The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has confirmed it has no intention to challenge a decision that would place the referendum to repeal the zone change for their Tooele Valley Temple Subdivision on a ballot, according to the Tooele County Attorney.
But a local developer has filed a motion in 3rd District Court asking that the referendum not be placed on a ballot due to insufficient signatures.
Tooele County declared that the valid signatures from Council District #5 exceeded the required, after a recount of referendum petition signatures from the district.
As a result, the County Attorney informed the Church the referendum petition has sufficient signatures to be placed on an upcoming ballot.
However, the required number of signatures for the petition has been questioned by a local developer.
When the referendum seeking to overturn Ordinance 2020-16, was submitted on June 9, 2020, the County determined the ordinance to be a “local law,” which requires that valid signatures from 9.5% of the active voters in the county, both in total and in four of the five council districts.
As a result, referendum sponsors were told they needed a total of 2,445 valid signatures, according to the County Attorney.
The County Attorney’s Office received inquiries towards the first part of August as to whether the signature requirements for the referendum should be based upon the “land use law” standard of 16% rather than the “local law” standard of 9.5%.
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office researched the issue.
They consulted with a handful of attorneys, including counsel from the state Legislature and the Church’s attorney.
The consensus opinion was that the definitions in the statute for “local law” and “land use law” are not clear. Therefore, differing opinions were offered as to the appropriate standard, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
On Aug. 13, 2020, Broadhead sent a legal opinion to the County Clerk that concluded that the “land use law” standard, which required 16% or 4,119 signatures, was the most likely correct interpretation of the law.
A decision was made, that included the County Commission, that the County could not change the standard given to the sponsors with only eight days remaining until the signatures were due, according to Broadhead.
At that time, Broadhead communicated the interpretation of the law and the County’s decision to stay with the 9.5% signatures with the Church.
“The Church chose not to file a protest or objection at that time,” said Broadhead.
On Aug. 18, the Church issued a statement that included, “There is a sincere desire on the part of the Church to avoid discord in the community. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of a pending signature-gathering effort, we have determined to withdraw our rezoning request for the residential portion of the temple project.”
The County Clerk announced on Aug. 26 that the petition was “insufficient” because it only had enough valid signatures in three out of five County Council Districts.
After the recount in response to a lawsuit filed by the petition sponsors, the decision was made to place the referendum on a ballot.
The Church and the petition sponsors were advised of the recount and the decision. The Church was offered time to intervene and object, according to Broadhead.
The Church informed the County in two separate emails that it did not wish to intervene in the court case and did not object to the County’s decision, according to Broadhead.
“Although many in the community want to continue the fight for the temple project for various personal or economic reasons, the Church has clearly stated that it doesn’t want this fight and has not asked or encouraged the County to continue this fight on its behalf,” said Broadhead.
However, on Sept. 25, Ironwood Estates, which has been represented in local meetings by Joe White, filed a motion to intervene in the proposed stipulated agreement that would result in the referendum appearing on a ballot under the 9.5% signature requirement.
Ironwood Estates asserts that the 16% signature requirement should prevail. Their attorneys claim that the use of the 9% could set precedent that could affect property in which Ironwood has an interest.
If the referendum appears on a ballot, it won’t be until the next County wide election in 2022, unless somebody wants to pay $10,000 for a special election, according to Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette.