Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik

May 18, 2020

2020 UT 29 (May 18, 2020)

Background. Owners of undeveloped land located outside of the incorporated boundaries of Salt Lake City (the “city”), but within the city’s approved water-service area, sought to have the city provide water services.  The city, disputing its obligation to provide water to a subdivision not within its boundaries, brought declaratory action to determine the landowners’ right to water services provided by the city.

Holding. An owner of land in an undeveloped subdivision outside of a city’s incorporated boundaries but within a city’s approved water-service area is not a “city inhabitant” under article XI, section 6 of the Utah Constitution which requires cities to supply water to its inhabitants. City inhabitants are only those who resided within a city’s corporate boundaries. Therefore, the landowners do not have a right to water provided by the city.

Constitutional Interpretation of Meaning of  ‘Inhabitant’.  Owning undeveloped property in an unincorporated location does not make a person and an inhabitant of a city. The meaning of inhabitants as used by the framers of the constitution refers to those living within a jurisdiction’s formal boundaries or whom a jurisdiction counts among its official population.