New legislation could stop developers from rushing to incorporate new towns.
But the two bills will do little to quell the concerns of residents of the proposed town of Powder Mountain and won't stop the efforts of three would-be town incorporators in Wasatch County.
HB164 and SB25 will not retroactively fix the problems created by the Legislature last year, despite pleas from concerned residents to a House committee on Thursday.
"It's created a race for incorporation," said Carl Fisher, of the Citizens' Committee to Save Our Canyons. "We'd like to see some of that retroactive language put in as a compromise for the people here."
A law approved last year allows developers to try to incorporate a town if there are at least 100 residents and there is support from landowners possessing more than 50 percent of the property's market value and more than 50 percent of the land within the area proposed.
In the case of Powder Mountain, the developers filed a petition in January, but didn't have enough residents in the ski resort, so the developer expanded the town boundary to about 60 homes in the Eden area.
"You are putting us in a jurisdiction in which we have no vote," said Darla Longhurst-Van Zeben, who lives in the Eden area set to be part of the new town. "That is absolutely wrong."
The owner of Wolf Creek Resort, near Powder Mountain, filed a petition with Weber County earlier this week to have his property excluded from the incorporation. The exclusion of those 160 acres could form islands, which the incorporation law does not allow.
Weber County is currently reviewing how Wolf Creek's request may affect the incorporation process.
House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, told the Deseret Morning News, "As a matter of policy I don't feel that the government should change statutes for something that's in the process. Any petitions that are filed as of today should be treated under the law that was existing at the time they were filed, and the legislation going forward will deal with the new petitions."
HB164 and SB25 are very similar.
The House Political Subdivisions Committee approved HB164 on Thursday, but put off a vote on the other bill. Instead, committee members urged the two bill sponsors to work to fold the two bills together.
"I see no reason that they couldn't be rolled together," said Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, the sponsor of SB45. "I would be willing to work with him to try and sort out the differences."
Prior to Thursday's committee meeting, a pair of towns denied incorporation by Wasatch County renewed their fight and litigation filed by an Arizona developer over a proposed resort town was denied a hearing by the Utah Supreme Court.
Last Friday, the petitioner for the proposed town of Hideout filed suit against the county in 4th District Court. The same day, petitioners for the proposed town of Independence filed incorporation documents anew with the county.
Both towns had been denied incorporation by the Wasatch County Council two days earlier. The council found that neither town had adequate population for incorporation.
The new Independence petition was filed with redrawn town boundaries that included some properties allowed to opt out of the first petition, said Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb.
Wednesday, the Utah Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the proposed town of Aspen, saying the case could just as well be heard in the lower courts. Two writs of mandamus, one against the county and another against the town of Daniel, were remanded as were many briefs filed in the case.
The writs were filed following Wasatch County's denial of incorporation for Aspen, which was to be a resort town near Heber. The county recorder denied the incorporation because many residents in the boundary of the proposed town had earlier filed documents to be annexed into the town of Daniel.
Since the writs' filing, those areas successfully annexed into Daniel. Also since the filing, two annexed residents have been sued by Aspen developer Dean Sellers' company, the West Daniels Land Association."My client is considering other legal options available to him and whether to go to district court," said Mary Kay Lazarus, a spokeswoman for Sellers, who is the Aspen petitioner and plaintiff in the two Supreme Court writs.