Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Residents of Highland will vote in November to decide whether businesses should continue to remain closed on Sundays. Since 2000, only gas stations and businesses that have been granted waivers are open on Sundays in the northern Utah County city.

HIGHLAND — Residents discussed the pros and cons of allowing businesses in the city to operate on Sunday during a community panel Tuesday evening.

Around 80 people crowded into the Highland Community Center, 5378 W. 10400 North, to listen to a six-member panel of residents — three on each side of the issue — discuss whether the city should allow businesses to open on Sunday.

"Even though the financial impact is not immediate, it does open up the opportunity to future investment from other businesses," said Mike Burns, who argued that businesses should be allowed to open on Sunday.

The Highland City Council voted in April to allow businesses to have Sunday hours pending a November vote. However, when the city found out it couldn't bring the issue to a public vote, the council voted in July to remove the requirement that the issue be voted on and encouraged residents to file a referendum.

Three weeks after the City Council voted to allow businesses to open on Sunday, residents turned in the required number of signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.

"In order to get it on the ballot for the fall, we had to do it a little bit quicker," petition organizer Rod Mann told the Deseret News. "The county gave us a timeline, which said we had to submit the names within three weeks of when we got the petition."

Residents organized Tuesday's panel, which covered several topics, including the moral agency of individuals, the role of government, individual versus community rights and the financial impact of businesses being open on Sunday.

"Today we are talking about Sunday opening. Tomorrow it could be liquor stores," resident Mike Bready said. "After that, it is pornography back on the shelves."

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The six-member panel was cordial while debating the issues. One topic that came up several times was how to manage city finances.

"This isn't about the budget. It's about something else," Bready said. "There are good people here. This is a safe place, and we have to remember what we have here."

Those in favor of allowing businesses to open on Sunday said the city already has missed out on big stores such as Walmart and Smith's, and other businesses won't locate in Highland if the law isn't changed.

In the end, all of the panel members agreed that it is a community decision — one that residents will decide Nov. 6.

Twitter: @FinleyJY