Gibby foes may need more signatures to overturn zone

Published March 31, 2010 7:32 pm
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Mapleton residents may need more signatures to put Wendell Gibby's zone change on the ballot.

The city has asked 4th District Court Judge Darold McDade to reconsider his ruling that Friends of Maple Mountain need just 15 percent of voters to sign a petition to put the zoning question on the ballot. The city believes the group should be required to recruit 35 percent of voters.

The number is important because if voters succeed in getting the issue on the ballot, Gibby has threatened to scrap an agreement with the city that provides access to right-of-way for a water line.

Friends of Maple Mountain is challenging a zoning change that will allow Gibby to build 47 homes on 120 acres he owns on Maple Mountain. The re-zoning is part of an agreement to end years of legal battles between the city and the developer over access to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail on Gibby's property. In return for access to the trail, right-of-way for a water line, the city rezoned Gibby's property so he could build homes on the bench.

Residents say the land should have remained classified as environmentally sensitive. In 2007, the group began gathering signatures to put the question on the ballot.

Eric Johnson, the city's attorney, says a Supreme Court ruling that classified the creation of the new zone as a legislative act means the group needs signatures from 35 percent of voters, as is required to change law through a referendum.

"With signatures from only 29 percent of the voters, the petition from Friends of Maple Mountain falls short of the requirements for an election," Johnson said.

But Anthony Schofield, Friends of Maple Mountain's attorney, disagrees with the city's request. He declined to go into further detail because he is still writing his response to the city's motion.

McDade ruled that the group did not have to meet the 35 percent threshold and that the zone change was an administrative act that could not be put on a ballot.

But the high court ruled in March that the zone change indeed was a legislative act by the City Council and could be challenged through a referendum, clearing the way for Friends to proceed with the ballot question. But Gibby and the city have maintained that if the issue went to a vote and the public rejected the zone change, it would scuttle the agreement and reopen Gibby's lawsuits against the city.

Gibby earlier said he would drop his suits only if the referendum was dead.

Johnson said the group, in its arguments to the Supreme Court, understood that the zone change was a matter of law, and should not have been surprised to be asked to abide by a higher standard to put it on the ballot.

Mayor Brian Wall said while he did not support the zone change when he was a councilman, it is a vital piece in the settlement agreement between the city and Gibby.

"I just want this to be over," Wall said.

dmeyers@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">dmeyers@sltrib.com

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