Deseret Morning News graphic

The Boyer Co. is arguing that a recent Utah Supreme Court decision erodes property rights law established by previous cases and is asking the court to reconsider its position about a zoning change at a Sandy gravel pit.

Squeaking in under a court-imposed deadline, the company this week requested a second chance to argue about its proposed development at the gravel pit, located at approximately 9400 South and 1000 East in Sandy.

The company petitioned the Utah Supreme Court, which issued an opinion July 1 to rehear arguments against allowing a referendum for Sandy citizens to vote on a zoning change that affects a proposed development at the pit. The project would include a Wal-Mart, a Lowe's Home Improvement store, housing and smaller shops.

Boyer lost a bid to immediately develop the 107-acre site when the court ruled Sandy had to hold a voter referendum on a zoning change to the parcel. The voter referendum, scheduled for Nov. 8 during municipal elections, will allow Sandy residents to vote on allowing retail development there. The site was previously slated for industrial uses.

Sandy's zoning change prompted a citizens' action group, Save Our Communities, to conduct a petition drive for the referendum. The city of Sandy denied the group's signatures, claiming (among other arguments) the zoning changes were not subject to voter referenda. Save Our Communities took the case to court and, eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of holding the referendum.

Now, Boyer wants another chance to argue its case. The Utah Supreme Court's decision "establishes an unworkable and problematic standard in place of previous referendum law," Boyer's petition said.

"We think — long-term — it would be very awkward for all city governments to have everything they do be referable," said Wade Williams, director of retail development for Boyer. "There's a reason we have a representative government."

The Supreme Court must decide whether to rehear the case. If it does not, its previous opinion will stand. If it rehears the case, both sides will have another chance to present their arguments, and the court will issue a new opinion.

Save Our Communities believes it has the upper hand in the case, however, with the unanimous July 1 decision and the apparent support of thousands of Sandy residents who signed a petition to hold the referendum. Boyer's position ignores the wishes of community members, said Gary T. Forbush, a member of Save Our Communities.

"My big concern is that if they are successful in overturning this opinion, it's more or less taking the people's voice — and the ability to give feedback to their government via a referendum — away," Forbush said. "I don't think that's a positive thing. I think it's an unhealthy thing for a community to have."

Williams, however, said the zoning change permitted development that would add to Sandy's tax base and allow improvements to what has been an unsightly city plot for years.

"You could do 1,200 apartments on this property but you couldn't sell a Hallmark card," Williams said. "The old zoning, under my mind, is very flawed."

Save Our Communities, Boyer and the prospective tenants of the development are gearing up for a referendum campaign. All sides say they will educate the public about the referendum and all are preparing to launch campaigns in the near future.