Section 9-8-23

Creation and incorporation of districts; increase or decrease in boundaries; reorganization; change of name.

(a) Any 25 owners of land lying within the limits of the territory proposed to be organized into a district may file a petition with the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee asking that a soil and water conservation district be organized to function in the territory described in the petition. Such petition shall set forth:

(1) The proposed name of said district;

(2) That there is need in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare for a soil and water conservation district to function in the territory described in the petition;

(3) A description of the territory proposed to be organized as a district, which description shall not be required to be given by metes and bounds or by legal subdivisions but shall be deemed sufficient if generally accurate; and

(4) A request that the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee duly define the boundaries for such district, that a referendum be held within the territory so defined on the question of the creation of a soil and water conservation district in such territory and that the committee determine that such a district be created.

Where more than one petition is filed covering parts of the same territory, the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee may consolidate all or any such petitions.

(b) Within 60 days after such a petition has been filed with the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, it shall cause due notice to be given of a proposed hearing upon the question of the desirability and necessity in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare of the creation of such district, upon the question of the appropriate boundaries to be assigned to such district, upon the propriety of the petition and other proceedings taken under this article and upon all questions relevant to such inquiries. All owners of land within the limits of the territory described in the petition and of lands within any territory considered for addition to such described territory, and all other interested parties shall have the right to attend such hearings and to be heard. If it shall appear upon the hearing that it may be desirable to include within the proposed district territory outside of the area within which due notice of the hearing has been given, the hearing shall be adjourned and due notice of further hearing shall be given throughout the entire area considered for inclusion in the district and such further hearing held. After such hearing, if the committee shall determine upon the facts presented at such hearing and upon such other relevant facts and information as may be available that there is need in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare for a soil and water conservation district to function in the territory considered at the hearing, it shall make and record such determination and shall define, by metes and bounds or by legal subdivisions, the boundaries of such district. In making such determination and in defining such boundaries, the committee shall give due weight and consideration to the topography of the area considered and of the state, the composition of soils therein, the distribution of erosion, the prevailing land-use practices, the desirability and necessity of including within the boundaries the particular lands under consideration and the benefits such lands may receive from being included within such boundaries, the relation of the proposed area to existing watersheds and agricultural regions and to other soil and water conservation districts already organized or proposed for organization under the provisions of this article and such other physical, geographical and economic factors as are relevant, having due regard to the legislative determination set forth in Section 9-8-21. If the committee shall determine after such hearing after due consideration of the said relevant facts that there is no need for a soil and water conservation district to function in the territory considered at the hearing, it shall make and record such determination and shall deny the petition. After 12 months shall have expired from the date of the denial of any such petition, subsequent petitions covering the same or substantially the same territory may be filed as aforesaid and new hearings held and determinations made thereon.

(c) After the committee has made and recorded a determination that there is need in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare for the organization of a district in a particular territory and has defined the boundaries thereof, it shall consider the question whether the operation of a district within such boundaries with the powers conferred upon soil and water conservation districts in this article is administratively practicable and feasible. To assist the committee in the determination of such administrative practicability and feasibility, it shall be the duty of the committee within a reasonable time after entry of the finding that there is need for the organization of the proposed district and the determination of the boundaries thereof to hold a referendum within the proposed district upon the proposition of the creation of the district and to cause due notice of such referendum to be given. The question shall be submitted by ballots upon which the words "For creation of a soil conservation district of the lands below described and lying in the County(ies) of _____ and _____" and "Against creation of a soil conservation district of the lands below described, and lying in the County(ies) of _____, and _____" shall be printed, with a square before each proposition and a direction to insert an X mark in the square before one or the other of said propositions as the voter may favor or oppose the creation of such district. The ballot shall set forth the boundaries of such proposed district as determined by the committee. All owners of lands lying within the boundaries of the territory, as determined by the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, shall be eligible to vote in such referendum. Only such landowners shall be eligible to vote.

