SANDY — A controversial rezone has been withdrawn and a Sandy city planning commissioner has resigned after residents opposed to the proposal decried an alleged conflict of interest over his connection to developers.
The rezone, which has consumed the public comment period on a number of City Council meetings, would have split 4.5 acres of horse-friendly property into quarter-acre lots without animal rights.
“Really, it was a difficult decision” Cory Shupe said Wednesday, a day after his resignation was announced.
Speaking about his resignation, Shupe said, “I just felt like in the end it was the right thing for the city, if there’s controversy with me and the citizens are upset.”
Shupe, who owns an urban planning design firm, presented an application for the rezone to the planning commission on Aug. 1, after recusing himself from a vote due to his contract with developers of the property.
Mayor Kurt Bradburn announced Shupe’s resignation during a Sandy City Council meeting on Tuesday, expressing appreciation for Shupe’s service in the role. On Wednesday, public notice was given that Geraldine Shaw, the property owner, withdrew her application for the rezone.
Shaw did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Referencing changes to the planning commission bylaws — announced last week in response to residents’ concerns over the conflict — Bradburn added during the meeting that “we are continuing to work through the conflict of interest disclosure reformatting and redoing the process.”
When the controversy escalated last week, Deputy Mayor Evelyn Everton explained the proposed bylaw changes would apply more stringent disclosure requirements when a conflict of interest exists and would prohibit a planning commissioner from speaking on an agenda item for which they have a conflict of interest.
Had these changes been instated, Shupe would not have been allowed to present an application on behalf of the developer. Everton noted that Shupe never properly disclosed the conflict as required by state and Sandy city code due to an oversight by planning commission staff; an investigation is being conducted.
Shupe said he hoped that by resigning he could avoid any “future conflict” that might occur as a result of his job as an urban planner and landscape architect for Blue Line Designs.
“I understand why the mayor was interested in having professionals on the planning commission,” he said. As professional planners, “we deal with this on a on a daily basis and so we understand a lot of what’s being requested (from the planning commission),” he added.
“I obviously will miss my association with people” on the commission, he said, but “for the success of Sandy city and the project, I have just decided to step away.”
Bradburn announced during Tuesday’s meeting that he will allow public comment on any new hire appointed by his office to replace Shupe.
Noting that this is “something that hasn’t traditionally been done,” he said, “I really want to get as much public input and participation in the process as possible.”