Bluff town set for public hearing for 9,500 acre disconnect
by David Boyle
Members of the Bluff Town Council set a public hearing for August 15 regarding a petition to disconnect 9,500 acres from the Town of Bluff at their latest meeting.
While much of the proposed 9,500 acre disconnect is made up of public lands, the request is a continuation of disagreement between the Town of Bluff and private property owners outside the developed portion of the town who seek to withdraw from the incorporated boundaries.
In two previous public hearings, community members opposed to the withdrawal of private lands from the town boundaries expressed concern about eventual uncontrolled development surrounding the small town.
Meanwhile, a representative of two private property owners argued that there is no need to be in the municipal boundaries as there is no development on the land and no services provided by the town that can’t be provided by the county.
In 2018, shortly after the Town of Bluff was incorporated, the town received a petition to disconnect nearly 400 acres of private land located at the edge of the boundaries of the town along Comb Ridge.
The request came through representation by Salt Lake City attorney Bruce Baird.
The letter laid out the reasoning for the request and included verbiage warning the town that failure to comply with the request could result in costly litigation.
While over a dozen residents came out for a public hearing on the matter, the disconnect was approved by the council. The approved ordinance noted the council opposition to the decision.
In July of 2022, the Town of Bluff received a letter from Baird representing Judy Lyman, owner of an undeveloped 640-acre parcel of land on the Bluff Bench located in the northwest portion of the town boundaries.
The letter argued that the property does not receive municipal services from the Town of Bluff and noted that the proposed disconnection would not impact the feasibility of the town, noting minuscule property taxes ($124 in 2022, with much of that levied by the school district and county).
The letter argues it would not create an island, noting the property is surrounded by School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) property.
In December 2022, a public hearing was held for the disconnect with members of the public and representatives of the land owner weighing in on the issue.
At the January 10 meeting of the Bluff Town Council, members of the council voted unanimously to deny the petition to disconnect the land.
The council noted 11 findings with its resolution to not disconnect, including that the town provides fire and law enforcement services, that the town believes the disconnection could make it more difficult for the Bluff Bench to develop, and that the disconnection would create an island of disconnected property surrounded by connected property.
Following the council decision, another petition has come from the owners of the same property, now Eric and Ida Acton. The latest request to disconnect submitted by Baird however includes an additional 8,860 acres. Located to the north and west of Bluff’s currently developed areas.
Most of that property in the 9,500-acre area is owned by SITLA, who has communicated to the town that they are on board with the petition to disconnect.
The town did discover that the map included the St. Christopher’s Mission property owned by the Episcopal Church of Navajoland.
In a recent town meeting, Bluff Mayor Ann Leppanen reported that the church reported they did not consent to be included in the disconnect. Leppanen also shared the town is contacting the Bureau of Land Management regarding their participation in the disconnect.