A controversial bill sponsored by Summit County Rep. Logan Wilde crossed its first legislative hurdle Friday.
House Bill 288 attempts to tackle the relationship between “critical infrastructure operators,” meaning gravel or sand pit operations, and local municipalities. Spurred largely by actions Draper City and Tooele County took last year to prevent gravel pits from expanding into neighborhoods, the bill would allow cities and counties to permit and zone protected areas around gravel pits for extending operations. It would also give vested rights to pits that have been in the area for a long time but would require pit operators to go to municipalities before expanding or changing operations.
The first draft of the bill was criticized as giving too much power to pit operators over cities and counties. For its second substitution, Wilde says language in the bill has been adjusted to give local municipalities more control over zoning and permitting rights.
Nearly all the members of the public who spoke to the bill were from Draper, including Draper Mayor Troy Walker, who said the current version of the bill protected local land use authority. Draper citizens spoke against the bill, citing air quality concerns. Wilde has also been criticized by one Draper resident of having a conflict of interest pertaining to the bill. KPCW will have an update on that story later.
But Wilde argues HB 288 isn’t about one gravel pit in Draper. The reason he’s running the bill, he says, is to protect his constituents in rural communities from taking on more pits after they close in other areas.
“If we’re going to start closing down gravel pits in local communities around the state, especially in the urban areas, that puts more and more pressure on starting gravel pits in rural areas, further away.”
Wilde says moving gravel pits to places such as the Wasatch Back will increase transportation and product costs for projects around the state, as well as negatively impacting air quality. But he says that doesn’t mean he thinks only urban communities should bear the brunt of the effects of gravel pits.
“Everybody should have some sort of skin in the game when it comes to this, and I think, right now, Summit County has gravel pits," Wilde said. "The question is do you want more of them, or do you want less, or do you want to keep them where they’re at?”
Summit County Deputy Attorney Jami Brackin says the county opposes the bill as is. She contends that current laws sufficiently address the issue, and that the county will always oppose legislation that limits local land management authority. Brackin says, ideally, no action would be taken on the bill this session, and the county would be able to work on the matter during the legislative interim period.
HB 288 passed out of committee on a 9-3 vote and now heads to the House floor.