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Editorial: McAdams’ island ‘city’ may end boundary fights

McAdams’ island ‘city’ may work

First Published Feb 23 2014 10:43 pm • Last Updated Feb 23 2014 10:43 pm

Call it "Granmillpertonagna." No? How about "Magcopperkearncreek"?

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has a plan to create what is essentially a city out of all the remaining unincorporated burgs in the county, an entity with no uniting force other than to prevent further encroachments and defections.

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It’s more of an act of desperation than incorporation, but the mayor is right that something needs to be done.

The balkanization of Salt Lake County has been a decades-long process, and McAdams is only the most recent county leader to try and address it. He can’t blame his predecessor because his predecessor inherited it, too. Fifty years ago, there was only Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Murray, Midvale, West Jordan, South Jordan and Sandy. The rest of the valley was unincorporated, and that was plenty of critical mass to provide taxes and services for that large portion of the county’s population. Today, only a few places — notably Millcreek, Magna, Kearns, Copperton, Granite, White City and Emigration Canyon — remain unincorporated.

For the valley’s communities, it has been a choice between controlling their destinies and controlling their costs. Those with more tax base have chosen controlling their destinies. They became cities and set up their own planning departments, regulations and services. Those who don’t have the tax base have stayed behind with the county to control costs. Prominent among the stay-behinders are Kearns and Magna, two communities with long and strong histories but not much commercial and industrial presence to generate taxes.

With some Millcreek residents agitating for another run at incorporation, McAdams wants to change the rules. This has proponents of a Millcreek City upset, naturally, but they would have a better argument for killing McAdams’ plan and letting them go it alone if they hadn’t tried to incorporate less than two years ago, failing when 58 percent of residents rejected it.

McAdams needs legislation to create this municipal archipelago. Current law requires any city be one contiguous piece of land, so Senate Bill 216 has been filed to change that. The bill would allow the county to run the unincorporated areas something like a single city. The key element is that it would freeze the boundaries, preventing Millcreek or any other community from incorporating separately and keeping other cities from gobbling up adjacent unincorporated areas.

So, yes, this proposed "city," if you can call it that, would be something of a Frankenstein. But McAdams gets kudos for developing a credible solution to a vexing problem. If his plan eventually becomes everyone’s plan, it could be made to work.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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