Petition to Put Heber City North Village Overlay Zone Decision on the Ballot Fails
The sponsors of the North Village Overlay Zone referendum effort were unable to collect the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November, meaning that the Heber City Council’s previous approval of the zone stands.
For the past year, the Heber City Council has received dozens of public comments and input from residents opposing the adoption of the overlay zone.
In March, the Heber City Council approved the North Village Overlay Zone (NVOZ), which sets the stage for annexing the property for development along U.S. 40 near River Road and State Route 32, north of town.
After the vote, a group of residents started the petition hoping to overturn the council’s split approval and put the decision in the hands of Heber voters.
The referendum sponsors had 45 days to collect nearly 2,500 signatures in order to put the question to voters. Wasatch County Clerk Joey Granger confirmed that 1,412 valid signatures were received -- more than a thousand votes short.
Trudy Simmons, who started the Friends of Heber Facebook page, worked with fellow residents to gather the signatures. She said COVID-19 considerations, the requirement for signatures to be from Heber City residents and the state's restrictions for getting a citizens’ referendum on the ballot make it very difficult to achieve.
“These are people who are forward-thinking, who have the vision about how they want the future of Heber to look, and the difficulties that the state makes for getting these citizens’ referendum,” she said. “They are making it harder every year. There's a lot of loopholes. So, we were working against some pretty strong odds. But I'm just so impressed that ... people who signed are very dedicated to this whole idea.”
Activist Tracy Taylor, who has sponsored other voter referendums in Wasatch County, says the state legislature has made it so increasingly difficult for citizens to petition their government that “they have basically shut us up.”
All land use referendum, she says, requires the signature of 29% of registered voters. It used to be 20%. In addition, the definition of “active voter” has changed. While lawmakers have said they are cleaning up the petition laws, Taylor says it doesn’t matter because the public can’t even get past the signature requirement.
Other changes require that all signatures collected must be submitted to the county clerk for review on a weekly basis. If the report comes in late all of the signatures submitted are declared void. She says those fighting a petition are able to get the names and address of those who have signed a petition and then bring them a form to get their signatures removed from the petition.