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Highland voters to decide if businesses can open on Sunday

Published October 24, 2012 7:37 am

Politics• Majority of residents polled in 2006 were in favor of a 'blue law'.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Highland residents will head to the voting booth in two weeks to decide whether the city's businesses should be allowed to operate on Sunday.

The outcome of Proposition 6 — otherwise known as the Sunday closure ballot item — will determine whether or not to approve an ordinance allowing businesses to stay open seven days a week.

Highland residents are no strangers to the idea. In 2006, the city hired a professional company to conduct a survey on keeping businesses closed on Sunday. The results showed 80 percent of those polled were in favor of such a blue law — a type of law meant to enforce religious standards.

Despite the survey's findings, the City Council revisited the issue. The city's Economic Development Committee first discussed keeping businesses open on Sunday in 2011 as a way to expand the tax base and woo large commercial chain stores to the area to provide more money for road repairs and other city functions.

In April, Highland City Mayor Lynn Ritchie suggested the City Council put the question to a vote of the people.

"It was always intended for the issue to go to a vote," Ritchie said. "It is a community value issue that the citizens need to have the input on."

The only way he said the county would let the city put the issue to a vote is to pass a law first. So the City Council in July approved a measure to keep businesses open on Sunday. In August, residents gathered enough signatures for a citizen's referendum to repeal that decision. The issue is now on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Ritchie, who is personally against businesses operating on Sunday in his city, said the issue can be argued either way. He claims the issue is not about religion.

"This is not a religious issue," Ritchie said noting that it is more of an "ideological" issue.

Ritchie said the city has little to gain financially from staying open on Sunday.

He said proponents of Prop. 6 are arguing they should have the freedom to choose to shop or open their business on Sunday and not have the city determine that.

City Councilman Scott Smith sent out a letter in April to residents explaining that one of the reasons to change the city ordinance to allow businesses to be open on Sunday was to help with the city's economic development.

Smith was one of three council members who voted to amend the operating hours ordinance to allow Sunday business. Council members Brian Braithwaite and Jessie Schoenfeld voted against the measure.

City Council members in favor of Prop. 6 argue that businesses operating on Sunday will bring more jobs, improve city infrastructure, and bring more freedom and choice to residents.

Highland resident and political activist, Kristin Chevrier, said she's glad residents will decide the Sunday closure issue next month.

"The community has the right to decide what standards it wants to have," Chevrier said."I don't see how saying they need to be closed on Sundays is any different."

Nasar Zahran, a Muslim, who moved to Highland from Jordan said he sought out the community in part because its businesses are closed on Sunday.

In Jordan, he said his country had Friday as a relaxation day where families stay home together. Before he moved to Utah, he looked for that same lifestyle here.

"It is really nice to have one day that is nice and quiet," he said. " Me and my wife looked into that and we liked that idea to have businesses closed on Sunday."

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter: @cimcity —