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Draper Council OKs ordinance for free-speech zones in city

SHARE Draper Council OKs ordinance for free-speech zones in city

DRAPER — The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that allows for the creation of free-speech zones within the city.

The ordinance was spurred by preparation for the opening of an LDS temple in the South Mountain neighborhood. However, all references to the temple were deleted from staff reports prior to Tuesday's meeting. None of the council members mentioned religion while the free-speech ordinance was being discussed.

The council approved the ordinance as written but made a minor change in wording to clarify that punishment for violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor only if a protest escalated to a point of disorder. Otherwise, violators will be cited with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $750.

No Draper residents spoke in a public hearing on the free-speech zones. Councilman Bill Colbert said that the city had no conspiratorial aims in enacting the new rule.

"Free speech is sometimes very uncomfortable, and sometimes it's disturbing, but that's what makes us a great nation," Colbert said. "We need to allow that to occur."

Other council members called the ordinance good planning.

"I think this is a reasonable step," said Councilman Jeff Stenquist. He wants big events in the city to go smoothly, he said, but he also wants protesters to be allowed to exercise their rights.

The ordinance allows the city manager to decide when the zones are warranted and requires him to notify the public about the protest locations 24 hours ahead of time. However, Draper city manager Layne Long told the council on Tuesday that he planned to defer to the police chief if the issue ever comes up.

There are clear legal criteria for designating the location and size of "free-speech zones," Long added, assuring the council that protesters would have reasonable opportunity to address the public.

Draper is the most recent among several Utah cities to allow "free-speech zones." Ordinances in Salt Lake City, Taylorsville and Summit County were created in preparation for the 2002 Olympic Games. The special protest zones have also been set up for visits by President George W. Bush and for major events organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

E-MAIL: rpalmer@desnews.com