With a single dissenting vote, the Fruit Heights city Council Tuesday agreed to rewrite the city's 1981 ordinance that has blocked most residents from access to cable television.
The vote defused an issue that has simmered on and off for a decade and often put Fruit Heights into the media spotlight.Tuesday's action repeals the existing ordinance and replaces it with a model ordinance drawn up by the Utah League of Cities and Towns. The council acknowledged the new ordinance may be amended during negotiations with cable companies but agreed the model ordinance is a starting point.
Fruit Height's 1981 ordinance gives the city control over both the programming offered and rates charged by the firm granted a franchise to operate in the city. It also requires posting a 150 percent bond on the estimated installation cost of the network.
Another provision that firms found unacceptable allows the city to take over a franchise when it expires, whether the cable firm wants to sell or not.
A group of residents in September approached the council about repealing the 1981 ordinance and after a legal review of the law, several work sessions and public hearings and a poll of the city's residents, the council agreed.
Scott Fisher, one of the leaders of the repeal effort, said he is pleased with the council's decision. Fisher and four other residents, including councilmen Jim Lamb and Max Green, were appointed by Mayor Dean Brand to a committee assigned to meet with prospective cable firms and begin working on a franchise agreement.
Lamb voted against the adoption of the new law, saying an ordinance acceptable to both the city and the cable companies should be written and then adopted, instead of adopting one and then negotiating its terms.
Mayor Brand said the city's poll showed 289 in favor of repealing the ordinance and 78 against.
Brand also said some Fruit Heights residents west of U.S. Highway 89, along the boundary with Kaysville, have already hooked up to that city's cable network.
That makes cable available to some residents but not all of them, the mayor said, and the city is not getting any revenue from the hookups or regulating them.
Brand said one company did attempt to come into the city under the old ordinance in 1983 but went bankrupt and never offered any service.
The city attorney's opinion of the 1981 ordinance, designed as an anti-pornography measure, is that it is probably unconstitutional and has been superceded by federal regulations, the mayor said.
Supporters of the law maintained it would keep pornographic movies and other programming out of the city and protect children from being exposed to it.
Opponents maintain the law has denied them their freedom of choice. Control devices are available to lock out offense channels, they said.
And, by blocking cable, residents have had no access to family entertainment such as the Disney Channel, repeal proponents said, in addition to blocking sports events such as Utah Jazz basketball and BYU athletic events.