Monday, March 06, 2006

What's the Future Hold?

I'm scheduled to be one of four panelists tomorrow morning at Utah ULI's workshop on what happened regarding planning and land use issues in the 2006 Utah legislative session.

Craig Call, Utah Property Rights Ombudsman, will be the moderator. Craig sent us panelists a set of questions to think about and possibly respond to during the workshop that are excellent. I think I'll list Craig's questions here, and encourage readers to respond to those they have opinions on.

What issues do you see coming up again in 2007? Will there be added efforts during the interim to identify and craft consensus on more issues or will there be more open debate in the legislature this next time with no consensus worked out?

What do you recommend that property owners and local officials do to influence the process that could result in more changes in state law?

Do you feel that the provision of SB267 that states that land use applications will be processed in a reasonable time will have any beneficial effect? Does it say enough? Does it say too much?

No referendum bill passed this year. What is the future of this issue? What do you want the future to be?

Will there be legislation coming out of the Bluffdale and similar cases about disconnection and annexation to another community? What impact will this court case have?

Have SLAPP suits gone away? Will the opinion and later settlement in the Tobias case affect land use practice?

How much of what we have been going through in Utah relates to the US Supreme Court's decision in Kelo and the Oregon public vote on land use compensation through Measure 37? Will we see more fall-out from those watershed events in Utah?

What impact will the bill that creates opportunities for new school districts within existing districts have on land use planning and development?

Is there hope for small developers and homebuilders or are the rules simply too complex and the demands on development so great that only the large developments can do projects anymore? What are the trends?

What impact has the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Envision Utah had on these land use issues? Does "big picture" planning work? Is planning and land use regulation simply too fragmented?

What about corridor preservation? Have any counties adopted the vehicle registration fee increases that will supposedly provide funds to acquire future corridors?

What impact on land use development will Legacy have now that it is under construction? The Mountain View corridor?

How do the current and potential changes in land use statutes affect huge projects like Kennecott?

What do we see in the future for Summit and Wasatch Counties and the Wasatch Back? Is their experience with heightened regulation just the predictable future of other counties or is their situation too unique to apply to other counties?

Is the 2005-2006 legislatures pass "full employment for planners acts" by promoting less opportunity for local officials to avoid compliance with the statutes, ordinances and rules related to the processing of administrative land use applications? Will cities and counties that do not plan ahead be able to control their destinies without proper professional help, advance planning, and carefully-crafted ordinances?

What do you envision as the best possible result coming from changes in the ombudsman's office? What potential downside do you see? What can be done to maximize the chances that it could be beneficial in achieving your view of the appropriate planning process?

Do legislators understand development and land use regulation? What could be done to increase the level of understanding on Capitol Hill and thus the quality of legislation coming down?


At 7:52 AM, Blogger Thad said...

Do legislators understand development and land use regulation?
Probably as well as municipal elected officials do. I don't believe most municipal elected officials understand development and land use regulation. The difference is that municipal officials can't have developers or their lobbyists taking them to dinner to teach them.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Utah Alliance for Citizens Rights said...

Although SB170 was a very bad bill, something very good came out of it. In response to it's attack on public input and the people's right of referendum an Alliance was born. "Public Clamor" united and formed the Utah Alliance for Citizens Rights. To answer your question asking what should be done with the referendum, see the following which outlines the position of this Alliance. Below is our lobbying sheet distributed to all legislators during the session. Please pay particular attention to the fact that we will fight to protect this right both now and in the future, likely with more organizations joining our ranks.

Although Senator Tom Hatch has chosen thus far not to run his SB170 spin off bill, Referendum in Local Governments, there continues to be serious discussion and clear resolve by those against the referendum process in regards to land decisions to run legislation either this year or next to remove or significantly impede the people’s right of referendum. Too often, legislation is passed through eleventh-hour amendments that avoid the public process and erode trust in government. As the 2006 legislative session progresses, we urge you to be vigilant in defense of the people’s rights and oppose any bill, substitute bill, or amendment that infringes upon the rights of citizens to participate in their own government. As an Alliance, we will fight to keep this right protected both now and in the future.

