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Land use planning is legislative, not administrative
Feb 15, 2017 | 1847 views | 0 0 comments | 320 320 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

Contrary to the city’s contention in rejecting the petition for a referendum on its plan to “transform” the center of Bountiful, under Utah law, land use planning is a legislative rather than an administrative function. 

Utah law permits voters by means of a referendum to “require any law or ordinance passed by a local legislative body to be referred to the voters for their approval or rejection before the law takes effect.” Utah Code 20A-7-102(3). A local law subject to such referral is defined to include a “master plan,” Utah Code 20A-7-101(13)(a)(iii). While the term “master plan” is not further defined for this purpose, Utah Code 10-9a-401 requires that municipalities adopt a “general plan” for “the present and future needs of the municipality” and for the “growth and development of all or any part of the land within the municipality.” 

Thus, a fair reading of the relevant statutory language clearly contemplates that voters in compliance with the procedures for local referenda may challenge a comprehensive land use plan of the kind implicit in and adopted by the Bountiful City Council’s decision to remake the city center by destroying Stoker School, relocating city hall and replacing it with a “transportation hub.”

The contention of the mayor and city council that it may deny the petition for a referendum on this matter on the grounds that this massive plan is “administrative” in nature and not a “law” is thus not merely disingenuous nit-picking but is contrary to law which they have sworn in their oath of office to uphold. 

What are they afraid of? That the overwhelming majority of the citizenry may disagree with them? Let them put it on the ballot and find out. Contrary to what they apparently believe, they are not our masters, but our servants.


Jay Butler


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