Another Moab trailer park is scheduled for redevelopment within the next year.
Provo-based development company 2nd Story Capital has received unanimous approval from the Moab Planning Commission to move forward with plans for an 80-unit complex called Lost Springs Apartments on a property of 2.24 acres at 238 S. 400 E.
Twenty mobile homes currently sit on the property, 15 of which are occupied.
Planning commissioners have welcomed the prospect of more housing in the city, but are worried about current tenants who will be displaced by the project.
Lost Springs Apartments
“We are excited to hopefully resolve some of the desperately needed housing in Moab,” Josh Godfrey, a representative for 2nd Story Capital, said at the March 10 meeting where planning commissioners approved the application. “We bought this property in 2016 with the intention of doing some sort of redevelopment.”
The proposed complex would consist of three buildings, the tallest two-story, and have 80 units, as well as a clubhouse and a swimming pool or hot tub. Godfrey also described covered and open parking, indoor and outdoor bike storage, and a bike repair station. The flats will not be allowed to be used as short-term rentals – Godfrey said the company envisions them being fully occupied by year-round residents.
The property is divided into two zones: residential 3 and commercial 5. Multi-family housing is a permitted use in both zones, which means that provided the developer adheres to building standards, the planning commission has no no discretion to approve or deny the application—their role is simply to ensure that the project meets city code.
The R3 portion of the project will be subject to a Workforce Housing Ordinance being developed by the city, provided the city finalizes the ordinance by April 10. If this deadline has passed and no final draft is approved, the pending projects will be published. of this obligation. Only 12 of the 80 units will be subject to the Workforce Housing Ordinance, under which a yet-to-be-determined percentage of units must be limited by deed to “active employment households”, meaning that the occupants live and work in Grand County.
Planning commissioners recognized the balance between identifying the optimal percentage of units subject to deed restrictions: ideally it will not be so high that it would discourage developers from building in Moab, but for to be effective, it must be rigorous enough to produce a substantial number of affordable units. Planning Administrator Cory Shurtleff said city council hopes the ordinance will be finalized and passed by the end of March.
Losing a home to gain a home
“We need 100% higher density housing and apartments that people can afford to rent, own, what do you have,” said Kya Marienfeld, chair of the planning commission. . “It’s a disappointment that this means moving existing housing for low-income people.”
Affordable housing is scarce in Moab: the loss of affordable housing could force some Moab residents and workers to relocate. Two other residential areas have recently been emptied to make way for development in recent months: tenants along Kane Creek Boulevard were asked to vacate this property late last fall, and residents of a trailer park on 200 N. were evicted in January.
“We just had a nine-caravan move several months ago and we still have homeless people in our community,” said Luke Wojciechowski, member of the city council and liaison with the planning commission, during the meeting. March 10 meeting. Wojciechowski also sits on the local homelessness coordinating committee.
Liz Donkersloot is the housing program manager for the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, a local non-profit organization that provides a variety of social and community services. She has worked first hand with low income residents trying to find housing. In the online chat during the streaming meeting, she supported Wojciechowski’s concerns.
“It’s extremely difficult to relocate people to this town, many people have to leave town due to a lack of options, which is a huge blow to the community workforce,” Donkersloot said.
Marienfeld also voiced concerns voiced by at least one tenant who was dismayed to learn about the project through public meetings, rather than direct communication from the landlord.
Ian Jewell has lived in Moab for 17 years; for 7 years he has lived in a mobile home at property 238 S. 400 E.. He was caught off guard when he learned of the planned apartment complex from a friend who was watching a public meeting where he was mentioned. Jewell feared that plans would go ahead without the knowledge of the people who would be affected first and most – tenants like him who would be displaced by new developments.
Jewell contacted the planning commissioners ahead of the March 10 meeting and let other residents know they might want to tune in to find out as much as possible about if and when they might have to leave.
Marienfeld addressed the lack of communication with tenants at the March 10 meeting.
“Residents there don’t feel like they’ve been warned anymore and they must have heard it through the planning process for this site plan,” she told Godfrey.
Godfrey assured the planning commission that the needs of current residents were “a priority” for the development corporation – residents had not yet been informed, he said, as the project was still not in progress. a certitude. Getting approval to move from the city was a step the company wanted to take before alerting tenants. Even then, Godfrey said, the project might not happen.
“There’s a chance it will get approved and we can’t pencil it in – the construction costs are too high or we can’t get funding,” Godfrey said. “There are a variety of things that could happen where it could potentially not move forward.”
In a phone call with the Moab Sun News, Godfrey said if the project does not move forward, the company may continue to operate the trailer park as is or consider offers from other entities to purchase the property.
Now that tenants have been alerted, Godfrey said the company will issue an official update this week with information on potential plans. The update is not an eviction notice.
Another tenant, who did not wish to be named, said she was surprised to learn of the development and scared because the only rental options available in Moab right now are very expensive. She lives in one of the trailers with her family of five. They don’t want to leave Moab and take the kids out of the schools they go to. She said there were about 10 families in the trailer park, and she hopes the owners will give at least two or three months notice before they are asked to leave, so they can plan ahead. save for a deposit elsewhere if needed or store your belongings.
The earliest the company could hope to break ground on the new buildings, if all goes well, Godfrey said, would be late summer of this year.
The company did not determine details on how it could help existing tenants move out, but said it would consider offering new units first right of refusal, once they are ready, to tenants. current tenants. Godfrey said he was unable to give an estimate of rental costs for these new units because the cost of construction is still unknown.
The company may also consider staggering construction and allowing at least some residents to stay while the apartments are being built.
“We want to be very considerate and careful in how we do it, because we know these people’s lives were built in this park,” Godfrey said. “Some people have been there for years.
Long-term rental apartments have long been identified as a need in Moab, and commissioners are hopeful the project will be in place, despite the challenges current tenants are likely to face.
“I’m so thrilled to see this kind of development ahead of us,” planning commissioner Becky Wells said. She asked Shurtleff if city staff or council were working on transitional housing options to help with moves like this.
Shurtleff told the Moab Sun News that the city is considering creating zoning uses that would open up options for private landlords to provide some sort of alternative housing solution.
Wojciechowski also acknowledged that Moab needs apartments, but also pointed out that the housing stability of core members of the community was at risk.
“It’s really this bittersweet thing that we get these things that we crave at the expense, again, of the people in our community who are most vulnerable and least placed to take such a shock to the system,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have the legal right to do whatever you want with the property you own, but… there are a lot of ripple effects that can potentially result, even with good intentions throughout the process.”