In the fight over how Herriman will manage its future growth, residents have won at least one battle — persuading the City Council on Wednesday to push back a vote on rezoning more than 270 undeveloped acres until at least December.
But it’s still unclear how the decision will ultimately play out. A citizen referendum could put to voters the council’s newly-approved general plan, which outlines how the city will develop. It needed 4,327 signatures by Thursday afternoon to get on the 2018 ballot — a target organizers said they met and exceeded.
“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” said Haley Hill, a Herriman resident and member of a recently-formed group gathering signatures in opposition to the general plan. “We’re glad that [the council members] listened and they continued it and they’ll come back… but we’re hesitant and we’re still as a group figuring out the best way to move forward.”
The council came together on Sept. 13 to pass its new general plan, which was the product of months of collaboration and study. But Councilman Craig Tischner presented an amended version, which was approved 3-2 after an hour of debate — though some residents and council members raised concerns about the approval process because they hadn’t seen the new plan.
“I didn’t circumvent any process,” Tischner said. “I presented a plan that I worked with the residents [on], and the only change was from 50 acres down to 13 acres of the medium density, so they win out of it, right? Because it’s less density. And they’re complaining about it.”
After that meeting, Hill and others formed Herriman for Responsible Growth, springing into action to organize a referendum and gather signatures.
But Councilwoman Coralee Wessman-Moser, who voted against Tischner’s proposal, said it’s not just about the process. She suggested that residents were upset before the vote because the original plan had included a number of medium-density developments and had stripped agricultural use from some areas.
“The feedback we received at various public hearings, through Facebook and by email all indicated great concern with the way the city is developing,” Wessman-Moser said. “So when this plan included additional medium-density housing and stripped our agricultural heritage from these two areas, it did not seem to reflect the desires of the residents. This referendum process is the method by which the residents can have a check.”
As of last week, the Salt Lake County election office had verified 2,447 referendum signatures — about half of what the group needs. Hill said Thursday they had turned in more than 4,900.
If they do get the required signatures, Tischner’s plan would be put on hold until residents can vote on the ballot initiative sometime next year.
And if they voted against it, the city estimates its budget would take a $30.5 million hit, including $7.8 million in recurring annual revenue. The city also estimates placing the question on the ballot would cost around $60,000 in election expenses.
But Tami Moody, the city’s spokeswoman, said the plan might never get to the ballot. It’s still a possibility the council could choose to rescind its vote approving the amended general plan.
Clint Smith, chairman of Herriman’s Planning Commission, said he thinks the council should have given residents time to view and comment on the new plan but respects the body’s authority to make changes. However, he said he does have one worry: how the referendum movement will affect his future work.
“That’s my concern is what does that mean should that referendum pass and how does that affect the planning or the attempts to do proper planning for the city moving forward?” he said.
But overall, Hill said Herriman for Responsible Growth wants to hold the council accountable to and responsive to the wishes of its residents.
“It’s not even just about us and our group,” Hill said. “It’s about the hours and hours of comments that people have made at various meetings. ... And they’re not listening and it’s been painful to watch and frustrating.”
Correction: November 10, 10:18 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly named the referendum group. They are called Herriman for Responsible Growth.