Davis County Commission Chairman Gayle Stevenson has come under sharp criticism for comments he made last week about the impact of Utah's township statute.
Stevenson called the law "a cockeyed nuisance" at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Davis Council of Governments, adding that it encourages an elitist attitude in township residents.One township, in the Mutton Hollow area between Kaysville and Layton, was formed in Davis County in September.
The COG meeting was the group's annual session with Davis lawmakers where city and county officials outline their positions on issues they expect will come up in the pending legislative session.
Dana Simonsen, chairman of the Mutton Hollow Improvement District, which supplies culinary water to the area, called Stevenson's comments "very troubling."
"As chairman of the County Commission, his apparent true colors are now vividly exposed, albeit after his re-election," Simonsen said.
Another township supporter, Dr. Robert Taylor, said Stevenson's comments were "very inappropriate, and we as a neighborhood find them insulting."
Taylor said the drive to create the township, the only one in Davis County, was motivated by residents' desire to preserve their open space and rural lifestyle, not to dictate how others will live.
He noted that 80 percent of the eligible voters in the township area cast ballots in the election and the township was approved by a 216-18 margin.
"The 216 who voted in favor are not trying to dictate how others will live.
"Rather, it is self-determination in preventing unwanted annexations to cities and preserving a rural atmosphere with minimal restriction on citizens of our community," Taylor said. "This, in our view, is not an elitist attitude."
Taylor and Simonsen also took issue with Stevenson's position that the township board should be appointed by the County Commission and subordinate to it instead of the current makeup, with three elected and four appointed members.
"This again indicates discomfort with lack of control, ignorance or narrow-mindedness of the township concept where local people have a stronger voice in their community rather than having seven clones of the county commissioner making zoning and planning decisions," Taylor said.
"What's wrong with a portion of your constituency being concerned and interested enough about property issues that they want to work out some of their own concerns, rather than blindly leave it all to the commission to figure out?" Simonsen asked. "I didn't know public input was discouraged."
Stevenson defended his statements at the COG meeting, which came only a few days after the annual Utah Association of Counties convention, saying he was passing along the UAC position on townships.
"I'm sorry they were offended," Stevenson said. "I was just reflecting the UAC position that the township statute is a flawed piece of legislation."
In addition to other clarifications and amendments to the township statute, the UAC position adopted at the convention calls for all township board members to be appointed by the county commission rather than elected.