We're starting our own incorporation movement because we'd like to have control of our destiny instead of having other people pick us apart and lose our identity. —Mary Ann Strong
MILLCREEK — A new effort is being organized to again place before voters a question of whether Millcreek Township should become a city, an effort partly motivated by a desire to keep the decision-making process in the hands of Millcreek residents.
Residents of the township voted 58 percent to 42 percent against incorporation last fall. However, proponents say there is activity on several fronts that suggest Millcreek is vulnerable to annexation.
Mary Ann Strong, who is leading the incorporation movement, said she is aware of at least three efforts to annex the township or pieces of it into neighboring cities.
"I had one of the city officials in our neighboring city before the last election tell us, 'If you don't incorporate, you will be picked apart faster than buzzards on road kill.' That was her take, and it's happening," Strong said.
Unlike an incorporation, which requires the vote of a township, voters do not have a say in annexations. Annexations require petitions of support from property owners and public hearings as part of an 18-step process, but the city council of the annexing city has the final say.
That's troubling, Strong said.
"We're starting our own incorporation movement because we'd like to have control of our destiny instead of having other people pick us apart and lose our identity," she said.
Millcreek Township includes the Canyon Rim, East Millcreek, Millcreek and Olympus Cove neighborhoods. The area is home to more than 63,000 people. If incorporated, it would be the 10th largest city in the state.
The Future of Millcreek Association website says a group of people in the township has been working to annex the entire township to Salt Lake City.
"Not only are they working to get this done, but Salt Lake County is mentoring it, and Salt Lake City has the annexation of Millcreek as one of its top priorities. Since we didn’t act to protect our community, they want the spoils — Millcreek," the website says.
The statement is "simply incorrect," said Art Raymond, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
"It has been a consistent position of Mayor Becker that the future of Millcreek is based on one of self-determination. While we would certainly consider an annexation petition, we are in no way pursuing, cultivating or working toward that end result," Raymond said.
Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn said she was aware that a notice to file an annexation petition was recorded in Salt Lake City in late November, but the group has not contacted the county since.
The next step would have been the county mailing notices to every real property owner in the township, as well as property owners who live 300 feet around the borders of the township. Although state law requires the county to mail the notice, the filers are responsible for printing and mailing costs. The notice is mailed within 20 days of a written request from filers and when payment is received.
Since that time frame has come and gone, the process would have to start again, Dunn said.
At least one signer of the notice of intent, William Davis, said momentum for the full-scale annexation effort sputtered.
The small group did not favor incorporation, but it was unhappy with the services it was receiving from the county. It wanted to explore whether it would be better served by Salt Lake City.
Davis said filing the notice of intent had more to do with his neighborhood's frustration over the slow pace of a county public works project and the fact that the county parked heavy equipment there for an extended period.
Davis said he got involved in the notice because a neighbor asked him to, but he had no designs on being part of an extended effort.
"I'm a busy guy. I've got plenty else to do without getting involved in politics," he said.
Roger Dudley, who led the 2012 movement to defeat the incorporation question, said he is not aware of any formal filings with cities with respect to annexation. However, he is aware that a small group has organized around a possible second effort to incorporate the township.
"It's kind interesting they would meet and stir up the pot when voters answered not even four months ago, when 60 to 40 percent killed this idea of incorporation. I think the people spoke loud and clear," Dudley said.
Dudley said he attended a recent town hall-style meeting in Millcreek Township hosted by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
The meeting was packed, and many participants were pleased with McAdams' vision for unincorporated Salt Lake County. McAdams has appointed Patrick Leary, former public works director in Mayor Peter Corroon's administration, as township executive.
"That gives all incorporated areas a voice equal to other mayors," Dudley said.
Dunn said the county has heard nothing official regarding another attempt to place an incorporation question on the ballot.
"Certainly you could go for it again, but it would be an uphill battle. I feel like the people have spoken," she said.
"It was democracy in action, and people were able to make a choice. Hopefully they can come back together as a neighborhood and work on issues that affect their neighborhood. We look forward to doing that with them."
As more people in Millcreek Township learn what is at stake, support for incorporation will grow, Strong said. After all, incorporation efforts in other cities in Salt Lake County took at least two tries at the ballot box.
Strong said she believes township issues, whether that means annexation or incorporation, will never go away. Incorporation would allow area residents to control their destiny, she said.
"It's inevitable that Salt Lake County is going to be wall-to-wall cities," Strong said.