When is the Sandy City code going to be online?
Jun 20, 2016 02:57PM
● By Chris Larson
The city code is like the holy writ for a city presenting the do's and don'ts that make up the underlying fabric of a community. Coincidentally, some argue that the Bible was the first e-book ever produced.
Enter Sandy City.
Sandy’s city code is not online despite neighboring cities like Draper and Cottonwood Heights having their city codes online since the early aughts.
“Every time we started the project, we had other pressing issues we were working on that were a little more urgent,” Sandy City Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Korban Lee said. “This is important, but never urgent.”
However, Lee said the city council approved $50,000 for recodification, or reassembling and organizing of the code which is currently housed in separate sections by the city recorder and the departments that pertain to relevant sections of the code.
City Attorney Robert Wall said that the lack of an online city code is both a weakness and an opportunity in his SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis before the City Council on June 7.
The city council has a relatively new content publishing system for city council meetings where residents can go and look at council materials like departmental reports, ordinance, minutes and audio recordings of past council meetings. One opportunity Wall suggested a possible city code site could share source code with the city council's site.
Lee went even further to say that integrating a new online city code could link to the city council system to help show the recent history behind ordinances, giving access to agendas, meeting minutes and council documents. Lee hopes to create a searchable code, but isn’t sure of the city will develop the code in-house or hire a third-party to build and maintain the text of the code.
As a weakness for the city, publishing the code online brings de facto scrutiny to both policy and enumerated codes. With greater public access comes greater public scrutiny and Wall said it was up to the council to assure that the code would be presentable to public.
"Before we publish it—to some extent—we are comfortable with what is says," Wall said in the meeting.
Councilwoman Maren Barker was a real property lawyer in Florida 10 years ago and frequently needed access to several city codes.
"Every city where I needed codes were online 10 years ago," Barker said in the meeting. "I think we are really behind on this especially for our residents."
Wall claimed that this was something the mayor's office had been anticipating putting it online in concert with the City Recorder's Office, but the code is still not online.
"So, we have this chicken and the egg problem," Barker said. "Do we try to fix the code first and then publish it up or do we publish it first and then fix it?"
Barker welcomes putting the code up as soon as possible saying that it will help increase citizen engagement and education on how the city and its officers work, as well as leverage the scrutiny of of the masses to find mistakes in the code.
Wall noted the problem with out of date or incorrect codes is not an uncommon problem among cities.
Barker said that the lack of access to the code affects both residents and city officials. Both are resigned to call department experts or the city recorder to get the policy and, as reflected by the business license ordinance adoption a few weeks ago, that might not line up with what is on the books.
The Sandy City Council approved a measure that change the business licensing code at the May 31, 2016 meeting. Read More »
"I think we owe it to our constituents to provide easy access to the code so they can get educated and understand it for themselves," Barker said in an interview.
Lee said there is no timeline to complete the project yet since the project hasn’t begun yet. However, he had the personal goal to get the project finished by the end of the fiscal year of next July.
Some cities contract out publishing the code, while others maintain their own systems. Provo, Eagle Mountain and Riverton City—to name a few in the state—use codebook.com. Alta, Draper and South Jordan City use a site called sterlingcodifiers.com
Certain sections of the code are well maintained as the city council approves new ordinances. The land use, law enforcement, public utilities and animal control code are frequently updated to reflect the common use and demand for the code from residents and city staff, Lee said.