Uintah mayor recuses herself from annexation discussion

Nov 23 2012 - 11:18pm

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UINTAH -- The city council is moving forward on a controversial 150-acre annexation that currently includes land owned by Uintah City Mayor Sue Bybee.

Bybee recused herself from the Nov. 13 resolution vote, which was approved 3-0. She told the Standard-Examiner that she has every intention of recusing herself from any future votes regarding the annexation.

The council will hold a final public hearing on the proposed annexation at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at Uintah City Hall, 2191 E. 6550 South.

Bybee said the property annexation involves about 17 landowners and 150 acres of land. She owns 18 of the 150 acres.

But the annexation, consisting of different parcels of unincorporated Weber County property resting within Uintah's borders, gives landowners the option of petitioning out of the annexation.

At this time, Bybee said, she has not yet made a decision as to whether, as a landowner, she will exercise that option.

The annexation has been discussed for years, but did not become a reality until the recent completion of a state road project at 6600 South and U.S. 89 that made some additional property within the city borders more accessible, making it easier to develop.

The land annexation has been in the works for years, but became the center of controversy after becoming a sticking point between the council and Uintah resident Dean Larsen.

At a meeting in August, Larsen challenged the council by stating council members were "unethical and borderline corrupt" as it related to some of their spending measures.

Before the council asked Larsen to remove himself from the meeting, Larsen mentioned a concern about the tax money the city had spent on road improvements, specifically those that Bybee could eventually profit from as a result of land she owns.

In the future, Larsen asked that Bybee declare a conflict of interest when discussing any measures that may benefit her property.

But Bybee claims the city's portion of the $1 million road improvement was only about $40,000, to match grant funds the city received from the state, county and federal governments.

If the annexation leads to any future development, Bybee said, her property because of its location would be one of the last parcels to develop.

"It is not going to help us one bit," Bybee said.

In the meantime, there are questions on Facebook as to whether the council's annexation action conforms with state code, as there are landowners who don't want to be a part of Uintah, where taxes would be a little higher.

Bybee said the information on Facebook is a scare tactic, because landowners within the proposed annexation can opt out.

"There has been discussion about annexing the islands and peninsulas of unincorporated Weber County for some time," City Councilman Don Pearson said.

"A subdivision is planned on one of the peninsulas with the owner/developer very much interested in being in the city," Pearson said in an email to the Standard-Examiner.

"With a tight budget and increasing costs for police and safety, to have the unincorporated areas part of the city for planned and future development would be a win-win for all concerned," Pearson said.

At the Nov. 13 hearing, Pearson said, it surprised him when some landowners expressed a desire that their property not be included in the annexation.

"The annexation motion that passed excluded those that expressed the desire not to be annexed and allowed anyone not represented in the public hearing to petition not to be annexed if they so desired," Pearson said.

The planning commission recommended the annexation after holding a separate hearing on the matter in which no objections were raised, Bybee said.

Besides, Bybee said there is nothing wrong with wanting to annex county properties into the city to be able to capture some tax revenues. "They use our roads," she said of the landowners.

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