Planners encourage Salt Lake County annexation protest
By Mike Gorrell
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jan 20 2014 01:01AM
Respect our rights to self-determination, pleaded proponents of annexing an extended unincorporated-area neighborhood of more than 3,600 residents into Holladay City.
But the Millcreek Township Planning Commission decided last week that it owed a greater obligation to the rest of Salt Lake County’s unincorporated-area residents who don’t know how their taxes would be impacted by the secession.
Planners voted 4-1 to encourage the Salt Lake County Council to continue its protest against the proposed move of the "Olympus Hills" neighborhood into Holladay, a formal recommendation that will be made at the council’s Tuesday meeting.
Pursuing that protest will trigger the creation of a Boundary Commission, which then will hire a consultant to prepare a feasibility study evaluating the financial impacts of the proposed annexation. It involves the area between 2700 East and Interstate 215 from 3900 South to 4500 South.
Holladay City already retained Zions Bank to examine some of the numbers. Zions’ analysis, City Attorney Craig Hall told the planning commission, showed the annexation would be revenue neutral, actually costing the city an additional $96,000 annually.
"Statistically, that’s a wash," Hall said, citing the study’s no-impact finding as being sufficient to satisfy the requirement for a feasibility study.
But County Township Executive Patrick Leary and representatives of four community councils in Millcreek Township — Millcreek, Mt. Olympus, Canyon Rim and East Millcreek, which includes the area seeking annexation — said the city-funded study did not address what happens to the rest of the unincorporated area if this one chunk is lost.
Even if the annexation itself is revenue neutral, they maintained unincorporated-area residents could be stuck with other impacts — for example, paying off bonds for the Unified Police Department and Unified Fire Authority with fewer people to foot the bill.
"We know there are winners and losers in annexations and there will be tax implications to the rest of the unincorporated area," Leary said, contending the residents outside of Olympus Hills "have a vested interest in understanding what that will be."
A more detailed feasibility study will provide needed answers, he added.
His position resonated with most commission members.
"I believe in the wisdom of the community councils and they’ve all asked for the feasibility study," said Tom Stephens, emphasizing that planners "are not making a statement in opposition to the annexation."
Added commissioner Ann Ober, "It’s important to have a discussion with all the information we can get."
But her colleague, Leslie Riddle, said she doubts the results of a new study will differ much from the Zions Bank analysis, especially considering the Olympus Hills annexation involves just 3,600 of the unincorporated county’s 160,000 residents.
"Look at the cost of a feasibility study that will likely turn out the same answer. It’s a waste of money," Riddle said, maintaining that withdrawing the protest and allowing the annexation to proceed would be "a good opportunity for the county to demonstrate it supports self-determination."
"We need you to speak in our behalf," implored annexation supporter Keith White, noting that the petition drive secured far more signatures than required by law.
"If there are compelling reasons why this is hurting others, I can see why you would protest. But the way we set this up, I can’t see any logical reason to protest and to not allow the will of our neighborhood to be fulfilled."
His neighbor, Susan Pohlman, was more emphatic, contending Olympus Hills residents have always thought of themselves as part of Holladay. "I resent roadblocks being put in our way because that’s [Holladay] where we want to be," she said.
Added Eric Rasmussen: "We have determined that [annexation] is what we want. … I don’t feel White City, Magna or any other unincorporated area should have a say on what we want to do in our area."
Diane Angus, a 20-year veteran on the Millcreek Community Council, disagreed. She said unincorporated-area residents deserve to have their impacts evaluated, too.
"Annexations put a burden on people who want to stay with the county and appreciate the services it provides," she said. "I have seen lots of annexations that have eroded our tax base, and our residents are left to continue paying for services. We’re constantly being put into that position. It seems like it never stops."
The County Council seems likely to follow the planning commission recommendation and formalize its protest.
Then, the to-be-created Boundary Commission is likely to include two county officials, two Holladay officials and three people who are jointly approved.