Court: Wal-Mart Issue in Sandy Must Go to Voters

Court: Wal-Mart Issue in Sandy Must Go to Voters

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John Daley ReportingCynthia Long, Save Our Communities: "A small group of citizens, and really the group has grown quite large, can make a difference."

A major victory today for some citizens in Sandy. The Utah Supreme Court has issued a ruling that puts the controversial issue of a Wal-Mart store there on the ballot. The state's high court, issued the key decision in a showdown over development on the last large parcel of undeveloped space in Sandy. That will halt construction of a new Wal-Mart there until voters weigh in. It's a significant setback for developers and city officials.

Court: Wal-Mart Issue in Sandy Must Go to Voters

This has indeed been a high-stakes battle, with city leaders giving developers the approval to forge ahead on this big project, despite a large and outspoken opposition. Now the court has spoken and it's a resounding victory for citizens' rights.

In a last-ditch effort opponents of a giant new Wal-Mart development began gathering thousands of signatures to challenge Sandy city's approval of a zoning change which ok’d the project. When told they didn't gather enough, they wondered: Can you fight City Hall?

Cynthia Long, Save Our Communities: "One of the citizens said to me today, ‘I guess you can.' And I said, ‘Well you can if it's for the right reasons."

In April the group Save Our Communities took their case all the way to the Utah Supreme Court and today they won a stunning victory. The court ruled this zoning issue is subject to a referendum; the group got enough signatures, and it ordered Sandy to put the issue on the ballot, meaning voters will decide if the old gravel pit can become home to big-box retailers Wal-Mart and Lowes.

Cynthia Long: "If something is important to you in your community, then stand up for what you think is right."

The justices wrote "...the exercise of the people's referendum right is of such importance that it properly overrides 'individual economic interests'...that right, so fundamental to our conception of government, should not and cannot be so easily thwarted."

The city's spokesman today says Sandy is studying when the vote should take place.

Ryan Mecham, Sandy City Spokesman: "We'll move forward with the election like the court has asked us to do and we'll spend some time trying to work out the details."

After the final vote approving the project last fall, the Mayor said the city needed the tax revenue.

Tom Dolan, Mayor of Sandy, November 2004: “I think it’s the right decision for the long-term.”

Today we were told the mayor was unavailable.

Ryan Mecham, Sandy City Spokesman: “No, the mayor's not in.”
Question: “You told me before he was in.”
Answer: “He was then, he's not now.”
Question: “We'd requested an interview with the mayor today, being it's such a big issue and he's the number one elected official in the city. Why no interview with the mayor today?
Answer: “Our apologies. He's had meetings this afternoon."

We tried to reach representatives of the Boyer Company today, but apparently everyone had departed for the long holiday weekend. It's not clear when this will go the ballot, but if it's November, there'll be a lot for Sandy voters to chew on. Both Mayor Tom Dolan and a pair of city council members who voted in favor of the zoning change are up for reelection.

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