If the numbers stack up, it appears Provo residents will have the opportunity to vote on whether the city will have brewpubs in its boundaries or not.
Thursday was the deadline for former Municipal Councilwoman Kim Santiago and her supporters to turn in signatures to the Utah County Elections office on petitions for a referendum. They needed to have 3,157 valid signatures to have the referendum on the November ballot.
According to Rozan Mitchell, Utah County Elections director, Santiago turned in approximately 3,700 signatures. Those now will have to be validated. However, due to the primary elections on Tuesday, the validating of the petition signatures will not happen until July 9 or 10.
Mitchell indicated that typically 20% of the signatures on a petition are not valid. The elections office has until July 25 to validate the signatures.
According to Santiago, it has been an exhausting process. With COVID-19, the referendum signers were allowed to use email and digital gathering as well as door-to-door petitions.
“It’s nearly impossible to do it by email,” Santiago said. “We wore gloves, masks and social distanced. We wiped down our pens and clipboards between every house.”
Santiago said the new requirements of having a certain number of signatures from city districts was also a tough hurdle.
“The districts were a challenge,” she said. “Especially the central district. They’re not there. It’s mostly students and they are not in school. There were a lot of empty apartments.”
Santiago said they needed about 500 signatures from the central district and got less than half of that. They had to make it up in other districts.
“We have 50 volunteers with about 15 doing the lion’s share of the work,” Santiago said. “It has really been a community effort.”
Santiago said she knew they were facing an uphill battle but feels the community wants to vote on the issue.
The group’s website http://provoutah.info lists three reasons for why the group is against ancillary breweries or brewpubs. Its major concern is what it will do to the city’s environment and infrastructure.
The group claims that brewpubs waste 70% of the water they use – and this waste running into the sewer system is four times more potent than residential waste.
Petitioners are saying that utility fees will increase dramatically over the next two years without brewpubs. The group said it is not fair for citizens to also subsidize brewpub wastewater even on a small scale.
Mark Ogren, manager of the treatment plant, says the concerns put forth on wastewater by the group are controlled by federal regulations.
Ogren added, the Utah Division of Water Quality and Provo City have adopted and implemented this wastewater pre-treatment program.
“Brewing alcohol requires yeast, hops, barley and sugar which is high in carbonaceous, organic material. This organic material increases the pollutant levels in their wastewater,” Ogren said. “The higher levels of pollutants requires additional treatment cost. Provo City Code, Chapter 10.03 & 10.04 addresses these types of wastewater discharges. A brewpub would be required to install a treatment system that reduces their wastewater pollutant levels to limits outlined in City Code.”
Ogren said brewpubs will be issued a Wastewater Contribution Permit, allowing Provo’s pre-treatment coordinator to monitor, sample and inspect their facility, processes and discharge waters.
The other issues of concern the group points out on its website are health and safety, and community standards.
Group members note that alcohol is a drug. They believe brewpubs make alcohol more enticing and increase its use. The website indicates societal costs average about $807 per citizen or roughly $2.05 per drink.
With that concern they also added that Provo is known for its current standards. The group believes that approving brewpubs will make Provo known for beer. “We should be proud to keep Provo unique,” the website said.
On Feb. 18, the Provo Municipal Council approved a land use amendment to allow ancillary breweries in two downtown zones, and in the regional shopping center zones.
Two days later, that decision was challenged in the form of a referendum by former councilman and Mayor George Stewart, Santiago and other former council members and city leaders.
With the rise of COVID-19 and possible regulations that could be attached to a new class of beer license just for ancillary breweries, the referendum was held back.
On April 15, the Provo Municipal Council voted 4 to 3 to pass a Class F beer license, with the intention to add more to the already determined regulations.
By April 17, the same group with Santiago as the first signature, filed a new referendum that would ultimately put the new license up to the voters in November.
On June 16, the council unanimously passed the Class F beer license regulations with many compromises including allowing only one ancillary brewery in each of the zoned locations. That would allow only five in the city.