State Lawmakers Have Good News, Bad News For Summit County At 2021 Legislative Session

Mar 22, 2021

Credit Utah State

Every year at the Utah Legislature, a major topic is the ability of local governments to regulate planning and building.    There was a mix of good and bad news for Summit County from the 2021 session.

Deputy Summit County Manager Janna Young said a new bill in the session that they hadn’t expected was HB 98, allowing contractors to hire their own building inspectors.

She said the county is very unhappy that the bill passed.      

“It is a very bad bill, still, in our opinion, and one that Summit County remains the most concerned about.   It did go through a lot of changes through the session, thanks to the hard work of our teams.    So it’s not as bad now as when it started.  But, for instance, it prohibits the local regulation of certain building design elements, gives more authority to third-party building inspectors, where they can even issue the Certificate of Occupancy.  There are other provisions too that really tie the County’s hands.  If by chance we do the initial review of the permit, and find some issues, we want them fixed.  We don’t have the power to make sure those issues get fixed.”

She said the legislation could affect the county at a federal level.     

“We were just made aware by the County Engineer that the Association of State Flood-Plain Managers, which is a national non-profit organization of about 20,000 members, really dedicated to reducing flood losses.  They came out opposed to the bill.  They sent a letter to the governor asking that he veto it.   Because as they view the bill, it could be interpreted to circumvent the National Flood Insurance Program minimum standards, potentially suspending Utah from the program, which would disqualify the state from receiving federal disaster assistance, and may disallow federally-backed mortgages for structures in those special flood-hazard areas.”

Young said they’re hoping that Governor Spencer Cox vetoes the bill.

Young said she understands that builders can get frustrated waiting for inspections.    But Summit County tries to be responsive.      

“We have inspectors generally out there within the 3 days.  And things in general move really smoothly here.   We are in situations where we have very large developments, very large homes, that sometimes just take a little extra time to review.   And so sometimes I think that’s frustrating for developers.   But we have shown that we’re good partners, and we wanna get through these things in the quickest way possible, as long as, making sure that health, safety welfare is upheld as well.”

Concerning another bill, SB 221, about short-term rentals, the county was happy it didn’t go very far.   

“Made it out of committee, but didn’t go further than that.   We were concerned about this bill, cause it would have prohibited us from regulating short-term rentals when they were in owner-occupied units.   Such as things like, they couldn’t limit the number of people who could stay in them.  There wasn’t any ability to make sure there was enough sewer and water services to serve those units and a bunch of those health, safety and welfare concerns.  So we’re happy to see that this one didn’t move in the process.”

Finally, another outcome they welcomed was SB 61 failing in the Senate.     This would have restricted the county’s ability to regulate signs.        

“This was something the county was really concerned about throughout the session, because it would have prohibited our ability to regulate billboards in the county, such as their type, location, placement, size, that type of thing.   And as folks know, currently billboards are not allowed in Summit County.   We were concerned about this, worked really hard through our Association, and with the cities’ association to get this defeated.”

Deputy County Manager Janna Young, who said a similar bill is brewing, so the issue isn’t going away.