Republican state representative Mike Kohler, who represents Wasatch County and the municipal area of Park City as part of House District 54, gave a recap of this year’s legislative session.
In Kohler’s first general session as a state representative after being elected to the House of Representatives last November, one of his signature pieces of legislation, HB390, was passed and now waits to be signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox.
The bill would allow individuals farming pieces of land smaller than five acres to qualify for Greenbelt tax status, which allows land to be taxed on its present agricultural use as opposed to its current market value. The status was previously only available to people with much larger properties.
Kohler told KPCW the bill would make urban farming more financially viable. He also said the language of the bill could also allow future marijuana growers to qualify for the status as well, if the state were to ever legalize the cultivation of the plant.
“All the law says is a marketable crop, so my guess is that it’s quite marketable,” Kohler said.
Another key piece of legislation worked on by Kohler was floor-sponsoring fellow Wasatch Back representative Senator Ron Winterton’s SB167, setting aside nearly $10 million as incentives for film and television production in the state. That bill was passed as well.
Kohler said he wished he could have scored more funding for the state film commission, but said $10 million will make Utah competitive in that industry again.
Utah’s ability to offer incentives is small compared to other states. Just last year, the popular television series Yellowstone moved production from Park City to Montana, in part because of more favorable incentives there.
“You know, it’s not as much as the states that we’re competing with have, in fact, it’s a lot less,” said Kohler. “What the film commission has tried to do over the past several years is keep roughly $10 million in the revolving pot to help. The film commission feels they have enough to at least do some leveraging and some incentivising to get movies coming here with that much. Again, it’s much less than most other states around us, but it’s something that we tried to get to 10 [million] and I think it will help them.”
HB82, which dealt with a municipality’s ability to restrict the construction of accessory dwelling units, was another piece of legislation closely watched by Park City and Kohler.
Park City government opposed the legislation because the original language did not restrict the use of short-term rentals for those dwellings. Large numbers of short-term rentals are an endemic problem in Park City and local officials said no language that restricted them would only make the city’s affordable housing shortage worse.
An amendment was added that allowed cities and towns to punish illegal short-term rentals, but Kohler still opposed the bill. He said he would like to see more local control over the issue as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach at the state level.
“Just blanket letting everybody put a caretaker or mother-in-law or whatever you call them apartment in homes, when you’re looking at it from an affordable housing standpoint, may seem like a simple fix, but it has, in my opinion, the ability to change a lot of things such as some communities could be doubled overnight type thing,” he said. “I just think it has to be thought out and maybe a little bit more management by local government.”
HB82 passed in the legislature and now awaits a signature by Governor Cox.
In total, 503 bills ultimately passed in the legislature this year.