Upset residents who have continually fought to keep a jail out of their back yards have filed an appeal with the city to prevent its construction.
But attorneys say the appeal and subsequent battle will end up in district court, regardless of how the city's Board of Adjustment responds to it."The fat lady hasn't even stood up to sing yet," said Kay Snow, one of 26 residents and businesses who banded together to hire a lawyer and file the appeal. "We're prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to."
"It's just upset everyone terribly," said Evelyn M. Shaeffer, who lives near 32nd South and 12th West, where the county plans to build a 350-bed minimum security jail facility. "We are going to fight it. We would not feel right if we didn't do that."
On March 22, the City Council overturned the Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation to deny Salt Lake County a conditional use permit to construct the facility. Residents were surprised and claim in their appeal to the Board of Adjustment that the council does not have the authority to overturn such a decision.
The appeal also says the council did not give adequate notice that it would make the decision, as required by law; says the law only permits jail facilities to be built in light industrial zones (the proposed site is in an agricultural zone); says the approval violates numerous city ordinances and calls the council's decision to approve the permit "arbitrary and capricious."
"It's safe to say that they raise some important issues and certainly needs to be looked at carefully," said South Salt Lake attorney Paul Thompson.
But Salt Lake County attorney David Yocom said the appeal has no merit and he plans to file a motion this week to dismiss it.
"You can't overturn the City Council. The City Council is the final legislative body to consider the action," he said.
Thompson said the city attorneys are studying the issue to determine if the Board of Adjustment has jurisdiction in this case. If so, the board has 30 days to consider the appeal.
Yocom said that if the board meets and rules in favor of the residents, the county will take the case to district court. Larry G. Reed, attorney for the residents, said he'll do the same should the county receive a favorable ruling.
But the possibilities don't end there.
Reed said that if his clients prevail in a Board of Adjustment decision, the county could appeal that decision to the City Council - the same body whose decision the board theoretically could overturn.
Reed, however, is hoping for a more simple solution. County officials "may decide the opposition is so strong and so widespread that they'll look for a new site," he said.
Yocom said he believes the appeal will not delay plans to construct the jail, but Reed said his appeal may affect the county's plan to hold a May 23 bond election asking voters to fund the much-needed jail.
"When the location of a jail is in question, and it is in question now, I think it throws the bond election in question," he said. "We're now looking to enjoin the county from proceeding with the election."