A coalition intent on blocking the construction of a proposed office complex asked the Utah Supreme Court Friday to compel South Jordan officials to provide the necessary petitions for a voter referendum.
Save Open Space (SOS) filed documents saying City Attorney Mike Mazuran erred in advising the city that Utah law does not permit referendums on zoning decisions like those involving the River-Park development.The council acted on that advice Feb. 10, voting 5-0 to reject the group's request to circulate a referendum petition.
SOS hopes to use the referendum to overturn a Dec. 16 council decision that gave developers a 120-day extension on the rezoning of 85 acres of land west of the Jordan River and south of 10600 South.
That extension allowed developer Gerald Anderson additional time to meet a stiff set of requirements laid out in April 1997 when the property was rezoned to O-S or office service use.
Anderson says he intends to build a "Class A" office park there over the next eight years, with the equivalent of six or seven six-story buildings on about 69 developable acres.
SOS spokeswoman Janalee Tobias said the petition for an "extraordinary writ" cites a previous decision by the high court that allowed a referendum on a similar zoning decision because it drastically affected the character of a community.
The RiverPark complex would also drastically affect the Jordan River bottoms, she said, changing the character "from a rural farming community to an urban city."
South Jordan City Manager Dave Mill-heim said Friday he cannot comment on the suit or any of its elements because the matter involves litigation and has been referred to the city attorney.
However, he said city officials are disappointed with the action because they have "been working with residents for several weeks to try and resolve their concerns" outside the legal arena.
"It's unfortunate that, when city officials choose to work with citizens, those people ignore the process and go another way," Millheim added. "Council members have been trying hard to work with them."
Tobias said the city's rejection of SOS' request for referendum petitions left her group no other choice than to appeal to the Supreme Court, the appellate body designated by state statute.
"We're sick and tired of the council voting against the people on the river bottoms issue," she said. "People are really concerned about this . . . now we think it's time to take it to a vote.
"All we want is for the Supreme Court to order the city recorder to provide us with the necessary petitions," Tobias added.
Opponents of the office complex also contend it will put more traffic on overcrowded roads and erode the quality of air, water and life.
For the referendum to succeed, SOS supporters would have to collect the signatures of 15 percent of South Jordan's registered voters.
A special election would have to be scheduled at a cost of approximately $10,000 unless the city decided to delay it until the next general election in 1999.
However, state law provides the earliest a special election can be held is June 28 - two full months after the rezoning extension expires.
The city Planning Commission and council have already scheduled meetings for March and April to review the developers' master development plan, conceptual site plan and application for a conditional-use permit. All three are pivotal in obtaining project approval.