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Summit County councilor says bill is targeted at Dakota Pacific development, calls it ‘despicable’ (updated)

The Utah State Capitol is shown during the first day of the Utah Legislature 2022 general session on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer
The Utah State Capitol is shown during the first day of the Utah Legislature 2022 general session on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Summit County Councilor Roger Armstrong says a bill working its way through the Legislature includes a short but powerful provision targeted at increasing development and housing density in Kimball Junction. The bill passed both houses Thursday with 4 of the 5 Summit County representatives voting no, and is on its way to the governor’s office. Armstrong calls it a ‘despicable’ attempt to interfere with the county’s land planning process.

Last fall, the Summit County Council hoped to use developer Dakota Pacific Real Estate’s political clout to its advantage to help get state funding for Kimball Junction traffic fixes.

Now, Councilor Roger Armstrong is alleging the developer is using that clout to lobby the Legislature to adopt a development-friendly provision targeted squarely at the proposed Tech Center development.

“This is clearly an attempt to interfere with Summit County’s land planning, and I think it's despicable,” Armstrong said Thursday. “This is after we had 1,000 people show up at a meeting and express what they thought about this proposal.”

Armstrong is referencing a December public hearing at which the Tech Center proposal was overwhelmingly panned. Before scrapping its plans in the wake of the unprecedented opposition, Dakota Pacific was proposing to build 1,100 homes at Kimball Junction, along with a hotel and some other businesses.

On Wednesday, Deputy County Manager Janna Young explained to the county council that a large affordable housing bill moving through the Legislature — HB 462 — includes a provision that seems to apply solely to Summit County.

“(The bill) basically requires a county that has created a transit district by Jan. 1, 2022, and which has a hub in unincorporated areas serving more than four routes, so i.e. Kimball Junction, to create a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone at that hub by Dec. 31, 2022,” she said.

If the bill passes, Summit County would need to establish a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone — or HTRZ — by the end of this year or risk losing out on state funding for what it views as crucial projects: bus rapid transit on S.R. 224 and overhauling the congested roadways in Kimball Junction.

A Dakota Pacific representative declined to say whether the firm lobbied to have the language included in the bill.

In a prepared statement, Marc Stanworth, Dakota Pacific’s CEO, said the firm was pleased to see legislators addressing what he called Utah’s severe housing shortage. He said provisions like HTRZs are planning and financial tools that support housing around transportation nodes like Kimball Junction.

“We have and will continue to work with Summit County leadership and the community to further refine our proposal to achieve a project for which we can all be proud,” Stanworth said.

If the county does create an HTRZ, it could very well mean more development at Kimball Junction. There’s a separate bill moving through the Legislature that changes the requirements of an HTRZ. In the proposed language, at least 51% of the developable land inside an HTRZ must have residential uses with a density averaging at least 50 units per acre. That’s a 50-unit apartment building on land the size of a football field.

Armstrong has consistently opposed the Tech Center development proposal. He suggested if the bills become law, they would give Dakota Pacific more bargaining power when it resubmits development plans.

“I’m sure if you're going to bring something back, it would be nice to have this in your back pocket when you come back. If I were them, I would wait till this lands, gets approved. I'm told that the Legislature is incredibly supportive of this and I've heard that the governor's office is as well,” Armstrong said. “So, if you're going to come back to the county, you want to come back with a lot of leverage. This gives you that leverage.”

This is not the first time Dakota Pacific has lobbied the Legislature on behalf of this project. Last year, it secured an earmark specifically for an environmental impact study for Kimball Junction.

HB 462 is more than 4,000 lines long; the provision in question is four. The bill passed the House on Tuesday and is set to be taken up by the Senate. The Legislature’s general session ends at 11:59 p.m. Friday night.

Updated: March 3, 2022 at 5:23 PM MST
5 p.m. March 3: The Senate voted 24-3 to pass HB 462 Thursday afternoon. Before the vote, Sen. Ron Winterton (R-Roosevelt), who represents Summit County, attempted to remove from the bill the language compelling the county to establish an HTRZ at Kimball Junction. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jacob Anderegg (R-Lehi), declined the amendment.

Both senators who represent Summit County, Sen. John Johnson (R-Ogden) and Winterton, voted against the bill, as did Sen. Daniel McCay (R-Riverton). HB 462 next goes back to the House and, if it passes, to the governor’s office for signature or veto.

10 a.m. March 4: The House passed HB 462 Thursday evening 61 votes to 11. Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) voted for the bill. Reps. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan) and Mike Kohler (R-Midway) voted against it.

The bill now goes for signature to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, and then to the governor's office for signature or veto.
Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.