Despite Salt Lake City contending that the state is seizing its powers, the House voted Wednesday to creating an inland port authority to oversee development of in the city’s northwest quadrant — and part of West Valley City and Magna.
It voted 61-11 to approve SB234, sending it back to the Senate, which passed it 20-6.
SB234 would set in motion the creation of what supporters hope will be an international trade hub for the western United States, near Salt Lake City International Airport and the soon-to-be-built state prison.
City officials have been wary of the measure, saying the state is overstepping its bounds on the capital’s taxing and zoning authority for an undeveloped swath of land.
House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, told the House that with amendments, Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Magna will continue to have land-use authority.
“The difference is the taxing authority will reside within the Inland Port Authority,” he said.
Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, said the inland port “is going to be a gem for the state and an economic driver.”
Feb. 5: Senate advances bill to create inland port on northwest Salt Lake City land
By Taylor Anderson
A bill that would create an inland port authority that oversees development of 38 square miles of northwestern Salt Lake City land passed a Senate vote Monday night as senators called the bill an economic driver for Utah.
SB234 would set in motion the creation of what supporters hope will be an international trade hub for the Western United States, near the Salt Lake City International Airport and soon-to-be-built state prison.
City officials have been wary of the measure, saying the state is overstepping its bounds on the city’s taxing and zoning authority for an undeveloped swath of land.
But the Republican-dominated Senate voted 24-3 to advance the bill in the waning days of the legislative session, saying other states have shown the inland port model drives development.
“Trains would be unloaded, then the containers would be distributed and brought back to this area,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, the bill’s sponsor. “This is probably the largest economic development opportunity that we’ve faced in several years.”
The bill moves to the House, where Speaker Greg Hughes has been a vocal proponent of the measure. Hughes said at recent meetings on the issue that he supported the bill because it would give certainty over development of an inland port.
March 2: Proposed trade hub in northwest Salt Lake City gets few tweaks, but city leaders seek more changes as it heads to Senate
A Senate committee Friday unanimously signed off on amended plans for a commerce-driving land-based port of entry in northwest Salt Lake City, amid objections from city leaders that the latest version still threatens the capital’s autonomy over local taxes and zoning.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, and Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the two sides would continue to work on addressing the city’s concerns as the bill, now on its way to the full Senate, moves through the Legislature.
SB234 would set up an independent authority to guide creation and development of a special trade zone in the city, where inbound and outbound overseas goods could be received and processed, bypassing coastal ports of entry. Proponents say such a facility would deliver an economic boon to the state, positioning Utah to benefit from a global economy increasingly dependent on supply-chain logistics for speed and growth, with ripple benefits for manufacturing and other business sectors.
Stevenson, in presenting the bill, called it potentially “the largest economic development project that we’ve ever done in the state of Utah.”
The city has worked, through recent zoning and development moves, to position itself to create such a trade hub on its own, one perhaps tied to the state by contract, but not run by a state-created entity. It has sought to broaden its case against the plan by highlighting how the bill could set precedent for state intervention that threatens local government control statewide.
The bill additionally does three things that Salt Lake City opposes:
• The agency it creates to administer the trade hub could override city zoning decisions.
• It takes five percent off the top from special city taxing districts created to reinvest in area development.
• And it includes too little representation from the city for an entity whose jurisdiction is entirely within the city’s borders.
The new version of the bill approved Friday by the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services committee reduces how much of northwest Salt Lake City would be under the authority’s jurisdiction, from 38 to 30 square miles. It also somewhat limits the scope of the agency’s zoning appeal power.
The actual port facility, when built, would occupy only a small area within the jurisdiction. But control of the surrounding land would allow the agency to make development decisions affecting, for example, transportation into and out of the facility, as well as receive a greater share of tax dollars to fund its operations.
With House and Senate Republican leaders firmly on board for the plan, a favorable outcome for the bill was in little doubt at Friday’s hearing. Biskupski, testifying against it, said the proposal “still leaves me with grave concerns” about giving control over thousands of acres of the city to an unelected state board.
She said later that the city had made some progress with the sponsor and other legislative supporters, as reflected by the amendments.
“But you can see there is still a very large section of our land that is inside the area they are discussing,” she said.
Besides the land use and taxing concerns, the city wants more representation on the proposed agency’s nine-member board. Currently the mayor is given two appointments, one of whom would also be a member of the Airport Advisory Board; and the City Council has one appointment.
Committee Chairman Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, noting the overflow audience that turned out for the hearing, asked to limit testimony to four speakers each in favor of the bill and against it. In spite of some opposition, speakers were unanimous in support of the port concept, if not this bill’s version of it.
As Anderegg noted more than once, the debate “is really about control.”