Some local citizens are taking on ammeding two Tooele County ordinances themselves instead of waiting for the County Commission to change them.
The Tooele County Clerk posted a public notice on Oct. 16 announcing that two applications to circulate petitions for initiatives had met legal muster and that information for signature gathering had been approved.
The first initiative seeks to modify the Tooele County Land Use Ordinance’s restrictions on the number of animals allowed in multiple use, agriculture and rural residential zones. The second is to amend Chapter 9 of the ordinance, which regulates the approval of planned unit developments.
Both of those sections of the ordinance are currently in the process of being revised or amended by the county.
“We’re not sure how the county will change those ordinances,” said Diane Christensen, Erda, one of the sponsors of both initiatives. “We just want to make sure the public has a voice in how these ordinances are changed.”
The initiative to amend the land use ordinance’s restrictions on animal numbers seeks to permit agriculture uses in multiple use, agriculture and rural residential zones, including for 4-H and Future Farmer’s of America projects, and to rewrite agriculture related definitions to allow uses that promote agriculture in the county, according to information in the initiative information packet.
The animal ordinance initiative goes back to an attempt to revise the county’s land use ordinance that started in 2016 and hasn’t been completed.
In response to a complaint, the county’s planner in October 2016 researched the county’s land use ordinance and found that the only permitted animals mentioned in the code for rural residential, agriculture, and multiple use zones was four domestic animals or 10 fowl, for the production of food for the sole use of the persons occupying the premises.
A large portion of the rural area of Tooele County erupted in protest over the code as currently written, with over 350 people showing up for a two-hour long public hearing held at Deseret Peak Complex’s convention center in December 2016.
The subject of animal restrictions remained dormant until county planning staff announced at a planning commission meeting in September 2018 that they were ready to take up the subject again.
During a work session held this month by the planning commission, planning staff told the planning commission that they are working on language that would propose self-regulation with no proscribed limits for the number of animals in multiple use and agriculture zones. Proposed restrictions based on animal units and the size of the property are being considered for rural residential zones, according to county planning staff.
The changes proposed by the initiative would strike the definition of personal agriculture from the code. It would also allow commercial feedlots devoted to finishing livestock for slaughter as a conditional use in multiple use and agriculture zones. FFA and 4-H projects would be permitted uses in multiple use, agriculture and rural residential zones under changes proposed by the initiative.
The initiative to amend the PUD ordinance adds language that requires an applicant for a PUD to request and receive approval for a zone change for the parcel or tract of land that is the subject of the PUD request.
PUDs are classified by the current County Land Use Ordinance as a category of conditional use. They are intended to be used to promote greater efficiency of utility services, preservation of open space, efficient use of alternative transportation, and innovation in planning and development design, according to the code.
In the past developers and the county have used PUDs to approve projects that have a smaller lot size than current zoning allows in exchange for preservation of open space.
As a conditional use, PUDs only require the administrative approval of the planning commission, while a rezone requires the approval of the county’s legislative body — currently the County Commission.
“We’re not comfortable with the non-elected planning commission being able to approve a PUD,” Christensen said. “We would like an elected body to make that approval.”
The Tooele County Planning Commission was asked by the County Commission to prepare a rewrite of the county’s PUD ordinance, according to the county’s planning staff.
After three work sessions and two public meetings, including a public hearing, the planning commission voted on Oct. 16 to pass on its draft rewrite of Chapter 9 to the County Commission.
Under the rewrite, a PUD becomes a zoning overlay. The overlay would require approval of the county’s legislative body, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
In a statutorily required legal impact opinion on the proposed initiative, Broadhead noted that “… Tooele County is in the process of a complete revision of the Planned Unit Development Ordinance which should be in effect within the next three months. Therefore, the initiative would be seeking to amend an ordinance which is no longer in effect.”
According to state code, the initiative sponsors will need to gather 3,014 signatures of people registered to vote in Tooele County, according to Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette.
State code gives the petition sponsors until April 15, 2020, to gather the signatures and turn them into the county clerk’s office for verification.
If an initiative receives enough valid signatures it will be forwarded to the county’s legislative body, which may take one of three actions, according to state code.
The county legislative body, which is the County Commission, may either adopt the changes proposed by the initiative, or adopt the changes and refer the changes to the people for a vote in which the changes could be rejected, or the County Commission can reject the proposed changes, which would then advance the proposed changes to a vote at the next county general election.
If the legislative body rejects a proposed law, or takes no action on a proposed law, state code allows the legislative body to adopt a competing local law. If a competing law is adopted voters will be presented with both the competing law and the initiative on the ballot at the next general election. The measure that receives the greatest number of affirmative votes will be adopted.
The initiative sponsors for the change in the planned unit development ordinance are: Susan Christensen, Kathleen Mallis, Diane Christensen, Kenneth Webb, Starla Sheffield, and Kyle Mathews — all from Erda — and Nick and Donna Phillips from Lake Point.
The initiative sponsors for the change in animal restrictions are the same as the sponsors for the PUD ordinance initiative with the addition of Kalem Sessions, Erda.