Monticello talks new sheriff equipment and short-term rentals

by David Boyle
News Director
Monticello City Council discussed updates to zoning, a joint use agreement for some facilities with the school district and heard a report on a new main street camera system by the sheriff’s office at their latest meeting.
At the August 23 meeting of the Monticello City Council members of the council heard from San Juan County Sheriff Jason Torgerson who explained the county had recently acquired two license plate readers and accompanying five-year support subscription through a grant.
One reader has been placed in Blanding with the other going online in Monticello. The readers are reportedly about the size of an electric box and will be placed on Main street to snap pictures of passing license plates.
Torgerson explained a license plate reader in Colorado helped law enforcement recover a vehicle stolen from Monticello during the Pioneer Day celebration. The system alerted Colorado officers that the stolen vehicle was in the area.
The system can be programmed to look for certain plates but Torgerson says they won’t be used to find locals with expired tags but instead focused on a list of priorities including identifying stolen or wanted vehicles, stolen license plates, missing persons, plates related to active warrants, and homeland security issues.
Sheriff’s Deputy Jay Begay has been trained on the system. Begay explained the system is closed loop, meaning access to the information stored is limited with information retained for a maximum of nine months.
Additionally the sheriff’s department can revoke access from other departments. Administrators of the system locally can also perform audits to investigate if someone is misusing the system.
When asked about the benefits of the system Begay said the program is like having an extra deputy available.
“We can program the system to only look for stolen plates, only look for missing persons. Those are the things deputies will be alerted of and we control it that way. We have many calls so this will be one less thing. It’s going to be like having an extra deputy looking on the side of the road 24/7.”
Council also spent an hour and a half reviewing zoning ordinance updates with city attorney Alex Goble.
Goble walked through some recommended changes including deleting confusing phrases and updating terms. In addition to smaller items the council did hold some discussions about other aspects of the zone change including short-term rentals.
While the council spent about 40 minutes discussing short-term rentals and whether to allow them in the R2 residential zone; the council ultimately moved the discussion to a future work meeting.
Short-term rentals have grown in popularity across the US over the past decade thanks to online vendors such as AirBnb and VRBO. Short-term renters can stay at an entire home or a room in a house for a short stay.
With housing prices on the rise, short-term rentals can squeeze an already limited inventory in some towns. For much of the past decade the Utah legislature has not allowed cities to apply strict regulations to short-term rentals, but change is on the horizon.
As part of the discussion the council did not address where short-term rentals are already located throughout the city. Short-term rentals are active in both residential zones in the city. Goble recommended in making a decision the city ignore what exists there now.
“Think about what you want it to look like in the future. Once you know what it will look like in the future, then we’ll deal with what’s already there.”
Under the code short-term rentals are not allowed in the R1 residential zone, but the council did have a discussion about whether short-term rentals should be allowed in the R2 zone.
Speaking in the meeting Council member Nathan Chamberlain offered that the city could allow short-term rentals in the R2 zone with imposed conditions attached.
“By doing that they have to be permitted, they have to be business licensed, they have to collect and submit taxes, more requirements that we can control to say, we’re not going to just boycott short-term rentals in Monticello, but this is how we’re going to control them.”
Goble added that attaching conditions to use means the city is allowing it to happen and all they can do is attach conditions such as a parking requirement, but the city can’t say no to a development.
Goble shared that the council should consider what they’d like the R2 zone to look like, whether it’s mostly affordable starter homes and apartments or short-term rentals. Goble noted that short-term rentals and B&B’s are often more lucrative than an apartment complex.
“If the economic pressures from Moab keep pushing this direction it’ll become worth it to developers. Because right now I think a quarter-acre property in Moab goes for $700,000 right now. So at some point in time they’re going to say ``you know what I’m going to go do my short-term rentals in Monticello.”
Goble said the question is where does the city want to see that eventual development happen. 
“I don’t think anybody here is saying we don’t want it period. I think what everybody here is saying, is saying we’re fine with it. Where do we want it? I’m worried with your R2 right now everywhere that’s light pink that’s where it’s going to happen and if you’re okay with that, then leave it as is, but if you’re not okay we need to talk about it.”
Council member Kim Henderson shared her support of a vision for the R2 zone focused on housing.
“I think we need to focus more on long-term affordable housing”
Mayor Bayley Hedglin recommended council make the discussion a priority at an upcoming council work session.
At the meeting members of the Monticello City Council also discussed the joint use property agreement between the city and the San Juan School District. 
The city and school district have shared facilities over the years, such as city recreation programs taking place at the Monticello Elementary School gym or Monticello softball playing games at the city ballfields in order to prevent duplication of expensive facilities and creating mutual benefits for taxpayers of the city and the district.
The new agreement is intended to outline requirements at the joint-used facilities such as maintenance and operations, insurance, and use of keys. 
At their meeting council member George Rice voiced concern that the agreement doesn’t outline which facilities are available to use. Rice added the city wanted to make sure the city swimming pool and golf course were not part of the agreement.
Members of the council voted to table the approval of the agreement for a future meeting with definitions provided for which facilities will be considered.
Also at the meeting the council approved the funding of the Wastewater Master Plan update
The $37,900 update by Jones & DeMille Engineerning will be provided through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Also at the meeting council was shared documents outlining job descriptions for administrative employees. Council requested the information following recent hires and the creation of a new position of assistant city manager.

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Monticello, UT 84535

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