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Fairview Council debates prohibiting protests within 100 feet of private homes

People protest outside Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s home in Fairview. Five days later, the Fairview city council considered an ordinance to limit protests within 100 feet of private residential property.

 

Fairview Council debates prohibiting protests within

100 feet of private homes

 

By Rhett Wilkinson

Staff writer

11-25-2020

 

FAIRVIEW—The Fairview City Council talked about passing an ordinance that would prevent protesters from targeting residents at their homes.

Some councilmen expressed concerns the measure might infringe on people’s First Amendment rights and others wondered if the measure was enforceable.

The potential ordinance would prevent protesting within 100 feet of the property line of residents, said Fairview Police Chief Steve Gray. The penalty for a violation would be a Class B misdemeanor.

Five days earlier, on Saturday, Nov. 14, a planned protest took place at Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s home in Fairview. Protestors expressed their opposition to statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

Councilman Matt Sorensen said the potential ordinance may conflict with what he described as the “God-given right to peaceably assemble.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” Sorensen said.

Gray replied that it would fall on the Fairview attorney to make that call.

Sorensen added there is also a state statute already in place if people go beyond protesting peacefully and protest violently.

Gray responded that the ordinance wouldn’t apply to trespassing violations and added, “I don’t know if it would hold water in a court of law.”

“We put it down as enforcement, but is it enforceable?” Councilman Michael MacKay said later. “Would it clear the courts?”

Councilman Brad Welch said, “I tend to side with Matt.”

“This is to protect any one of us on the council,” Mayor David Taylor said earlier. “If we made a ruling that citizens didn’t like … this would also protect you and your family.”

Taylor also described the potential ordinance as “An ordinance to review and put in place so we have it if we need it.”

Gray said he felt like the protest at Cox’s home was “extremely peaceful.” He also said that with Salt Lake City and Orem passing similar ordinances, the issue may “fall on [Fairview’s] doorstep soon.”

The provision of no protesting within 100 feet of the property line of residents comes from Salt Lake City’s ordinance, Gray said.

Gray also said that an issue could be created by the ordinance if protestors would be within 100 feet of another property line.

“I’d be interesting in hearing the city attorney’s take on it,” Welch said.

“We can run it by them and have them look at it,” Gray replied.

Welch said a Supreme Court decision upheld legal opposition to targeted picking.

“Let’s look into it a little bit further,” Taylor said.

Gray also said that the ordinance would protect the privacy of a “prominent member” of a large company who made decisions that people opposed.

 

“This is your guys’ decision,” Gray said.

In other meeting action, the council approved a program involving solar panels with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. Fairview City is entitled to 129 kilowatts of the 40-megawatt solar project.

“The developers still own the project,” Councilman Casey Anderson said. “This is just a power purchase agreement.”

The project includes a solar farm located northwest of Logan. It will come online hopefully around 2022, Anderson said.

“This diversifies our power portfolio of projects that we are involved in,” Anderson said. “It’s another option of producing power … it’s environmentally friendly, is what these people would call this project.”

Fairview City is one of 15 cities involved. Mt. Pleasant is also part of it.

Scholarships are also available through the program to high school seniors.

“There’s lots of cool stuff about it,” Anderson said.

Also in the meeting, the council talked about how there isn’t a city Christmas party, but there will be a “city Santa Claus” appearing at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 in the parking lot behind city hall. Santa will be in his sleigh next to the dance hall. Taylor asked that the city councilmen start setting up around 5:30 p.m.

“We’ve got to do something,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to get over this COVID deal. … We need to keep moving forward with this new normal.”