr. Jewett has built in the West. Suspicions are not grounds for denial.
—Richard Lance Christie