Sunday, February 10, 2008

Should the Utah State Legislature govern the affairs of counties and muncipalities?

Rolly: State legislators meddle in Mapleton's affairs to help out a developer buddy
Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County officials have long complained about legislative mandates and impositions - often engineered by lawmakers from the more conservative Utah County - that hurt their ability to manage their own affairs.

Now, some Utah County residents are feeling the pinch of legislators sticking their noses in local affairs in order to help out a buddy - and generous Republican Party contributor - against the wishes of most of the people in the community.

This is a story of a land dispute between one man who bought 120 acres on the mountainside above Mapleton, just south of Provo, and the city's officials and most of its residents who oppose his plan to build homes on that land. The plot is seasoned by the fact that, before the property was purchased, the city for years had in place a restrictive zoning ordinance called a Critical Environmental Zone, requiring higher engineering standards and less density of buildings for developments within that zone. But when the city claimed that the landowner began excavating the area without going through proper channels, and the battle morphed into competing lawsuits, the Legislature got involved.

The landowner is Wendell Gibby, a gifted radiologist who developed "imaging technology" that can scan the human body and detect diseases. Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, credits Gibby with saving his life. Gibby had made presentations before the Legislature against what he called the monopoly of Intermountain Health Care and invited lawmakers to visit his medical facility. When Dmitrich came, Gibby gave him a free body scan and found early signs of cancer. Dmitrich was able to get preventive treatment.

Complimentary scans for other legislators are among the favors Gibby has performed to ingratiate himself with lawmakers, along with generous political contributions. So when the city of Mapleton continued to block his residential development in the foothills, town officials began hearing from lawmakers.

Last year, Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, filed bills that would prevent a city from seeking eminent domain for horse trails and for emergency access in areas like the one owned by Gibby. Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, filed a bill that would force cities to do costly engineering studies and other technical requirements in order to preserve their Critical Environmental Zone. If the city couldn't meet the standards imposed by the bill, the CE1 zone would revert to a zone designation equal to the highest-density zone in the city, meaning the foothill land would be changed from 3-acre lots to one-third of an acre lots.

Those bills frightened the Utah League of Cities and Towns, which pressured Mapleton to reach a settlement with Gibby. So town officials buckled and changed the zoning ordinance so Gibby could build a number of homes on his property and even require the city to supply utility services. The standard practice is for developers to install their own utility infrastructure.
The cozy relationship between Gibby and the legislators messing with Mapleton's affairs was revealed when Morley accidentally sent a reply to an e-mail from Gibby to members of the Mapleton City Council.

"Wendell, I made a deal with your permission and I will not break that deal unless they do," Morley's e-mail said. "If they do, I will hammer them, if not this year, next, but I will hammer them and there will be no excuse."

Mapleton residents, unhappy with the deal the city made with Gibby, got 1,100 signatures on a petition for a referendum to overturn the Gibby-friendly ordinance.

No problem for lawmakers, though. Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, has filed a bill to "protect personal property rights" from citizen referendums.


Nina Regina said...

Due to Rep. Mike Morley's involvement in property rights issues, Wendell contacted him a couple of years ago about a concern he had with zoning of property he owns. After thoroughly researching the zoning issues involved, it became evident that the environmentally sensitive zoning was inappropriately applied to his property. Upon visiting with city leaders and being told they had purposely zoned his property to prohibit development and protect views, it was evident this was a violation of personal property rights. As Rep. Morley worked further on this issue, he became aware this was not an isolated instance. This issue was discussed during the interim last year with active involvement from League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Property Rights Coalition. He received good, thoughtful input which helped them craft legislation that focused the zoning of environmentally sensitive areas on science and fact rather than emotion. The result of these meetings was HB177. Mr. Gibby did not attend any meetings and was not consulted about the language of the bill. After the bill had been drafted, Mr. Gibby contacted Mike Morley and asked that he make some modifications. He reviewed Mr. Gibby's suggestions, but indicated he had worked in good faith with the League and the UPRC and that he would hold firm on their findings. He suggested that Mr. Gibby find another sponsor to deal with his specific issues. Rep. Mike Morley no professional relationship with Wendell Gibby. He has never donated to the campaign. Rep. Morley has nothing to gain from his work with Wendell Gibby. To the contrary, he has had considerable criticism of his efforts in that regard.

Authentic Luxury said...

I personally am for Mike Morley and believe that the criticism he has endured is rediculous. Go to and get the correct facts on him before making your decision.

Anonymous said...

Mike Morley is honestly great and no one should be allowed to ask him about the quality of the products his company produces or about why his relative saved his money at the expense of others. How rude! These comments two months after this article was posted are of course by disinterested citizens fighting for the common good and completely unrelated to each other.

-An unpaid not-a-family-friend

Anonymous said...

Mike Morley was asked by the League of Cities and Towns to act as an intermediary between Mapleton City and Wendell Gibby. Please read his side of the story before judging him.

john said...

I too am for Mike Morley and agree with what he represents and stands for. I am a very interested citizen and am posting my comment 2months after this article was written just like you are. We all the negative attention he is getting we need to stand united.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments. I will be putting these comments front and center in a few days.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Mr. Morley has received alot of negative attention in the media. Honestly, it doesn't matter what he does they are going to say that he has a hidden agenda. I support him and will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

I know Mike Morley personally and professionally. He is a great man with excellent values and the best candiate.

Anonymous said...

Mike Morley is a snake in the grass ideologue who continues to represent special interest over the people who elected him.

Get a clue Utah, this guy is dirty, and he also was one of those trying to dismantle our public education system.

Funny how the last few comments on this post have come over the last few days. Mike found it and then pretends to be a bunch of different people.

What an ego!

Anonymous said...

I have known Dr. Gibby for years and his expertise at self-promotion is far greater that his expertise as a Radiologist. To hear him talk he has “invented “many great and wonderful things, which is pretty far from the truth. Mostly he doesn’t credit the people who have invented or developed things. He also isn’t were good at paying his bills when people or companies and hired to work for him. Which is how I know him, as a person who won’t pay his bills for work done in his behalf.