On Tuesday, the Provo Municipal Council approved a land use amendment to allow ancillary breweries in restaurants in two downtown zones, and in the regional shopping center zones. That decision is now being challenged.
Former councilman and mayor, George Stewart, and other former council members and city leaders filed a referendum on Thursday looking to put the issue of brewpubs in Provo to the voters on the November ballot.
Joining Stewart are Kim Santiago, Kay Van Buren, Paul Warner, Cindy Richards, Steven A. Christiansen, Dave Acheson, Dave Knecht and Sherrie L. Spencer.
Santiago, a nurse, is concerned for many reasons about the approval of the ancillary breweries. She said that in every ordinance placed on the dais, there are the wherefores and whereas clauses. The last whereas clause says, “this will further the health, safety and welfare of the city of Provo.”
“If you can’t say that you shouldn’t vote for it,” Santiago said. “It does the opposite. It makes beer a fad and trendy. As a Christian community, do we want to welcome that into our community?”
Santiago noted that during the community open mic session at the council meeting, there was plenty of talk about cultivating more diversity in the city and that a brewpub would contribute to that.
“Why can’t we just embrace the city we are,” Santiago said. “There is a lot of talk about diversity. I argue we are more diverse by being ourselves, and not like every other city in America.”
Former Mayor and Councilman George Stewart said it was because of comments made by council Chairman George Handley on Tuesday that inspired him to move forward with the referendum.
Handley gave the pros and cons of having the land use amendment and even noted that, prior to the meeting, he was more likely to vote in favor of it. After hearing much of the comments and thinking more about it, Handley voted against the measure.
“I’m not in favor of anything that enhances the cache that says it’s cool to drink craft beer,” Stewart said. “Alcohol is evil because it causes bad health. In my mind, I can’t see how it makes the city more healthy.”
Councilman Travis Hoban, new to the council and in favor of the amendment, was a bit surprised at the referendum submission but said it is the people’s prerogative.
“The people of Provo have the right to do that,” Hoban said. “I don’t know what else to say, that’s democracy.”
The state Legislature has recently made it more difficult to gather signatures.
As of Jan. 1, those seeking petition for referendum must have 15% of the registered voters from four of the five voting districts in Provo. In addition, signature gatherers must have 15% of the registered voters in the city, overall.
There are 41,346 registered voters in Provo. They will need 6,202 verified registered voter’s signatures for the referendum to be place on the November ballot.
According to Stewart, that will not be an easy task. The clock has started ticking on the process. The city now has 20 days to vet the referendum for budgeting purposes and for legal analysis. It will also need to have time to organize petition packets.
The petitioners will then have 45 days to gather the signatures.
It is not clear if the mayor would have the right to veto the referendum as it is considered a legislative issue, not an administrative one.
“What this does do is stops the process cold on the land use change,” said Wayne Parker, chief administrative officer.
Parker noted the city already had put an addendum to the amendment that offered a sunrise clause, meaning the land use change doesn’t go into effect until the city develops a new beer license or amends a current one. The city does not have an ancillary brewery license.
Stewart said he doesn’t think he will be able to get the signatures needed with just volunteers and is prepared to hire professionals to gather signatures.