• “All political power is inherent in the people.” Utah Const. Art. I, § 2. THE REFERENDUM IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. The right to hold a referendum – that is, to reject at the ballot box legislation passed by law-making bodies – is expressly protected in the Utah Constitution. See Utah Const. Art. VI, Section 1.

• The referendum is an important part of the system of checks and balances crafted by the framers of the Utah Constitution. It acts as a check on legislative bodies – both local legislative bodies and the State Legislature – by giving ultimate veto power to the people.

• A referendum election may be inconvenient for City Councils or other legislative bodies, but so are all the constitutional mechanisms designed to prevent one branch of government from having too much power. Inconvenience is no reason to limit the right of referendum, a “sacrosanct and fundamental right.” Gallivan v. Walker, [cite]

• The State Legislature makes the rules governing the referendum process. Those procedures violate the Utah Constitution when they become too burdensome. These rights of referendum are not to be “effectively abrogated, severely limited, or unduly burdened by the procedures enacted to enable the right.” Gallivan, 2002 UT 89, ¶27.

• THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD NOT AMEND STATUTES UNLESS THERE IS REASON TO DO SO. When the amendment places a burden on a constitutional right, legislators should be even more cautious and only act when there is a clear need to do so. There is no such need here. The Utah Supreme Court recently agreed, noting “the current statutory scheme places significant checks on the referendum power in the form of signature requirements and procedural hurdles.” Mouty v. Sandy City Recorder, 2005 UT 41, ¶35.

• Due to the difficult checks and hurdles currently in place on the referendum process, only the most important and controversial legislation motivates citizens to pursue a referendum vote. There is no “epidemic” of referendum petitions. Anyone suggesting otherwise should back up that assertion with hard data.


Utah Alliance for Citizens Rights
(Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth-Park City, Bluffdale United, Riverton United, Save Our Communities-Sandy, Coalition for Accountable Government, Save Our Canyons, Save Open Space-South Jordan, Concerned Citizens of Draper, Friends of Midas Creek, Citizen Coalition for RDA Reform, Pearl Meibos-Midvale, Tax Limitation Coalition-Sugarhouse, Rural Preservation Alliance of Wasatch County) Email us at

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Brian said...

While I agree in the fundamental right to refer legislative decisions to the public body, I do have to ask this question of the Alliance for Citizen's Rights:

How can the planning community and local governments engage the citizens in land use issues to acquire their opinions and desires early enough in the process to accomodate them in a reasonable and timely fashion?

To me, the issue at hand appears to be that a legislative body makes a land use decision based on months of planning process, yet the public overturns that decision in the eleveth hour because they feel excluded, misrepresented, or were otherwise unaware that a land use decision was being made.

This sense of detachment can lead to reactive referenda that not only hamper development - both wanted and unwanted - but it can encumber the planning process which is often already too slow and unwieldy.

Good planning is necessary to facilitate growth according to the community's desires. Citizen input is crucial to making good planning. But that input needs to come in the appropriate time, i.e., in the planning adoption process before legal development is proposed and approved, not in overturning a decision made through public legislative due process.

Where were Save our Communities and Bluffdale United when the plans that legally provided for the undesired development were under public comment?

At 9:25 AM, Blogger kroberts said...

Although Brian's comments are legitimate, he misses an important point. Citizen's are often not informed until the 11th hour. Yes, there may be lots of planning, but too often, such as in the case with Riverton, the General Plan is completely abandoned by local officials and replaced with something completely different. A general plan and zoning laws are part of the procedure of keeping citizens informed and part of the planning procedure Groups such as Riverton United and the new citizen's Alliance appear when cities choose to abandon existing general plans and zoning laws and fail to inform the public until the 11th hour.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger responsible_dvlpmnt said...

Check out this ongoing SLAPP-suit by Johnson Development (mega-Houston developer) in Texas. As is always said here "as land an energy go, so goes the state" (this is the area and primary supporters--these developers--for Tom delay). Visit

Texas, unlike most states in the US has no anti-SLAPP statutes to protect the average citizen.


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