HEBER A Wednesday meeting here over the incorporation of two new towns was colored by earnest requests from developers, adamant opposition by a room full of opponents and talk of unfairness and wrongdoing on the part of elected officials.
The Wasatch County Council voted 4-3 to let a group of apartment residents out of the boundaries of the proposed town of Hideout, thereby killing its incorporation.
It also voted 6-1 to table the incorporation of the proposed town of Independence, after voting to let eight properties in the area out of the town. The vote was tabled until next Wednesday to give the county time to ask the state to redo its population count for the town.
Following the meeting, Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low told the Deseret Morning News that he met last week with Utah Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, and lobbyists from Hideout and the Utah Association of Counties concerning Hideout's annexation. Low was asked to tell the council not to delay the town's incorporation to ensure it wouldn't be stopped by a bill pending in the House that would change incorporation law, he said.
The pending bill would fix problems created by a last-minute bill passed by the 2007 Legislature that has allowed single-property owners to create towns with little public support. It also would make impossible the incorporations of Hideout and Independence, as well as the Weber County town based around Powder Mountain.
Jodi Hoffman, an attorney for the Independence incorporation, said she helped draft the controversial 2007 bill in her role as lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns. She also said the league doesn't think her representing Independence is a conflict of interest because, in part, the league never voted to support the 2007 bill. Also, Hoffman said she didn't meet with the Independence petitioners until months after the bill was signed into law.
Residents who knew of the meeting among Curtis, Hideout officials and Low were perturbed at Wednesday's meeting.
"He came here and intimidated our county attorney," said Wasatch resident Julia Connery. "It makes us nervous."
Curtis did not return phone calls from the Deseret Morning News regarding the issue.
Low forwarded Curtis' request to the council prior to Wednesday's meeting but said they agreed they were neither delaying nor rushing the incorporations based on anything happening in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, no action has been taken on the bill in question.
Hideout petitioner Rich Sprung told the Deseret Morning News he had never heard of the meeting and had no part in it. He has meticulously followed every part of the incorporation law, he said.
"If you have a problem with the Legislature, go fight," he said during the meeting. "The law is what the law is. We don't have to agree with it, but we have to follow it."
Independence incorporation petitioner Mel McQuarrie said Tuesday that he thinks the current law fits the needs of his plan well. He hopes the Legislature won't change the law right in the middle of his incorporation.
McQuarrie and his four fellow petitioners want to create a town on about 14 square miles of undeveloped land along state Route 40.
"We'd like to create a nice urban development with a town center," he said, adding that he would like to see a balance of residential, mixed-use and agricultural zones in the new town. "Our intent is good, and we're not trying to drag people in. We thought it would be an opportunity for them."
About 100 people attended the meeting in the council chambers, but there was only seating for about 50, so several people sat cross-legged on the floor.
In public comments in the meeting and while waiting for an unannounced closed session held during the meeting, several people whose property lies in and around both proposed towns said they had no interest in them.
Darrell Brown, who lives adjacent to Independence, said he would probably leave the area if the incorporation is approved.
"I feel I spent a lot of money to live up here with this lifestyle," he said.Jerry Strand, whose property is adjacent to the proposed boundaries of Independence, also voiced his opposition. "I think it's absolutely terrible, the whole concept of waking up one morning and learning you're in a community you knew nothing about."