UTAH COUNTY -- Thousands of Utah County residents are signing a petition against the county’s recent decision to rezone land.
The grass roots group "We Decide" has gathered more than 10,000 signatures. They need at least 20,000 in order for a referendum to be placed on the ballot. It would be the first referendum in county history.
Residents are upset over the rezoning of land behind the Alpine Rodeo Grounds from environmental to residential.
"I would like to set a precedent that if the people of an area don't agree with something, then they can go ahead and do something about it," said Andrew McGowan, Co-Director of We Decide.
McGowan, a life-long Utah County resident, believes the land is a valuable buffer between the mountains and the homes.
"It keeps animals away from people's houses, and another thing; it is a water shed area, once you build houses on that you are going to lose some of the water shed," he said.
“I don't see it being a significant impact on either of those," said Larry Ellertson, the only county commissioner still in office who voted in favor of the rezoning.
Ellertson believes those spearheading the petition are doing it for personal reasons.
"They looked at it and said it was critical environment, which it was, and it's been rezoned so now it's going to allow homes where they were thinking there would never be homes," Ellertson said.
The ordinance states, “The Board of County Commissioners finds that the proposed zone change is in the best interest of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Utah County.”
Ellertson said the petition is only taking place because a few private citizens are paying more than 100 college students to obtain the signatures. He said many of them have no idea what they are even fighting for.
“These are out of state students, they are not residents of Utah County, but because they can register, as a registered voter, they count that,” Ellertson said.
McGowan admits about half of the nearly 300 people working for We Decide, are getting paid. However, he also said it’s not about the money, it’s about the cause.
"My favorite thing about this is that we as county citizens are going to be able to vote on this, we're going to have the right to vote on this issue," McGowan said.
The public has until January 29 to submit the signatures. If they reach the 20,000 needed, the zoning issue will be voted on during the county’s next general election in November 2016.