Fight over fixing aging roads in Pleasant Grove becomes a political battle after lawsuit is filed

Posted at 6:04 PM, Aug 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-03 20:04:53-04

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — A new twist in the ongoing battle over fixing Pleasant Grove’s aging roads.

The group, Libertas Institute, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Pleasant Grove on behalf of some residents and businesses. They claim the city does not have a legal right to charge a roads fee and is asking a judge to put a stop to it.

This week, Pleasant Grove began collecting a Transportation Utility Fee. Residents are charged $8.45 a month on their utility bills. Businesses are charged $41.27 a month.

But a lawsuit filed in Provo’s Fourth District Court by Libertas Institute, could put the brakes on this road fee. Connor Boyack with the libertarian leaning non-profit group says the fee is unconstitutional.

“The problem is that when a city wants to charge you a fee, it has to be for something that they’re providing you a service for. Something like a garbage can or electricity. When it comes to roads, they’re no way to do that.”

Boyack is asking a judge to declare the fee as a tax. The city has every right to raise taxes, through legal channels, but Boyack says leaders have chosen not to, putting a burden on residents.

“Along with that, that residents be refunded. This money should not have been taken from them it should have been done through general taxation.”

City Administrator Scott Darrington told Fox 13 they cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but referred us to the city’s website. It details the three-year history of the road fee process. They’ve conducted studies on how to repair and maintain city roads and have given the public a chance to weigh in. Last year, a citizens initiative that would have provided millions of dollars from the general fund to pay for roads, was voted down.

Boyack believes going the legal route could hold more weight.

“Several other states have seen challenges much like the one that we brought against Pleasant Grove. I believe in now 4 maybe 5 states the courts have correctly interpreted their constitution or their laws to say cities aren’t allowed to do it.”

If Pleasant Grove is successful the results will apply to other cities who have adopted such road fees – including Provo, Highland, North Ogden, Mapleton and Vineyard.