Summit County Council Hears: New Bill Will Hammer Land-Use Law

Feb 27, 2020

Credit upr.org

While the Utah Legislature wraps up in a couple of weeks, the Summit County Council heard Wednesday that there are still some bills to watch out for.

The Council heard from their deputy county attorney that a new bill would unravel land-use law in Utah.     The sponsor is one of the county’s legislators—District 53 Rep. Logan Wilde of Morgan County.

The proposal is HB 388.    During the Council’s legislative update, Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas told them the bill would be an incredible step backward.

“It puts in an exception to the subdivision law, which in fact eats up the entire subdivision law.  It says you don’t have to go through a subdivision process in order to subdivide.  You can just subdivide on your own and not go through the process at all for purposes of future development.  That is incredibly problematic.”    

Thomas, a former state legislator himself, said the bill would change the meaning of what a subdivision process is.

“If you’ve got a piece of property, and you want to divide it up, by metes and bounds description, for future development purposes—and to do that, you just record deeds in the recorder’s office—the resulting parcels are legal lots.  That’s what it says.  That will destroy all land-use law in the state.”

Thomas said the new legislation could even apply to the parcels with old mine tailings within the Silver Creek watershed, and the “Operating Units” or OU’s being overseen by the EPA, including Richardson Flat.        

“It’d have implications for any properties that are in OU-2 and OU-3.   If you could carve out the contaminated stuff and never have to remediate and just develop on the good soil, without remediating any of the bad—that’s what this bill would allow you to do.”

Council Member Kim Carson said it’s likely the bill will be opposed by the Utah Association of Counties, at their next meeting, as well as by Utah cities.

`        The discussion ended with a suggestion from Carson, and some black humour from Council Chairman Doug Clyde.     

“(Carson) I will reach out to Logan.  (Clyde) Yeah, If I reached out to him, I might use a club.  (Carson) Now, now.    (Clyde) Better you!”

Another item of concern is Senate Bill 134, according to Deputy County Manager Janna Young.   She said the proposal offers a tax credit to property owners for fire prevention or mitigation measures, but it could result in a tax shift to others.     

“If a property owner wants to take measures  on their property to make it more resilient to wildfire, whether that’s landscaping or fire-wise roofing or whatever, than they can get a tax credit for whatever costs they put in to make those remediation efforts, or mitigation efforts.  As the way we’re structured with our property taxes, we’re still guaranteed the same amount of revenue every year, even if we’re giving credits to folks.   And so we would have to make that up somewhere, which would potentially make other property owners pay more in their taxes.   And so we’ve been talking about seeing if the sponsor would be amenable to a cap on how much someone could claim.”

Kim Carson said she’s concerned that the bill is a little too broad, in setting out what activities will get tax credits.

On the other hand, Council Member Glenn Wright said the entire county could benefit when fire prevention measures are taken in the Wildland Urban Interface areas, known as ‘WUI” (woo-ee) for short.       

“I don’t see that’s a tremendous downside as long as it doesn’t get out of control.  Because a fire in our WUI in lots of parts of our county are going to affect the overall economy of the county.  If you think of a, say, fire that starts along the Wasatch Crest pretty much anywhere and is blowing into the county, it could have disastrous economic effects on the entire—and environmental effects on the entire county.   So having the entire county contribute to remediation efforts tax-wise, as long as it’s not a humonguous tax hit for everybody, I think is a reasonable idea.”

Summit County Council member Glenn Wright.