A district court judge says a recent annexation dispute between Clearfield and Layton warrants a more extensive hearing.
Judge Rodney S. Page set an Aug. 24 hearing date to review legal arguments in the case, in which Clearfield is challenging a June 16 annexation of 73 acres of property into Layton.The annexation by Layton came after several weeks of negotiations between city officials and requests by property owners and developers. Property owners Grant and Paul Roberts want to sell the land near 28th West and 10th North to developers Blake Hazen and Ed Green, who plan a 300-home development.
After Layton's annexation, Clearfield filed suit in 2nd District Court and obtained a temporary restraining order preventing any development of the property until the legal issues are settled.
In a hearing Tuesday, Layton asked that the restraining order be lifted and Clearfield asked that it remain in effect. After hearing preliminary arguments, the judge decided the issue is complex and merits a longer hearing.
Layton Community Development Director Scott Carter said the annexation remains in effect, but the restraining order prevents the city from running water or sewer lines to the area and keeps developers from obtaining building permits.
Property owners and residents in the disputed area say they use Layton street and mailing addresses and have ties to Layton schools, churches, and other amenities. And, they say, Layton is in a better position than Clearfield to provide city utilities.
Clearfield maintains the annexation violates a 1979 agreement between the two cities that was reached after a previous annexation by Layton in the same area. That agreement, according to Clearfield City Manager Wally Baird, states Layton will not annex disputed property without written permission from Clearfield.
Clearfield also maintains the annexation will distort what would otherwise be a smooth, clean boundary between the two cities, confusing police and fire jurisdictions, and limit the city in future expansion.
Hazen, Green and the Roberts brothers say they approached Clearfield about annexing, but stipulations set by the city to help bring utilities to the development made it too expensive.
So, they turned to Layton. Meetings between Clearfield and Layton city officials were held and several proposals surfaced, including dividing the land between the two communities, but no agreement could be reached.
Clearfield council members and city officials expressed shock and anger after the June 16 annexation, saying the move was precipitous because negotiations were still under way.
When warned that Clearfield could respond by going to court, Layton Mayor Richard McKenzie responded, "Let 'em sue."
Layton City Manager Bruce Barton, who is also an attorney, said Tuesday after the hearing he believes Layton took the proper steps to resolve the issue but Clearfield's lawsuit jumped the gun.
Clearfield should have first appealed to the county's boundary commission, Barton said, which is the next step in annexation disputes.
The boundary commission is a seldom-used body that hears disputes between cities over property and annexation issues. The commission was dormant for several years until last summer when another annexation dispute threatened, this time between Kaysville and Layton.
The two cities negotiated an agreement on eventual boundaries in the Mutton Hollow area, sparked by the sale and development proposal on large tracts of land there.
When it appeared the issue may go to the boundary commission, Davis County officials found the commission had not met in several years. Terms of some of the commissioners had expired and no new appointments made.
New members were appointed to the commission and a training session was conducted, but the Layton-Kaysville dispute was settled and the commission was never called upon.