SALT LAKE CITY -- Layton organizers who blocked a village concept development on the city's west side through two land referendums claim a bill being run in the Legislature is payback from city officials and would thwart future attempts from anyone to take on City Hall throughout the Beehive State.
The legislation in question, SB 66, passed the Senate last week and is due for discussion in the House. It establishes new guidelines for referendums and shortens the time frame in which people can legally challenge a local government's decision.
The measure also includes a required percentage of signatures to be met in order to get on the ballot.
Brian Pead, one of the major organizers of Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton, said the bill effectively denies the right of citizen redress and claims the bill is unconstitutional. He also said the legislation has the fingerprints of Layton City Attorney Gary Crane all over it.
Crane could not be reached for comment.
"Gary has been preaching the gospel of 'don't let the citizens have a say' for months."
Pead said Crane and other Layton city officials are still angry because land referendums initiated against the proposed West Layton Village project were successful in November.
"We fought them and beat them, and they say, 'Don't fight City Hall,' " Pead said.
Bill sponsor Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said he is running the legislation on behalf of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. The bill drew support from the conservative Eagle Forum and from the Utah Taxpayers Association.
Lincoln Sturtz, a lobbyist for the ULCT, denies the bill is being run in reaction to the Layton issue alone and said Crane did not draft the legislation.
Jay Ripley, another of the organizers of CRGWL, said SB 66 would make it impossible for citizens to ever have a referendum again, given the requirements, including tougher signature requirements.
He said no other state in the U.S. has such restrictive laws against citizen referendum.
Gayle Ruzicka, of the Eagle Forum, said it should be hard in a republic to get things on the ballot.
Pead suggested city officials haven't quite gotten over the fact they were beaten at the polls on a key city issue.
"They talk like what we did is waltz in and beat them, like we are uninformed ignoramuses. It took so much work and effort and nearly killed us. It taxes every resource we had financially.
"Then we get treated like the bad guys."