The committee shall pay all expenses for the issuance of such notices and the conduct of such hearings and referenda and shall supervise the conduct of such hearings and referenda. It shall issue appropriate regulations governing the conduct of such hearings and referenda and providing for the registration prior to the date of the referendum of all eligible voters or prescribing some other appropriate procedure for the determination of those eligible as voters in such referendum. No informalities in the conduct of such referendum or in any matters relating thereto shall invalidate said referendum or the result thereof if notice thereof shall have been given substantially as provided in this section and said referendum shall have been fairly conducted.

The committee shall take charge of all ballots cast, supervise the counting thereof and publish the result of such referendum and shall thereafter consider and determine whether the operation of the district within the defined boundaries is administratively practicable and feasible. If the committee shall determine that the operation of such district is not administratively practicable and feasible, it shall record such determination and deny the petition. If the committee shall determine that the operation of such district is administratively practicable and feasible, it shall record such determination and shall proceed with the organization of the district in the manner hereinafter provided. In making such determination the committee shall give due regard and weight to the attitudes of the owners of lands lying within the defined boundaries, the number of landowners eligible to vote in such referendum who shall have voted, the proportion of the votes cast in such referendum in favor of the creation of the district of the total number of votes cast, the approximate wealth and income of the landowners of the proposed district, the probable expense of carrying on erosion-control operations within such district and such other economic and social factors as may be relevant to such determination, having due regard to the legislative determinations set forth in Section 9-8-21; provided, however, that the committee shall not have authority to determine that the operation of the proposed district within the defined boundaries is administratively practicable and feasible unless at least two thirds of the votes cast in the referendum upon the proposition of creation of the district shall have been cast in favor of the creation of such district.

(d) If the committee shall determine that the operation of the proposed district within the defined boundaries is administratively practicable and feasible, it shall appoint one supervisor from each of the counties within the district, but in no event less than five supervisors, who shall be landowners and residents of the said proposed district, to act as the governing body of the district. Such districts shall be a governmental subdivision of this state and a public body, corporate and politic, upon the taking of the following proceedings: The supervisors shall present to the Secretary of State an application signed by them which shall set forth (and such application need contain no detail other than the mere recitals): that a petition for the creation of the district was filed with the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee pursuant to the provisions of this article and that the proceedings specified in this article were taken pursuant to such petition that the application is being filed in order to complete the organization of the district as a governmental subdivision and a public body, corporate and politic, under this article and that the committee has appointed them as supervisors; the name and official residence of each of the supervisors, together with a certified copy of the appointments evidencing their right to office; the term of office of each of the supervisors; the name which is proposed for the district; and the location of the principal office of the supervisors of the district. The application shall be subscribed and sworn to by each of the said supervisors before an officer authorized by the laws of this state to take and certify oaths, who shall certify upon the application that he personally knows the supervisors and knows them to be the officers as affirmed in the application and that each has subscribed thereto in the officer's presence. The application shall be accompanied by a statement by the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, which shall certify (and such statement need contain no detail other than the mere recitals) that a petition was filed, notice issued and hearing held as aforesaid; that the committee did duly determine that there is need in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare for a soil and water conservation district to function in the proposed territory and did define the boundaries thereof; that notice was given and a referendum held on the question of the creation of such district and that the result of such referendum showed at least two thirds of the votes cast in such referendum to be in favor of the creation of the district; and that thereafter the committee did duly determine that the operation of the proposed district is administratively practicable and feasible. The said statement shall set forth the boundaries of the district as they have been defined by the committee. The Secretary of State shall examine the application and statement and, if he finds that the name proposed for the district is not identical with that of any other soil conservation district of this state or so nearly similar as to lead to confusion or uncertainty, he shall receive and file them and record them in an appropriate book of record in his office. If the Secretary of State shall find that the name proposed for the district is identical with that of any other soil and water conservation district of this state or so nearly similar as to lead to confusion and uncertainty, he shall certify such fact to the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, which shall thereupon submit to the Secretary of State a new name for the said district, which shall not be subject to such defects. Upon receipt of such new name free of such defects, the Secretary of State shall record the application and statement with the name so modified in an appropriate book of record in his office. When the application and statement have been made, filed and recorded as provided in this section, the district shall constitute a governmental subdivision of this state and a public body, corporate and politic. The Secretary of State shall make and issue to the said supervisors a certificate under the seal of the state of the due organization of the said district and shall record such certificate with the application and statement. The boundaries of such district shall include the territory as determined by the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee as aforesaid, but in no event shall they include any area included within the boundaries of another soil and water conservation district organized under the provisions of this article.

