Petition on Spanish Valley zoning plan progresses to signature phase

A group of San Juan County residents from Spanish Valley are initiating a petition process that could put a controversial action by the San Juan County Commission on the ballot.

A petition carrying seven signatures was presented to San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson in November.

On December 3, Commissioners determined that the petition was referable. The next step is gathering signatures from county residents. 

Matt Zunick, Renee Trout, John Jackson, Terry Lance, Nancy Campbell, Ryan Ellis, and Lloyd Wilson sponsored the petition.  They are all Spanish Valley residents.

If enough signatures are secured, the petition would put an ordinance passed by the Commission on the November 3, 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection.

On November 19, the county commission approved a series of ordinances that established a master plan for planning and zoning in Spanish Valley.

Commissioners rejected a series of changes recommended by the Planning Commission to a preliminary proposal that had been submitted in September by Landmark Design.

The approved plan split the zoning for a number of existing properties, meaning single properties that had been previously zoned commercial may now zoned with a portion commercial and a portion residential.  This raised the ire of many property owners in Spanish Valley.  

In addition to pursuing a petition process to put the issue on the ballot, property owners are also considering legal action to oppose the changes.

The sponsors will need to secure the signatures from several hundred county residents in order to put the issue on the ballot.

State law governing the petition process has been adjusted.  Now the signatures will need to be secured from areas across the county, rather than from a focused area. 

At the December 17 Commission meeting, Commissioners approved a map which split the county into four separate areas. 

Resident signatures on any petitions will need to reach a threshold in three of the four areas.

A similar voter-initiated process put a voter initiative on county government on the November, 2019 ballot. Voters rejected a proposal that would have considered a new form of county government.

The voting was close, with approximately 52 percent opposed to and 48 percent supporting the initiative. It was the only item on the countywide ballot.

The November election cost the county approximately $12,000, according to Nielson.  That includes the cost of printing and distributing ballots, advertising, opening polling places, and hiring interpreters.  

This initiative would place the issue on the 2020 general election ballot.  The 2020 election will include other countywide races and will not be a single issue election.

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