Friday, August 05, 2005

Sandy Developer Petitions Court for Rehearing on Referenda Ruling

On Wednesday, the DesNews and Trib both reported that developer Boyer Company and landowner Gibbons Realty Company filed a petition with the Utah Supreme Court asking the court to rehear certain issues with regard to the referendum ruling by the court at the beginning of July.

The petitioners specifically ask the court to, among other issues, reconsider their written opinion that "all acts taken by a city council organized pursuant to the council-mayor form of government are necessarily legislative and subject to referenda." They cite four other rulings in their petition where the high court has previously ruled opposite, saying there are actions the council undertakes that are administrative.

The difference between legislative and administrative matters is an important distinction, as administrative matters are not subject to referendum.

We'll see if the court will even take up this issue again.

On Thursday, I participated in a panel presentation at the Western Planner/Utah APA conference at the Homestead, on referenda and initiatives in planning and land use regulation. The other panelists were George Shaw, Sandy City Planning Director, and James van Hemert, Director of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute in Denver.

We had a good discussion there on the apparent gain in popularity of using referenda to overturn zoning decisions. My question always goes to why we spend the time and effort we do on general plans, if rezone decisions can then be overturned by a public referendum effort. What value was the plan and planning process, then?

James van Hemert pointed out that this trend makes it all the more important that we try hard to have significant public involvement in development of our general plans and thus minimize the public's feeling for the need to go to a referendum.

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