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Utah's top court hears arguments over validity of S. Jordan petitions

The public process in South Jordan is a "sham," an open-space advocate told Utah Supreme Court justices Monday.

"If the citizens are coerced into silence, then there are no true public hearings. There are only public muzzlings. South Jordan city is the land of public muzzlings," argued Brent Foutz, co-chairman of Save Open Space, a grass-roots group formed in opposition to a business park on the Jordan River bottoms.That's why he has sought two initiative petitions asking voters to change the zoning along the Jordan River and expanding the City Council.

Although the Salt Lake County clerk certified the petitions, city officials rejected them as illegal.

Foutz, who is not an attorney and represented himself before the Supreme Court, appealed the city's rejection of his petitions and is asking the justices to let voters decide the issues.

The court took the issue under advisement.

Michael Hayes, an attorney representing the city, argued that zoning decisions aren't appropriate for the initiative process.

"The deal has been done here," Hayes said. "Parties can't keep it in such turmoil."

Concerning expanding the City Council, Hayes argued that Utah law limits cities the size of South Jordan to a five-member council and mayor. Currently the council and mayor are all elected at large. A nine-member council is not a permitted alternative because the petitioner would have to seek a change of government, which Foutz didn't do.

But Foutz contended that his initiative petitions are legal. He also said he was being "blackmailed" into withdrawing his ballot initiatives by developers Mike Hutchings and Gerald Anderson. He added he's being sued by the developers.

Justice I. Daniel Stewart, said he was deeply concerned about the lawsuit against Foutz.

"He has every right in the world to be here," Stewart told attorneys representing the developers.

Miles Holman, the attorney representing the developers, agreed.

He said the lawsuit, pending in 3rd District Court, is about allegedly interfering with Anderson's business dealings.