Utah Legislature Re-Cap--How Summit County Reacted To "Scary" Bills From Lawmakers

Mar 29, 2020

Credit KPCW Radio

The Summit County Council on March 25th received a report from their staff on the recently-concluded Utah Legislative session.

The county’s advocates on Capitol Hill said it was a slower year than 2019.   They said a lot of their work was trying to mitigate the proposed bills that ‘started out scary” as they put it.

Among the proposals, County Council Member Kim Carson said  that HB 380, sponsored by one of the county’s own legislators, Logan Wilde, was a serious concern.

Reportedly, it would have allowed anyone to implement a land subdivision, regardless of local regulations.    But Carson said they worked with Rep. Wilde, and attorneys to amend the bill.              

“The key provisions were that it allowed counties to have a simplified process for small subdivisions.  An example is administrative approval rather than through a public hearing at the Planning Commission level.  It allows us to amend parts of existing subdivisions without needing the whole neighborhood to sign off.  Summit County already has the ability to do this through our code, but many jurisdictions do not.  Clarified some language regarding public-utility easements.  And then defines who is an adversely-affected party and can appeal a land-use decision.”

Deputy County Attorney Jamie Brackin reported on Senate Bill 192, which would have given the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA) the ability to create its own service district—a concern given the MIDA project at Mayflower.     

“And there was some language in there that was a little concerning because it mandated that all jurisdictions must help MIDA do whatever they want to do, even if it’s not in our best interest.  Fortunately, our lobbyist Des Barker, was teriffic, and we were able to get that language amended.   And now basically only those jurisdictions that actually have the defined project area within their boundaries are really under any mandate to help MIDA do the utility-service district.”

She said another bill, which became less scary but is still a concern, is HB 273.     She said the bill, reportedly backed by legislative leadership and the Property Rights Coalition, could have imposed draconian penalties and damages on a local government if they take a position on a development, contrary to an ombudsmen’s opinion, and later lost in a court dispute.      

“If the court determines that the elected officials or the land-use authority acted in a willful and intentional manner to intentionally violate the land-use laws of the state, then there is a $250-per-day civil penalty against the entity, not necessarily the individual.  It remains to be seen how and if this’ll actually ever be used.  We intend to address this during the interim, obviously, with the Land Use Task Force, and to figure out something better.  But this is what was passed, and it was probably the only bill that we really still have any remaining concerns on.”    

Finally, on a lighter note, Rep. Brady Brammer advanced a bill to deregulate yurts.    Brackin said that local attorneys, health departments and fire districts were able to convince legislators that yurts are a health and safety issue.    

“That when people are renting them for $350 a night as part of a resort experience, that we wanna make sure that they are inspected and that they do meet some health codes and fire codes.   And especially because there are wood-burning stoves inside of them.  So this was really, really limited.  It only applies to areas like, for example, Forest Service.  So if we have any zoning that is agricultural or residential or commercial or industrial or anything like that, it would not apply.  Our local regulations would still apply.  These are only for remote yurts, and they still have to have porta-potties, and they still have to have fire extinguishers and they still have to be an allowed land-use.”

Deputy County Attorney Jamie Brackin