The Jordan School District Board of Education filed suit Wednesday against Draper city, saying the city engaged in "capricious and illegal" zoning that will decrease the value of three parcels of land owned by the district.
District leaders contend that the city's rezoning of the district properties will force the school district to lose market value on the 80 acres of property.
"We would like to see the City Council reverse their decision and take a very close second look at the impact that their current decision will have upon public confidence and upon the real value of property," said J. Dale Christensen, Jordan Board of Education president.
Draper officials declined to comment Wednesday, saying they had been aware of the pending 3rd District Court lawsuit but had not read through the filing.
The Draper City Council voted to zone three Jordan-owned properties "public institutional" (PI) in mid-April after council members expressed concerns about the land being sold for housing. That would mean only some kinds of public buildings could be built on the land, causing a significant ding to property value.
Draper officials said at the time that if the land were sold for residential purposes, there would be even more students without a place to attend school. The decision to rezone was contrary to the recommendation of the Draper Planning Commission and also dozens of residents, who spoke at a public hearing.
Some council members said the city has not been treated well by the school district in the past, so city officials had to protect the land in question.
Draper residents were promised schools as part of a bond passed in 2003, but Jordan district officials ultimately opted to cut the Draper schools from its project list.
"Granted the children in Draper are bused out of city boundaries for school, but there is no policy or standard that every city or municipality has its own schools," Christensen said. "I suspect some had that expectation, but the question is does that justify that type of action?"
Now, under the new zoning, the district would either have to build a school or sell the land for public use at a decreased value.
Under the law, cities have first right of refusal first dibs on district property should the district choose to sell it.
"It appears to be very self-serving and somewhat arbitrary with respect to their decision that if given the choice, if they lower the market value, they can purchase it for less money," said Christensen.
"They only did this to the property that Jordan School District owns, and that begs a very serious question of propriety and integrity with public funds," he said.
The lawsuit states that Draper has not applied the PI zone to any other property and has no intention of doing so, since the PI zone was created exclusively for Jordan District properties and for the purpose of devaluing the properties.
"We think it's not in the best interest of taxpayers and will ultimately impact educational services negatively for children if and when we decide to sell that property and use those resources," Christensen said.When the rezone decision was made, Draper Council members said the property in question should be used for its "highest and best use," to educate children. The properties' monetary value is less important than retaining land for public use, they said.