Mayor Ben McAdams’ plan to end decades of municipal-boundary disputes in Salt Lake County is in for a fight.
As the mayor held a news conference Wednesday in the County Council chambers, announcing the imminent filing of a bill designed to end perpetual bickering about the borders and governance of unincorporated areas, Millcreek incorporation proponent MaryAnn Matheson Strong was there passing out her own news release.
It lambasted the plan as “Patchwork City” and accused McAdams of attempting to prevent residents of the east-central community from trying again to become a city — an effort rejected by 58 percent of area voters in the November 2012 general election.
What’s changed since then, Strong contended, is that McAdams’ push for the plan during a series of winter meetings with community councils had inspired many Millcreek residents to jump on the incorporation bandwagon.
“Thousands” have signed petitions that Strong said she will submit Thursday to the Salt Lake County clerk, seeking to put “Millcreek City” on the ballot in November.
“Millcreek residents want to be their own city,” she said, not part of a “non-contiguous city with disparate interests, needs and goals.”
But whether they get a chance to vote this fall is questionable — because of the legislation McAdams was touting in his news conference.
It would freeze unincorporated-area boundaries where they were, as of Jan. 1, until November 2015. That’s when residents would vote on becoming a de facto city stretching from Emigration Canyon to Copperton, including Magna, Kearns, Millcreek, White City and scattered neighborhoods in Granite.
If that vote is positive, the “city” would come into existence Jan. 1, 2016, with a council-manager form of government. A nine-member council elected on a geographical basis would set policy for the delivery of municipal services in the area.
McAdams said he determined, in the numerous community meetings cited by Strong, that people were tired of the “age-old debate within the community that pits neighbor against neighbor” when annexations or incorporations are discussed.
People should be fed up, he added, since it’s clear “we’ve seen stalemate result that is detrimental to the unincorporated county.”
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said she’s seen enough battles through the years to know “we need to have stability” and to replace an existing system that “doesn’t work and is confusing.” So she has worked with McAdams to craft a bill, SB216, that technically creates an optional form of government for the county.
Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, the House sponsor, added “there has to be a new way of doing things to … protect communities and to allow those communities to thrive.”
While Strong does not like McAdams’ plan, it has won over her former compatriot in the 2012 Millcreek incorporation effort, Jeff Silvestrini, chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council. “This [plan] addresses unincorporated needs about preserving communities and protecting boundaries,” he said, along with improving representation for area residents. “Our Founding Fathers would be horrified by the model we have now. It is taxation without representation.”
Silvestrini said the plan also is supported by the Association of Community Councils Together, made up of leaders of the individual community councils.
Because it was already in process before Jan. 1, the proposed annexation of Olympus Hills subdivision into Holladay would not be held up by this bill, McAdams said.
Mayne is confident the bill will get widespread legislative support. “We’re going to have peace in the valley,” she predicted.
Town hall meeting
o Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams will explain what he calls his “Community Preservation Project” in an open house from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Murray High School, 5440 S. State.