BY REBECCA PALMER
LAYTON — Changing municipal land use laws when you disagree with your elected officials could become at least twice as hard if a bill working its way through the legislative process is passed into law.
The effort started because of the referendum in fall of 2012 that stopped a developer from building the West Layton Village, and it has neighbors who successfully brought the ballot initiative against Layton City concerned.
‘They want to make it tougher on residents to ever file referendums. I’m suspect,” said Tony Bencina, who helped organize the referendum against the Layton development. “Why would they want to do this? Why would folks we voted to put in office vote against the residents of the counties and the cities that they represent?”
SB 66 would change the rules for municipal-level referendums by requiring petitioners to get an attorney, turn in their petitions within five days of the law in question passing, and get signatures from each voting precinct in the city in question.
The bill originated during the interim session within a land use task force group. That task force, which is sponsored by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, discusses the concerns of property developers and city officials, said league lobbyist Lincoln Schurtz. The West Layton Village issue started the discussion, and then another situation in Utah County brought the question of referendums to the forefront.
The problem is that property owners can’t develop their property if a city council decision about that property is under referendum, Schurtz explained. “You want to make sure you don’t have a very small localized group making policy decisions that affect an entire community,” Schurtz said.
Schurtz said that the threshold for getting an issue on the ballot should be higher because these petitions challenge the decisions of duly elected representatives.
The bill passed out of the senate with a 27-1 vote on March 1.
It was substituted such that the number of signatures required on a petition remain at current levels rather than almost doubling. For Layton, it would mean gathering about 5,000 signatures in 43 precincts.
The bill has been assigned to the House Government Operations committee.