Friday, October 14, 2005

Rezones to be Administrative Actions?

We had a most enjoyable session on Wednesday at the Salt Lake Library, as George Shaw, Neil Lindberg and I talked about the issue of referenda for planning with a group of about 30 people. It was just fun getting a group together and talking about a planning issue, kicking around ideas and trying to hold a finger up to the wind to see if we could figure out where things might go in the future.

The upshot of the discussion was pretty much that we all agree that referenda are likely to be a greater part of the land use planning process, and most were not really thrilled at the idea. Bruce Parker (consulting planner and former Summit County Planning Director) made the comment that most planners consider themselves to be public servants, that our job is to serve the public interest, so why should we fear the public voting on these issues?

But Gary Uresk (Woods Cross City Administrator) opined that direct democracy is not necessarily the best way to handle many of the issues that come up in the day to day operations of local governement, that we generally live under a system of representative democracy, and planners work for those elected officials, whose job it is to make sure all the interests are served and laws observed. In election campaigns, this doesn't generally happen as frequently, only the immediate neighbors are the ones who care what a property is zoned and what development happens there.

There was quite a discussion about the Utah Supreme Court's earlier writings in the Marakis case, where the justices indicated that individual property zoning issues fall on a spectrum to determine whether they are legislative (and thus subject to referendum) or administrative (and thus not subject to referendum). The standard by which this is judged is not clear, involving a number of factors, including how "complex" the issue is. Who makes that determination? I guess ultimately it would be the judge, and that means you're in front of her in a lawsuit.

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, Speaker of the House Rep. Greg Curtis was heard to say at last week's Utah Land Use Institute conference, that he thinks it would be better to just declare all rezones administrative actions, thereby making them non-referable, but that opens up another whole can of worms. But...maybe its time to consider? It sure would mean that the planning ducks should be in line early on in the process... . Something to talk about in upcoming blogs and discussions, etc.

By the way, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, in their Legislative Policy Committee meeting on Monday, has a discussion on the agenda of Rep. Curtis' land use proposal -- I'm guessing this is it. This will get interesting.

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