The next battle in the Sandy-White City water war will likely be fought at the ballot box.

On Tuesday, the Sandy City Council unanimously approved a request to let city residents served by the White City Water Improvement District vote on whether they want to withdraw from the improvement district.The special ballot, which is a nonbinding referendum, will be included in the Nov. 3 general election.

A new state law provides that municipal residents living within a county service district can pull out if their cities offer equivalent or better service and if a majority of the city users vote for withdrawal.

Although few residents participated in Tuesday's public hearing, those who did speak embraced a vote.

"Please let us out (of White City), let us vote," said Sandy resident Jerry Hirst.

"All we want is out," echoed Jerry Williams.

Council member Scott Cowdell voted in favor of placing the withdrawal issue on the November ballot but said he was concerned about the cost of integrating the system and inheriting part of the district's outstanding bonds.

Cowdell added the entire matter should have been settled years ago.

His colleague, Bryant Anderson, said Sandy residents now being served by White City should have a right to express themselves, adding, "They deserve a crack at having a decent water service."

Councilwoman Crickett Raulston asked Sandy administrators to continue with an earlier call to pursue a legislative audit of the relationship between the district and the White City Water Co.

The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the district, with its board of directors simultaneously serving as district trustees.

The company owns White City water rights and contracts with the district, the company's sole stock owner.

In an earlier meeting, some council members voiced concern over the relationship between the two entities.

White City officials dismiss those concerns, calling the relationship between the district and the company "straightforward" and open.

While the council will now ask the Salt Lake County clerk to add the matter to the general election ballot, the specter of litigation between Sandy and White City was present in Tuesday's meeting.

The improvement district's attorney, Paul Ashton, questioned the legitimacy of the public petition to withdraw that prompted Tuesday's decision to approve the November vote.

The petition, which was certified by Sandy's city recorder, lacks sufficient signatures to support a vote, said Ashton.

"We will take whatever legal action is necessary" to block the upcoming ballot," Ashton said.

Sandy administrators say they are confident the petition complies with the law.