So far one out of six referendum petitions has successfully found a place on the 2020 general election ballot.
Sponsors of the referendum that put the rezone that cleared the way for the Adobe Rock Ranch development by Rio Tinto Kennecott on the ballot were notified Sept. 24 they gathered enough valid signatures. The referendum will be placed on the 2020 general election ballot in accordance with state code.
“They needed 2,749 signatures,” said Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette. “They turned in 3,572 but we stopped verifying after we reached 2,765 because that’s more than enough to qualify.”
Adobe Rock Ranch, which includes parts of Lake Point around Adobe Rock and crosses state Route 36 running to Interstate 80 and south to Stansbury Park, was previously zoned for a mix of agricultural, rural residential, manufacturing, and multiple uses. The county commission rezoned the property as a planned community in 2018.
As planned, Adobe Rock Ranch would add 4,710 residential units and 329 acres of parks and trails to northern Tooele County along with a variety of commercial, retail, and open space over a 20- to 25-year period.
Referendum sponsors collected enough valid signatures for the petition to place the approval of the Skywalk development on a ballot; however, following counsel from the County Attorney, Gillette informed the petition sponsors that the county commission’s approval of the Skywalk development did not meet the state code requirements for a referendum.
“The petition seeks a referendum on the Skywalk Development Agreement,” said Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead. “Pursuant to Utah code, a referendum petition may be filed challenging ‘any local law passed by a local legislative body.’ In my review of Mouty v. The Sandy City Recorder case and the recent Cottonwood Mall case, the Utah Supreme Court draws the distinction between legislative acts which are subject to a referendum and administrative acts which are not subject to a referendum. Development agreements have historically been considered administrative acts. The recent Cottonwood Mall case reaffirms that development agreements are an administrative act, rather than a legislative act and therefore are not subject to referendum.”
The referendum sponsors were notified of the legal concerns about the applicability of a referendum to the Skywalk development agreement in a legal impact opinion dated Nov. 26, 2018, as required by state code, according to Broadhead.
Referendum sponsors are considering a legal challenge to the opinion that the Skywalk development agreement is not subject to a referendum.
The sponsors have 10 days to appeal, but that would require raising money to pay for an attorney, said Diane Haney, a member of the group of Erda residents supporting the referendums.
“I’m not against growth,” said Haney. “I know it’s going to happen. I just want the developer to come to the table and agree to something that is better for the community.”
Skywalk is a planned unit development on approximately 247 acres south of state Route 138 and west of Tooele Valley Airport was approved by the County Commission.
Skywalk is slated to put 114 homes on lots between 0.25 and 0.38 acres in a 42-acre area on the south end of the development bordering the north end of the Golden Gardens subdivision. The development plans also include commercial and office space, high density mixed-use, and multi-story medium density townhouses, south of SR-138.
Gillette is still in the process of verifying signatures on the petition calling for a referendum vote on the rezone for Shoshone Village. Gillette said she has until Feb. 10 to complete that process.
Originally submitted as 174 one-third acre lots with a 9.3 acres of parks on 171 acres in east Erda, Shoshone Village runs east of Bargain Buggies to Droubay Road.
The developer redesigned the project to include a 9.5-acre buffer zone with 16-acres of 1-acre lots backing up to neighboring 5-acre lots. The zoning would still allow for a 12,000-square-foot minimum lot size, but overall average density could not exceed three residences per acre.
Three referendum petitions for three rezones approved by the County Commission for the same developer in Erda were previously submitted to the County Clerk. They were declared moot after the County Commission rescinded the three rezones in late December at the request of the developer.
The petitions, dubbed “the Erda Brothers 3” by the petition sponsors, had enough valid signatures to be placed on a ballot, according to Gillette.
County Commission Chairman Tom Tripp said the commission considered repealing the rescission at the beginning of the year when two new commissioners took their seats on the commission.
However, after many discussions it was determined that the rescission put the zoning back to what residents wanted and the developer agreed not to come back with a materially similar proposal, so plans to repeal the rescission were canceled, Tripp said.