Eden area incorporation proponents jump first hurdle, process moves forward
EDEN — The contingent pushing for a vote on turning the Eden area into a new city received enough support on petitions to push the process to the next phase — completion of a study to determine if the idea is financially viable.
“We’re thrilled because now we have the state of Utah doing a feasibility study,” said Mark Ferrin, one of the sponsors of the incorporation effort, operating as an entity called Ogden Valley Incorporation.
Bolstering local control in the Ogden Valley — home to an active, vocal contingent that regularly sounds off on issues of concern — has been one of the key goals of those pushing the effort. Weber County commissioners, elected to at-large seats by voters throughout the county, currently govern all of the Ogden Valley area with the exception of Huntsville, an incorporated town.
The process, though, is far from complete, and there’s no guarantee the drive will ultimately end in creation of a new incorporated locale, Weber County’s 16th. At any rate, Nick Dahlkamp, another sponsor, said successfully completing the initial petition drive — certified by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office last Thursday — is a key milestone.
Within about three months, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will hire a consultant to carry out the feasibility study, the office said in a statement Monday. It will look into the taxing authority the proposed city could expect based on the estimated population, around 4,200, and whether the funding would be sufficient to cover the cost of services a city typically provides, like police protection, planning and more.
“Once the feasibility study is underway, it will be completed within 120 days,” the Lieutenant Governor’s Office said in a statement, which means the report should be ready by sometime in December.
Later, if the study shows that creating the city is financially viable, the proponents would need to carry out a second petition drive to put an actual ballot question on the notion of creating a new locale to voters. That question, if the process gets that far, would appear on the November 2024 general election ballot, when voters would make the final call.
The proposed city encompasses much of the floor of the Ogden Valley, including the Eden and Liberty areas, the Nordic Valley ski resort and the Wolf Creek development. It also takes in Pineview Reservoir and the scattered housing developments east of Huntsville that parallel the state Route 39 corridor.
It does not include Huntsville, already incorporated, or the Powder Mountain and Snowbasin ski resorts.
To get this far, the incorporation proponents needed to get signatures on petitions from landowners whose holdings cumulatively represent 7% of the assessed valuation of the area in the proposed city boundaries. They also needed to get signatures from owners whose holdings cumulatively represent 10% of the landmass of the proposed city.
Their petitions were initially turned back after Weber County officials argued that the applicable landmass to meet the 7% and 10% thresholds included government-owned land, not just private land. County representatives also pointed out that petitioners didn’t include supporting paperwork in their initial submissions attesting to the land ownership of the petition signatories.
Dahlkamp said the landmass argument was rebuffed by state officials after incorporation proponents pointed to state statute on the matter that “very, very clearly” shows that only privately owned land is to be used in calculating the thresholds. However, the petitioners had to get the supporting paperwork, drawing from county and state records.
The next petition drive — to get the incorporation question on the ballot — would require signatures from 10% of registered voters in the proposed city’s boundaries, according to Ferrin.
Dahlkamp said the incorporation drive is about having local leadership govern the area. County Commissioner Gage Froerer is from the Ogden Valley, but Commissioner Jim Harvey is from the Uintah area and Commissioner Sharon Bolos is from West Haven.
“I think essentially what we’re looking for is local control,” Dahlkamp said.
When county commissioners make a decision, Dahlkamp said, they’ll weigh the needs of the entire county, which means the Ogden Valley may sometimes “lose out.” On the flip side, skeptics and others have expressed concern that creating a city would necessitate a boost in taxes, a question that should be addressed by the feasibility study.
Incorporation proponents would later need to determine what sort of municipal government form to implement, if the process goes that far.