Wellington's development of a state-mandated annexation policy stirred up a storm of protest from county residents who packed a public hearing last Wednesday at a city planning and zoning meeting.
A notice printed in the Sun Advocate announcing the hearing set in motion the idea that several areas in the unincorporated county were slated to be annexed into Wellington city limits.
More than 40 residents from unincorporated areas who packed the council chambers objected to that happening.
Ken Powell, Wellington's city recorder, tried to clarify that the officials were not and could not initiate any annexations. The city was simply trying to establish a policy in the event any property owners wanted to be annexed into Wellington in the future.
"This is not an annexation," said Powell. "It takes a property owner to petition for annexation and this process is necessary for someone to do so."
Before speaking, the city recorder handed out copies of the Utah Municipal Code governing the process for bringing land under a city's jurisdiction.
The four-page handout clearly describes each aspect of the process from the initiation of a petition by the landowner to what policies cities are required to have in place.
Powell then held up a copy of the Wellington City Annexation Policy Plan and tried to explain the steps that had already been taken.
The city recorder said a plan accompanied by a letter was sent out to Carbon commissioners, the county transportation and recreation special servicedistrict, Price River Water Improvement District, the school district and the Carbon Water Conservancy announcing the first public meeting on the document.
Powell added, however, that no one from any of the agencies responded or came to the April 2 meeting.
Indicative of the prevailing communication issues, a resident called out and asked if the public could come to that meeting, to which a somewhat dismayed Powell answered that it was already passed.
Despite Powell's efforts to clarify the situation it seemed that the only word people were hearing was annexation and the second part "plan" was lost in the sea of emotions.
"I would like to submit a paper from my neighbors against annexation," Harold Pruitt said when stepped up to the podium.
More residents called out questions that led with "when you annex..."
Fielding the questions, Powell would respond: "We can't annex anybody."
As a few of the comments kept coming, the Wellington city recorder finally said, "I don't want to be rude, But as you are, the city doesn't want you."
Responding to Powell's comments, several residents in the audience called back: "That's good because we don't want you, either."
But Powell's persistence seemed to finally pay off during the second half of the hearing. The comments started to focus on details of the plan and how to stop from being included in someone else's annexation petition.
Heavily taken to task was the borders of the proposed annexation areas, residents wanted to know why the lines went so far out in certain sections.
Powell explained that there was desire from Wellington city residents to establish squared off city lines and that the map of the areas to be included in the plan were drawn to create that square.
The city recorder also said the requirements for a plan call for including at least a half of a mile of contiguous pieces of land.
Set as a minimum some of the sections went further than half of a mile.
The north area, which runs up to the sod farm and to the Houskeeper property, is larger because of potential storm water drain off.
Residents particularly wanted to know what it would take for an annexation to happen and if they have any option if a property owner near them makes a bid for being brought into the city.
Three of the five criteria set in the state's annexation process are likely of the most concern to residents. The criteria are:
Annexation is initiated by petition of property owner or owners
A petition must include signatures from a majority of the affected property owners
The property of the owners who sign the petition must represent property that is one-third of the valuation of all the private property in the proposed area.
Another major concern of residents was how they would know if a petition had been submitted.
"You will be notified by the county," said Powell. The city recorder stressed that the county was responsible, not Wellington.
The Utah code 10-2-403 further explain that anyone intending to file a petition shall mail a notice to "each owner of real property located within the area proposed to be annexed and each owner of real property located within 300 feet of the area proposed to be annexed."
Wellington's plan is just beginning to move through the system.
A second public hearing before the planning and zoning commission is scheduled June 4.
At that time, the planning and zoning commission can decide if the plan is ready to be sent on to the city council.
Comments from local residents who attended the May 7 hearing were recorded and the commissioners assured them that they would be taken into consideration, in particular but not limited to the concerns about the proposed boundaries.
The Wellington Planning and Zoning Commission meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the city hall.
For more information, local residents may call Powell at 637-5213.