A map submitted by Thistle resident Shirrell R. Young of a portion of Utah County that he is proposing to annex into Sanpete County does not define the area adequately, and therefore the issue should not be placed before voters, the state attorney general's office said in an opinion released Wednesday.
"If a description of boundaries is indefinite and uncertain it is invalid and ineffective," the opinion says. "Hence, the matter should not be put on the ballot until the territory that is to be annexed is sufficiently described to inform the voters of what they are voting for or against."Young, who lives in a mobile home next to the old Thistle schoolhouse, filed a petition and a map with Utah and Sanpete counties in May requesting that about 110 square miles of land near Thistle be annexed into Sanpete County. The petition was signed only by Young.
According to Utah law, when a majority of those who voted in the previous election from a certain area petition to annex to another county, the issue must be placed before voters in both counties. Young is the only resident from the proposed area who voted in the 1991 election.
The state's opinion says Young does not have to own the property he's seeking to annex and that he apparently meets the qualification of being the majority of voters in the area.
However, the opinion says a written legal description is necessary to satisfy the definiteness and certainty used in amending statutory boundaries. The markings used by Young on his map appear to be indefinite and "could be several hundred or even thousands of feet wide." Describing the area with metes and bounds is not necessary, but the area should be described so a surveyor can ascertain boundary lines.
"It is the responsibility of the petitioners to adequately describe the territory that they want transferred to the annexing county," the opinion says.
Because of the opinion, officials in both counties will not place Young's request on the ballot.
"We don't think the issue had a chance of passing anyway, but we wanted to save the costs of placing it on the ballot," Utah County Commissioner Malcolm Beck said.
Young said Wednesday his petition is valid and the counties are obligated to place it on the ballot. He said the state has no business giving an opinion on a county issue.
"They've started a war, and I'm prepared to fight it," he said.
Young wants to leave Utah County because he is unhappy with county planning personnel and county zoning ordinances. Utah courts have ruled that annexing from one city to another to avoid a zoning ordinance is unreasonable. However, the issue of leaving a county for similar reasons has never been tested before in court.
Because the statute says a petition to annex to another county can only be filed before June 1 on the year of a general election, Young will have to wait until Jan. 1, 1994, to file another petition. However, Utah County officials plan to push for legislation requiring a petition for annexation to be signed by a majority of property owners rather than a majority of voters. Also, officials want petition promoters to pay the expenses of putting petitions on the ballot.