The tiny town of Independence in Wasatch County soon will become Utah's newest municipality.
The incorporation was Independence's second attempt at township. Its petitioners had been denied 5-2 by the Wasatch County Council on Feb. 13 after the town failed to come up with 100 residents.
The town's main petitioner was Mel McQuarrie, a land developer and property owner. Also petitioning were members of a family that has owned property in the area for several generations.
Incorporation was approved in a 5-2 vote April 2, with council members Kendall Crittenden and Val Draper dissenting. The vote was taken following an hourlong closed session during which the council was made aware of the legal implications of its decision, Crittenden said.
Council member Jay Price said he voted for the incorporation because the petitioners had followed state law.
"You can't vote against the state," he said. Price also said he didn't think the creation of the town was a constitutional issue.
Crittenden disagreed, saying the law under which Independence filed for incorporation disenfranchised town members. The unpopular law, which has since been changed by the Utah Legislature, allowed a group owning at least half of the value of property in any unincorporated area to petition for incorporation. Following incorporation, the petitioners could submit names for town leadership to county officials, who would choose the town's mayor and council without a public vote.
"The law was just unjust," Crittenden said. "I was willing to vote and test the constitutionality of it if that's what we needed to do."
Independence will be located on about 9,000 acres of farmland just off U.S. 40. Its incorporation superseded the incorporation of Center Creek, as the two proposed towns proposed using some of the same land.
The next step for the new town will be the appointment of a town council and mayor. However, there is some confusion on how that will take place, council members said.
The motion approving the incorporation included a phrase about giving the council more say in town leadership and letters have been sent to town residents asking them to apply for the positions. However, the law has been interpreted in the past as allowing only the petitioners to submit names. McQuarrie said he has some names in mind and is in the process of submitting them to the council.
Those chosen as city leaders will hold positions for the first two years of the town's existence, after which a public vote will occur. During the first two years, defining town documents such as a general plan and building ordinances will likely be decided.
"Independence has been approved, and I'm glad it's finally happened," McQuarrie said Monday. "Once it came full circle the county realized it was a valid application and they put it through so we're happy and hopefully can move forward and everybody can relax a little."
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