After 12 months shall have expired from the date of entry of a determination by the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee that operation of a proposed district is not administratively practicable and feasible and denial of a petition pursuant to such determination, subsequent petitions may be filed as provided in this section and action taken thereon in accordance with the provisions of this article.

(e) Petitions for including additional territory within an existing district may be filed with the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee and the proceedings provided for in this section in the case of petitions to organize a district shall be observed in the case of such petitions, which shall be as nearly as may be in the form prescribed in this section for petitions to organize a district. Where the total number of landowners in the area proposed for inclusion shall be less than 25, the petition may be filed when signed by at least two thirds of the owners of land of such area, and in such case no referendum need be held. In referenda upon petitions for such inclusion, all owners of land lying within the proposed additional area shall be eligible to vote. Whenever such additional territory shall be taken into any existing district, the supervisor shall certify to the Secretary of State the name of the district to which it is added and the legal description of the area added.

(f) Territory within the boundaries of an existing district may be disannexed therefrom and added to another existing district. The procedure for adding such territory to such other district shall be the same as that provided in subsection (e) of this section, and in such case the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee shall give written notice to the Secretary of State of the change made in the boundaries of said districts, and the Secretary of State shall issue certificates of reorganization to such districts under the seal of the state and shall record copies thereof, together with such notification, in his office.

(g) Territory within the boundaries of an existing district may be disannexed therefrom and included, with or without additional territory, within a new district. The procedure for creating such new districts shall be the same as that provided by law for the creation of soil and water conservation districts. If any such new district shall be formed, the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee shall give written notice thereof to the Secretary of State who shall issue a certificate of reorganization to the old district and shall record copies thereof, with said notification, in his office.

(h) Whenever the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee deems it administratively practicable and feasible, it may, upon petition of the supervisors of any existing district, conduct a poll by mail among the cooperators in any county of the district to determine if they wish to establish a separate district. If a majority of the cooperators voting favor the proposal, the territory covered by the referendum shall be disannexed and a new district created, the boundary of which shall be coextensive with the boundaries of the county disannexed. The committee shall appoint five supervisors, who shall be landowners and residents of the district, to act as the governing body of the new district. Thereafter, the committee shall give the new district a name and certify the name to the Secretary of State along with a statement containing the name and residence of each of the supervisors appointed and the location of the principal office of the supervisors within the district. The Secretary of State shall record the statement in his office in a book kept for such purpose and shall make and issue to the supervisors a certificate under the seal of the state of the due organization of the new district. The State Soil and Water Conservation Committee shall prescribe reasonable regulations governing the conduct of polls on the formation of districts under this subsection, shall determine the eligibility of persons to vote and shall be the sole judge of the results of any poll so taken.

(i) The name of any soil and water conservation district may be changed in the following manner: The board of supervisors shall adopt a resolution providing for a change of name and submit a copy of such resolution to the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, which shall present the same to the Secretary of State who shall, if he finds that such name is not identical with or so nearly similar to the name of another soil conservation district as to lead to confusion or uncertainty, file said copy of resolution and issue a new certificate to said district showing such new name.

(j) In any action or proceeding involving the validity or enforcement of or relating to any contract, proceeding or action of the district, the district shall be deemed to have been duly organized, reorganized and/or renamed in accordance with the provisions of this article, upon proof of the issuance of a certificate to such effect by the Secretary of State as provided in this section. A copy of any such certificate duly certified by the Secretary of State shall be admissible as evidence in any such action or proceeding and shall be proof of the issuance and contents thereof.

(Acts 1939, No. 147, p. 202, §5; Code 1940, T. 2, §661; Acts 1953, No. 874, p. 1173, §1; Acts 1957, No. 516, p. 698.)