Thursday, September 01, 2005

Writing the Referendum Language

The Utah Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments from both sides in the Sandy gravel pit zoning referendum about the language proposed to go on the ballot. Sandy City attorney Wally Miller has put forward his proposed language, but Save Our Communities members don't like what it says.

Supreme Court justices listened and asked questions, taking under advisement a petition to have the Court write the ballot language. Comments from the justices included, "Is it gobbledygook for voters?" "Wouldn't it be necessary to describe the difference (between the two versions of the zone)?" "We're not here to determine the best language. Our job is to determine if it's true and impartial."

SOC wants it clearly stated in the petition that "big box stores" would be allowed under the new zoning language, but Miller disagrees, saying that term gives a negative connotation to the proposal.

Read more about it in today's DesNews and Trib.

The language proposed by SOC:

"In November 2004, the Sandy City Council voted in favor of Ordinance 04-45. If approved by voters, the Ordinance will amend the zoning category applicable to the 'Gravel Pit'... . Under the current zone, there are nine permitted uses at the Grave Pit, including:
* Single-family residential
* Schools
* Open space
* Business and financila services
Ordinance 04-45, if approved, will allow a number of uses at the Gravel Pit that are prohibited under the current zone, including:
* 'Big box' retailers
* Convenience stores
* Higher density residential (20 units/acre)
Shall Ordinance 04-45 be approved?"

While I thought Sandy City's proposed language was rather vague, this version seems to pull out the specific uses that will get people's dander up. Again, I raise the question, can such issues be well-handled by such a process?

3 Comments:

At 2:27 PM, Blogger ARCritic said...

Personally, I think that the local (city or county) attorney that has to write a ballot title is in a no win situation. He is required to be unbiased but there is really no way that he can be unbiased. I think that the supporters and those against should each write a proposed title and it should be submitted to a judge who should write the title based on his factfindings and the submissions of both sides.

I did find it interesting that the article indicated that Sandy was going to "buy 21 acres of the land for a park-and-trail system." And the city says it is not about a park. Sounds like the only way there will be a park is if the development gets built.

 
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