Wasatch County officials have turned down a petition to incorporate the town of Aspen, Utah.
Arizona developer Dean Sellers had submitted plans to incorporate Nov. 8, with the hope of building a world-class town and ski resort in Daniels Canyon.
But residents in the area, aware of his plans, beat Sellers to the punch with their own petition to annex into the nearby town of Daniel.
To incorporate, Sellers would need at least 100 residents inside the Aspen, Utah, boundaries. If the town of Daniel accepts the annexation petition, Sellers wouldn't have the required population.
Wasatch County Clerk/Auditor Brent Titcomb said residents in the proposed Aspen, Utah, area filed their petition to annex into Daniel at about 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 8.
Sellers' petition, which appears to have met all legal requirements, wasn't received until about 4:30 p.m.
The residents' petition takes priority over Sellers' petition because it was received first, Titcomb said.
Sellers on Tuesday predicted the move by opposing landowners would fail because he had purchased the right to annex from George Curtis, who owns 19 acres of land in the area.
"We believe that Mr. Curtis may have been improperly influenced and pressured into signing a petition for annexation into the town of Daniel," Sellers said. "The petition was not in Mr. Curtis' best interest."
Because Curtis sold his right to annex, Sellers says, the sale should prevent other land from being annexed into Daniel, as well.
In a statement Wednesday, Sellers said Titcomb and Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low refused to consider defects in the annexation petition, such as invalid and undated signatures, which would nullify the petition.
Low said that the annexation petition was filed with the town of Daniel, and if Sellers has a problem with the petition, he needs to take it up with the town's officials.
The county had to deny Sellers' and 35 fellow landowners' petition for incorporation because there was a pending annexation petition, Low said.
Titcomb said the decision to annex is in the hands of the town leaders in Daniel, and that the town mayor plans to hear the issue at the next town meeting.
Despite the incorporation denial, Sellers is proceeding with plans to form his town, said his spokeswoman, Mary Kay Lazarus. He is also considering litigation against Wasatch County, the town of Daniel and the group of residents who oppose the incorporation.
Boyd Thaxton and other area residents said in an e-mail to news reporters that they opposed the incorporation of Aspen because Sellers would have had the ability to choose the mayor and town council for the first two years of incorporation.
Thaxton's group said proposed developments would have been regulated by people chosen by Sellers.
"(This) is not a grass-roots effort to stop all development," the group stated. "If Mr. Sellers wishes to develop his property, the majority of the existing residents are supportive of planned, controlled and regulated growth."
But Thaxton said residents don't want the same individual to have power to control property, taxes and zoning, and condemn people's homes.
Thaxton lambasted HB466, which the Utah Legislature passed during the 2007 general session. The bill relaxed the requirements for towns to incorporate.
Recently, Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, submitted a draft bill to strengthen HB466 by requiring a vote of the residents in an area proposed for incorporation as a town.The Political Subdivisions Interim Committee unanimously passed the draft bill as a committee bill, which will be given priority for consideration during the 2008 Legislature.