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Utah House passes bill allowing Dakota Pacific development at Tech Center without county approval

In this 2020 file photo, lawmakers conduct business on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rick Bowmer
Lawmakers conduct business on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives in Salt Lake City.

Last year, state lawmakers required Summit County to submit plans that could allow Dakota Pacific Real Estate to develop at Kimball Junction. This time around, state lawmakers may not take “no” for an answer.

Senate Bill 84, called Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Amendments, passed the Utah House of Representatives Wednesday morning.

Before the vote, the bill’s sponsor in the House, Rep. Casey Snider of Cache Valley, substituted language into SB 84 aimed directly at Dakota Pacific’s rezoning proposal for Kimball Junction. The bill’s new language gives Dakota Pacific the right to build its mixed-use development without county approval.

County officials say the state is seizing their land use authority.

SB 84 builds on last year’s House Bill 462, which required the county to submit a proposal for an HTRZ near a transit hub. The county submitted those plans, which addressed location and processes for any future zone. But those plans weren’t a specific proposal.

If it passes the Legislature and is signed by Governor Spencer Cox, SB 84 will require Summit County to allow Dakota Pacific to create its mixed-use development at the tech park in Kimball Junction. The bill’s language essentially says that’s a penalty for the county not sending the state an actual proposal.

“It's new, that penalty wasn't there before. And to do so after the fact is likely illegal,” Council Chair Roger Armstrong said. “But beyond that, it's also just unprecedented to do something like that.”

All four Summit County representatives, Rep. Kera Birkeland, Rep. Brian King, Rep. Mike Kohler and Rep. Scott Chew, voted in favor. The bill passed the House unanimously Wednesday morning.

The language Summit County objects to originated in House Bill 446, which was folded into SB 84 less than five minutes before it went to a vote.

Neither Snider nor the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Senate President Pro Tempore Wayne Harper, responded to requests for comment in time for this report.

Armstrong says state legislators don’t know enough about Summit County or its needs to attempt such special purpose legislation.

“And they certainly don't know, specifically the problems and the way we're trying to solve problems in our communities,” Armstrong said. “So to legislate from the hill for special purpose legislation to benefit a developer is wrong on more levels than I can articulate.”

After the House vote, the county updated its schedule. The public hearings scheduled for Feb. 22 and March 1 have been pushed back to March 1 and 8. Feb. 22 will be a final work session with Dakota Pacific with no public comment.

The council has scheduled a vote on the project for March 15. But the county may not have a choice in the matter: it's back to the senate to vote on SB 84.

Updated: February 16, 2023 at 11:54 AM MST
Senate Bill 84 passed in the Utah Senate Thursday morning with Rep. Snider's additional language in it. The vote was 24-2-3. Summit County's senators, Sen. John Johnson and Sen. Ron Winterton, were the only two who voted against. This is a developing story.