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Wasatch County Council votes against creation of 2 new towns

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2008 12:02 a.m. MST

HEBER — The towns of Hideout and Independence will not be created in Wasatch County — at least not any time soon.

The Wasatch County Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to deny incorporation of Independence and voted unanimously to deny Hideout's petition. Both towns' petitions were denied based on inadequate population counts.

Council members Kendall Crittenden and Jay Price voted against the motion to deny the Independence incorporation.

"I'm glad that it was defeated," said Jim France, who lives in the would-be town of Independence. "That law, any way you look at at, should be unconstitutional. It was absolutely wrong."

France was one of about 70 residents who attended the meeting. He was referring to a controversial law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2007 that requires a minimum of 100 residents for a town incorporation. That law also allowed small groups to create towns without the consent of a majority of the proposed towns' residents.

Bills pending this year in the Utah Legislature would amend the 2007 law to require a popular vote and would require at least five petitioners per incorporation. They could also change the amount of control counties have over incorporations.

Mel McQuarrie, the main petitioner for Independence, said he thinks the town could be created even if a popular vote were taken. The majority of residents want the town, he said, and he is willing to try again if the law is changed.

But many of McQuarrie's neighbors believe most area residents are against the town.

"He almost convinced me to move out of this county," said Alan Sweat, whose property would have bordered Independence. "But the county has made the rules that's forcing people to do what Mel McQuarrie is doing."

Other residents agreed they didn't want a town but said they believed individuals have a right to do what they wish with their property.

"The county has made an atmosphere that's not conducive to building," said Kurt Hoffman, who was allowed to opt out of the town Feb. 6. "I'm sympathetic to his plight."

County Council Chairman Steve Farrell said after the meeting that he believes Wasatch County is no harder to work with than any other county, though it does have strict density ordinances in place.

Hideout's main petitioner, Rich Sprung, said after Wednesday's vote he was very disappointed. His petition was valid and should have been passed under the law as it currently stands, he said.

Last week, Wasatch County Council members voted to allow an apartment complex that had been within the proposed town of Hideout to opt out. Sprung and his attorneys believe the apartments shouldn't have been allowed to opt out because they didn't meet the condition of "rural."

Current law allows properties to opt out of proposed incorporations if they don't require municipal services, are not urban and make up more than 1 percent of the value of land in the proposed town, Sprung said.

"Explain to me how apartments are not urban," he said. "Our petition was valid and they denied it mistakenly. We're committed to continue."

Sprung has threatened the city with litigation over the issue. Conversely, petitioners for Independence reminded the council during the meeting that they had not threatened litigation.

"When it's all done at the end of the day, we're still friends," longtime Wasatch County resident McQuarrie said.

Other property owners who had a stake in the creation of Independence were disappointed with the day's proceedings but said the area would eventually be urbanized anyway.

Jerry Christensen, a relative of one of the six Independence petitioners, said after the meeting that his family has owned the land in question for at least five generations — about 100 years.

"We love the land. We wanted to leave it how it was," he said. "But we run sheep and it wasn't paying the bills."


E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com

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