Note: I'm assuming that the facts I've been able to find in local newspapers are accurate and are representing both sides of the issue. If you know any details that haven't been reported, please let me know.
I have friends in Springville and Mapleton, and some of them might have been involved in either or both of the recent property rights incidents there, so I hope I don't offend them. That's not my point. Rather, my point is to clarify the principles by which I think we should all abide.
Government Should Not Go Back on Its Word
Nearly a year ago, apparently, the Springville, Utah City Council approved ceding thirteen acres of land to the neighboring city of Spanish Fork so that developer Cody Roberts could develop one large tract of his land instead of having to work the details out with two different city councils. Recently, after Roberts had spent $220,000 in engineering costs for the combined 80-acre development, a representative of Springville contacted him and told him that he needed to appear at the next city council meeting, because his request had never been finalized. At the next city council meeting, his request of the previous year was denied by a vote of 4-1.
I'm sure there's more to the other side of the story, but as it stands, I can't imagine how a city would lead someone on for nearly a year and then pull the rug out from under them. Sure, Roberts can still develop the other 67 acres in Spanish Fork, but the main point here is that even government is expected to have integrity. The answer to my surprise appears to be that Springville governmental leaders have suddenly become afraid that granting de-annexation would have caused others to approach the council with similar requests, despite the fact that there haven't been any other such requests in at least the last two years.
The mayor and council members felt differently, saying a change in the southern boundary for Roberts might cause others to ask for a border adjustment.It shows a lack of integrity to go back on an agreement that has already been made, despite what reasons my now seem pertinent. The above statements by members of Springville city government make Springville's case worse.
"I don't see any reason why this should happen and, frankly, I get concerned about the domino effect," said Mayor Gene R. Mangum, in Tuesday's meeting. "One piece of property after another and pretty soon the Spanish Fork boundary is going to be right here on our front door. It's 13 acres of Springville's future that you're asking us to give to Spanish Fork."
If Springville wants to regain its integrity, their city council should apologize to Cody Roberts and finalize the agreement that they made last February.
Not Even a Mob Can Negate Rights to the Use of Property
Mapleton, Utah residents are up in arms because the City attempted to change a zoning designation so that a developer could build homes on his property. They filed a lawsuit
against Mapleton when the city was poised to rezone [Wendell] Gibby's land...from a critical environmental zone to a planned development on which Gibby could build 47 single-family residential units on his 118-acre property.I disagree. It's not the residents' rights who are about to be trampled. Utah, to include Mapleton, already has a plethora of land in "critical environmental zones"; it's called Federal Land. What several hundred residents of Mapleton wish to do is to trample on the rights of a property owner.
Lundberg and other Mapleton residents opposed the city's actions and circulated a petition that gathered 864 signatures requesting a referendum on the issue. City officials said the rezone was not referable. In response, Lundberg obtained a temporary restraining order, barring City Council from taking action on the rezone until the case was decided in court."In this case, the rights of the citizens have been abused and trampled on by Mapleton," he said.
If Dr. Gibby got the land through unlawful means, then he should be forced to give it back to its rightful owner. Considering that that does not seem to be the case, Dr. Gibby should be able to use his land as he sees fit. If I lived in Mapleton, I probably wouldn't want Dr. Gibby to take away my view and scar the mountainside either, but how would that be my choice?
Nearly 900 residents have signed a petition requesting a referendum on the subject. Referenda are allowed in a limited number of situations in Utah. I'm not sure, but it doesn't appear that this should be one of those situations. But that's not the main point. The main point is that several hundred Mapleton residents have it in their mind to dictate what someone else can do with his property.
I remember a fair number of examples in Utah over the years when people built homes in the area of a long-existing cattle farm and then complained to have the farm removed. Now, something new and even scarier is afoot--property rights ruled generally by petition. If such politics is allowed to take off, there is no logical end to the carnage.
When it comes to private property, there are few things worse than the determination of its use by mobocracy, as currently seems to be happening in Mapleton. On that subject, there's only one thing that I can think of that's worse. We've got too much of that already, as illustrated by recent events in Springville.