landowners sue city over rezone
By Di Lewis
May 1, 2006 | SMITHFIELD --
The lives of long-time residents and potential
residents will be affected by the outcome of litigation
against the city, concerning potential procedural
problems arising during a rezone of agricultural
land into a 90-plot subdivision.
Smithfield resident Jeff Gittins has filed lawsuits
with the Smithfield Appeals Authority and the
1st District Court, claiming the City Council
followed improper procedure when they rezoned
land at approximately 200 North 600 West from
agricultural to residential on Jan. 25, and that
the problem was exacerbated by confusion that
followed the rezone at the council meeting Feb.
In his arguments to the Board of Adjustments
on Thursday, Gittins said, "After the meeting
in January, the outcome was not what I wanted
but I respected the decision of the City Council.
Then the decision was changed by the council.
If the city expects the public to adhere to their
laws, then they must adhere to their own laws."
A Smithfield map shows the
rezoned area; agriculture is in green.
Gittins said there were three mistakes the city made.
First, the paperwork for the ordinance was not ready
to sign on the night of January 25; second, on January
26 when there was confusion among council members about
where exactly the boundary was, the city did not turn
it over to the Board of Adjustments to determine; and
third, at the Feb. 8 meeting, the council created a
new rezone without holding a public hearing or providing
sufficient notification about the meeting.
The rezone has been a controversial issue for several
months because of the potential effects of the outcome.
Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation would like
to have half of the plots on the land to create low-income
housing for new residents, but many people believe that
complaints from the new residents will drive nearby
farmers who have lived in Smithfield for many years
off their land.
Lamont Poulsen, resident of 30 years, has property
bordering the new subdivision, and said that even though
NNHC says the people moving in will be aware that they
will be living near cattle, a dairy and other agricultural
land and will sign a non-complaint agreement, "history
shows that eventually the farmer will be driven out.
"My great-granddad owned this property. The city says
the want to preserve the agricultural feel of the area,
but this is the only agricultural land left, and once
they start making it residential, they won't stop,"
Poulsen said. "It'll take a while, but cattle and people
don't mix, and the complaints will drive us off our
Poulsen and Gittins own much of the land surrounding
the new subdivision and Poulsen said he feels like the
city council is not protecting the rights of residents
but catering to people that don't yet live in Smithfield.
"Why do we have a city council if they don't listen
to the people that elected them?" Poulsen asked.
Councilwoman Kris Monson, who voted to oppose the
rezone, said she thinks Smithfield residents are not
being listened to. She said the Planning and Zoning
Board recommended not passing the rezone and that she
agrees with them.
The Board of Adjustments tabled the hearing on Gittins's
lawsuit until the 1st District Court makes a ruling.
Gittin's lawyer, Chris Daines, said the case will probably
be heard within the next two months.
Even when resolution to the rezone occurs, the plans
of the NNHC, the future of bordering farmers and the
ultimate effect on Smithfield will not be easy answers