Bluff Town Council denies request to disconnect 9,500 acres

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the Bluff Town Council unanimously voted to deny a petition to disconnect 9,500 acres from the Town of Bluff boundaries at a special town council meeting on September 26.
The Town of Bluff received a petition to disconnect 9,514 acres from the town, located to the northwest of the developed areas of Bluff and mostly on the Bluff Bench.
Members of the Bluff Town Council held a public hearing on August 15 for the petition to disconnect and had 45 days from that hearing to make a decision. 
A Bluff Town staff report notes that the 9,514 acres make up 40 percent of Bluff’s total incorporated boundaries. The petition was filed by a private land owner, with support by Utah School and Institutional Trustlands Adminstration (SITLA).
Of the 9,500 acres, 640 are made up of privately-owned property, with 7,370 acres managed by the SITLA, 1,338 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and 166 acres belonging to St. Christopher’s Mission.
Members of the Bluff Town Council each voiced some of their reasoning to deny as part of the brief 15-minute special town council meeting.
Council member Jim Sayers noted the public support of denial at the public hearing, and in written comments, as part of his reasoning.
“I think primary among them for me is protecting the water.  That’s our foremost task and the fact that we don’t know anything about why this petition has been submitted doesn’t give me any confidence,” said Sayers.”
Council member Brant Murray added his concern about justice for the town, which followed all the requirements of incorporation.
“Our town has spoken about what they want this town to be and we have listened and we have planned and to have this group of folks come in and unceremoniously just say we’re going to divide your town and take 40 percent of it, is wrong.”
Council member Luanne Hook also emphasized the need to honor the town boundaries, noting that up the road Moab did not make their town big enough.
“They now have Spanish Valley that competes and has different ideas than what Moab has. So when you drop into the valley there, that’s all Moab in most people’s minds but they have this in-fighting because this south part is not in their boundaries.
“So I don’t want to be short-sighted like that. We have done our boundaries to make it a good town to where everybody is working together and we’re all part of the same place. So when that top bench is where we can develop and we can put housing and so on, so that needs to stay with (Bluff).”
Council member Linda Sosa expressed concern about SITLA’s reasoning to leave the town boundaries.
“This is something that does not just affect us, but it affects every town and city that has SITLA land. I agree with what’s already been said that this is our land. We need to be able to be in charge of it.”
Mayor Ann Leppanen added that at the time of incorporation, land owners were notified of the boundaries and had the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“They all knew. They had an opportunity to get out and they didn’t do it. We had those questions asked by the Lt. Governor’s office of our boundaries and I believe we were all on the committee left with the impression that if one of the public lands had said we don’t want to be a part of the town we’d have had a serious discussion with the Lt Governor’ office about our mapping.
“Our mapping was approved by vote to incorporate approximately by a vote of 3 to 1 to approve the map and incorporation.”
Leppanen also noted that the BLM on two occasions has stated their position of no action related to the petition as it doesn’t impact their ability to manage the lands. Additionally, St. Christopher’s mission has voiced opposition to being included in a petition to disconnect.
The private landowners are represented by Salt Lake City Attorney Bruce Baird. In his original petition and during the public hearing, Baird stated that a denial would result in legal action against the town by the petitioners.

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