Bluff decision distills to control, decision making

Brant Murray
Co-Chair, Committee to Incorporate Bluff
Over the last two years, many Bluff community members have been involved with discussions about the possibility of incorporating as an official town.
There are many reasons incorporation is appealing to Bluff residents, but the primary reason boils down to local control and decision making. In Utah, we often hear the aphorism “the government closest to the people governs best.”
While the residents of Bluff continue to be very grateful for everything San Juan County government does for our community, we also know the County is a big place, with many important constituencies.
It’s simply impractical for County government to devote the kind of time and energy to Bluff issues that the residents of Bluff would like to see. Becoming a town would create a formal, democratic process for Bluff to make good decisions about its future and have more control over its own destiny.
Change is the one certainty in our future, and Bluff residents understand we will need to work hard to “keep Bluff, Bluff.”
Simply burying our heads in the sand and allowing others to make decisions for us won’t maintain our community’s feel and values.
However, if we can come together to find practical solutions to our problems, we can have a greater say in issues that are sure to face out community, like growth, development, and conserving natural resources (especially our precious water supply).
A smart, locally driven planning and zoning ordinance, for example could allow flexibility for residents but also help prevent the kind of development that would forever change Bluff’s character.
We also hope incorporation will help our town have a greater say in decisions that affect us.
Our community should be formally consulted on decisions like where to build a new elementary school, whether or not oil and gas drilling is appropriate in our watershed, and where trash facilities should be located.
We know incorporation won’t give us ultimate decision making on every issue, but it can and should at least be a conduit for our community to be consulted on decisions that affect us.
Incorporation can also be a conduit for greater transparency in how our tax dollars are spent. Currently, reasonably large sums of property tax, sales tax, and Transient Room Tax are generated in our community.
However, Bluff has virtually no say in how those funds are spent and almost no accounting of how funds come back to our community.
We know there is no free lunch, and if we want more services, we’ll have to pony up and pay for them. But at least we’ll know more clearly how our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.
We will also have access to revenue streams that are currently unavailable to us to provide services or reduce our property tax burden.
For example, a Resort Community tax on tourists could provide between $70,000 and $80,000 to our town each year, without any significant impact on local businesses or residents.
Many small towns, like Springdale, Torrey, and Boulder have already benefited from such a tax stream that is paid primarily by tourists.
We’d also be eligible for grants, such as USDA rural development funds, that could help us meet infrastructure needs.
These are a few of the reasons we, as sponsors of the incorporation effort, are encouraging Bluff residents to vote for incorporation.
We know this process will not be easy. It will require diplomacy, respectful dialogue, and improved relations with San Juan County. For some, it may be simpler to be able to blame our problems on others rather than pull together to find solutions.
However, we believe a well governed, organized, and productive Bluff – aided by incorporation – will be good for both our own community and the larger County as a whole.

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