February 20, 2008
After a century and a half of peacefully abiding by rules set by the Summit County Commission, some Hoytsville residents are talking about taking control of their own destiny.
In January, a committee of landowners initiated a petition drive to change their town from an unincorporated ward of the county into an incorporated municipal entity. As such, Hoytsville citizens would be able to write their own planning code, which proponents of the measure seem particularly eager to do.
Part of the impetus for incorporating, members of the committee say, is that county zoning rules are too restrictive and landowners want to be able to split up their ranches among their children. In fact, it was a North Summit resident who serves in the Utah House of Representatives, who may have indirectly helped pave the way for Hoytsville to become a municipality. Mel Brown’s House Bill 466, approved in 2007, amended the state’s rules of incorporation so that the owners of Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon could become an independent municipality.
Coincidentally, HB 466 which has since come under criticism on Capitol Hill, also made it easier for Hoytsville to secede from the county planning department.
If Hoytsville residents are ready to step forward to run their own show, they should be given that opportunity. At last count, there were about 570 registered voters in the proposed municipality – enough to field a good town council and planning commission.
At the same time, we would caution residents to thoroughly research the cost and responsibilities of running their own town hall. If subdividing is the ultimate goal, residents could soon find themselves hiring professional planners, building a sewage-treatment plant, regulating other utilities and either creating a law-enforcement department or contracting with the county to maintain law and order. And they will have to find additional tax revenues to support those services.
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There is a reason that Summit County’s development code attempts to restrict development in unincorporated areas. Property taxes on residential development do not cover the services typically required by neighborhoods so cities and towns often lean heavily on commercial development to help support other municipal amenities.
Therefore, if Hoytsville landowners want to incorporate so they can subdivide their ranches, they will also have to seek out some forms of commercial development to balance their economy. That may or may not appeal to the majority of the residents in the area.
It is a tall order, but one that Hoytsville residents, like their counterparts in the independent small East Side towns of Oakley, Kamas, Francis and Henefer, have proudly handled for decades.