Thursday, October 06, 2005

Utah Land Use Institute Addresses Referenda for Land Use

I attended the Utah Land Use Institute yesterday and Tuesday, and found it to be full of a lot of useful information.

One session in particular, held on Tuesday, was of interest to me, as it addressed the Utah Supreme Court decision on the Sandy gravel pit referendum. Neil Lindberg, legal counsel to the Provo City Council, moderated the session, and the two attorneys who argued the case before the Utah Supreme Court spoke and gave their viewpoints.

One thing was clear from the session -- the Supreme Court ruling gave a lot of deference to the referendum process, and steamrolled over some other concepts to acheive it. It also raised some questions about the function of local government in such an atmosphere of deference to the referendum process.

There is no question in my mind that we are going to see the referendum process play a greater role in the community planning process in Utah. It was something that wasn't even on the radar screen just a few years ago. I glanced through a reference book handed out at the conference put together by Craig Call, the state property rights ombudsman, call A Utah Citizens Guide to Land Use Regulation: How It Works and How to Work It. Much of the guide is about land use processes -- what to do, what to expect, what can be done. There is an extensive index in the back. I looked to see what there was about referenda or initiatives -- and there is nothing! Like I said, hardly on the radar screen a few years ago, and now getting bigger and bigger.

Be sure to attend the Utah APA lunch session on this topic, to be held Wednesday Oct. 12, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Salt Lake City Main Library. Bring your own lunch! George Shaw, Sand City Planning Director, will be giving the particulars of the issue, and Neil Lindberg and I will talk about the court ruling and implications for the future.

The conclusion from most of the presenters at the Institute was that the legislature will almost surely have to make some changes to the referendum process, at least for land use issues. Greg Curtis, Speaker of the House of Representatives, was at the Institute, and some who spoke to him in the halls indicated that he sees the need for making some changes, though its not clear what direction some of those changes might take us. Stay tuned.

And to see more of what life for land use issues may become under the referendum process, see the story in today's Trib, where the fight is now about the signs put up by the developer around the Sandy gravel pit. Sigh!


At 9:25 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

As for the sign issue, when are development signs like that usually allowed? Prior to the approval of the project or after the approval of the project?

As for amending the process for land use referendum, it will probably be a little harder than what they did with the statewide inititive process. But that was directed squarely at the legislature who make the rules so it is not surprising that they were able to change things so easily.

It will probably be a little more difficult but when you get developers and cities backing it, it will get a lot easier.

I am not saying it should be as easy as it is (and I realy don't think it is easy), but the problem is that they will raise the bar so high as to effectively thwart the publics ability.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

Arcritic, you are right on much of what you say. But at the Land Use Institute presentation, the two attorneys pointed out that the Supreme Court justices seem to feel that the fact that the referendum power is given the constitution means it is to be given a lot of deference, and if the legislature acts to make it virtually ineffective, they may very well strike down such legislation.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger craigcall said...

Wilf is accurate to describe this as a significant issue today. I did not include it in my reference guide to land use for several reasons: 1) its a moving target 2) the law is so unsettled today 3) its complicated -

If the goal of initiative and referenda is to empower the public, should it be so complicated that no one can utilize it without a lawyer on her elbow? That the ballot box language has to be written through a supreme court action?

It is a wonder to me to watch the evolution of our land use management sustem. It never ceases to amaze.

Craig Call
Property Rights Ombudsman

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