Governmental Accountability and Participatory Democracy - Craig Axford v. Salt Lake City Corporation was our second lawsuit challenging Salt Lake City’s decision to sell a downtown block of Main Street to the LDS Church. While our first lawsuit, First Unitarian Church v. Salt Lake City Corporation, focuses on the significant constitutional problems associated with the sale, Craig Axford v. Salt Lake City Corporation examined the city ordinance that authorized the sale.
The lawsuit maintained that all of the conditions required by the ordinance have not been met, and until they are, the block cannot legally be changed from a public street to a pedestrian plaza. Just one month before the City Council adopted the ordinance, the City Planning Commission voted to recommend the sale, but only after adding a specific condition: “That there be no restrictions on the use of this space that are more restrictive than is currently permitted at a public park.” The ordinance, which was approved on April 13, 1999, stated that, “This partial street closure is also conditioned upon compliance with all of the conditions identified by the Salt Lake City Planning Commission, a modified summary of which is attached hereto as Exhibit ‘B’.” However, the “modified summary” omitted the condition that the City Planning Commission had added, and the subsequent easement outlining the public’s use of and access to the space clearly contains restrictions that would never be permissible in a city park. Craig Axford, a city taxpayer and resident, asked that the City obey its own ordinance, and on the first anniversary of the city council’s approval of the sale, we filed a lawsuit on his behalf. In an effort to do away with the crucial inconsistency between the ordinance and the public easement, and without following the proper procedures necessary to take such an action, the Salt Lake City Council voted on May 16 to amend the ordinance. While this action moots Axford’s lawsuit, which was dismissed in September 2000, it underscores the claims in First Unitarian Church v. Salt Lake City Corporation.