In just a few days, the 2020 Utah Legislature will be in the rear-view mirror.
Summit County’s Deputy Manager Janna Young, in her latest visit to KPCW, talked to us about the work they’ve done on legislation that involves fire prevention, the county’s relationship to school districts, and land-use law.
Janna Young told KPCW there are a number of bills that intrigue the county, but need some more work.
She said they have mixed feelings about HB 236—the Safe School Route Evaluations bill. In concept, they see it as a good opportunity.
“It would really require counties to review and participate in the school district’s Safe Route program and their annual Safety Plan that they put together. It also establishes the authority for a school to identify capital improvements that are necessary to achieve those safe routes.”
However, they have a number of concerns about it.
“It would require a bunch of additional staff resources and time from the county. There’s the potential for finger-pointing between the school districts and local governments and UDOT as to the responsibility around these routes. And the bill does not increase any funding to make improvements identified by the schools. And that Safe Route To Schools grant program is already very limited in terms of funding state-wide.”
At a meeting last week, the Utah Association of Counties voted to oppose the bill. Summit County is hoping it can be sent to an interim committee to be studied.
She said another significant bill was modified—SB 134, which provided that owners who take measures to prevent or mitigate wildfire around their property may receive a tax abatement, equal to the value of the improvement.
While Summit County supports fire precautions, they were concerned the measure would mean a shift in the tax burden to other owners.
“Because the way it works for counties in Utah is we are guaranteed the same amount of revenue every year from our property taxes, unless we calculate new growth into that. And so regardless of the economic situation, this is our budget. And so we would have to make up that tax exemption elsewhere, and most likely it would fall on other property owners.”
Young said the proposal has been changed to be just a pilot program in Salt Lake County---which will give other counties a chance to see how it works. Summit County Council Member Kim Carson also advocated a cap on the tax credit.
The county is also watching a brand-new bill in the closing days of the session. SB 164, the Poverty Mitigation Services Bill, supported by UAC’s Urban Caucus, would levy a property tax which could be another tool to provide services in the county.
“And it could be provided by either a governmental entity or a private entity that we would contract with. But they’re things like, in a county, if individuals or communities are experiencing homelessness, or inter-generational poverty. It would allow us to look at services that would promote economic opportunity and innovation, facilitate collaboration between public and private entities, or provide preventative service that is evidence-based or is in the best interest of the county.”
Finally, she said there is some good news about HB 388, proposed by a Wasatch Back representative, Logan Wilde. Young said at first the bill caused some alarm.
“Unfortunately, when it was first introduced, like you mentioned, there were some scary things in there that would basically allow any developer to divide their land anyway they want, and they could have legal plats that resulted from that, even if it didn’t comply with our zoning codes.”
The bill was worked on by attorneys from several counties, the Land Use Task Force and the state’s Home Builder’s Association. Young said it’s acceptable to Summit County now.
“Basically now, it does allow counties to have a more simplified process for smaller divisions, subdivisions. An example would be an administrative approval rather than a public hearing at the Planning Commission. It also allows us to amend parts of existing subdivisions without needing the whole neighborhood to sign off. Summit County already does that, but many other jurisdictions do not. And then it also clarifies some language regarding public utility easements and defines who’s adversely affected parties and can appeal a land-use decision.”
Summit County Deputy Manager Janna Young.