The Utah Legislature has enough on its plate without reaching over and grabbing some of the most important stuff from the tray of Salt Lake City government.
It is not as if city and state officials don’t agree — generally — on the great economic development potential for what’s called the city’s Northwest Quadrant.
The largely vacant area near the booming Salt Lake International Airport and the under-construction state prison clearly has the potential to attract and support all kinds of new businesses. Leaders of both jurisdictions agree that the proximity of the airport, two Interstate highways, rail lines, combined with infrastructure upgrades that will come as part of the prison project, provide fertile ground for a bumper crop of industrial, warehousing, transportation and support development.
Dreams include a kind of inland port, where goods could be flown in, go through customs and be shipped out again to points across North America, avoiding the logjams often found in seaports such as Oakland and Long Beach.
What isn’t clear is why the city — its laws, planning process, elected officials, etc. — is not fully capable of managing and providing services to the expected boomtown.
Unless, of course, state officials (Republicans) think city leaders (Democrats) might not be aggressive enough in digging holes and laying pavement. That the city might actually show some concern for wetlands and wildlife and the protection of the nearby Great Salt Lake and seek to strike a balance between those interests and the desire to turn it all into a sea of concrete and glass. That city planners and inspectors might expect development there to be sustainable, energy- and water-efficient and to weigh as lightly as possible on an area that already has its share of environmental challenges.
If the area in question were spread over multiple cities and/or counties, it might make some sense to create the very entity — the Utah Inland Port Authority — envisioned in Senate Bill 234. But it isn’t.
Salt Lake City is a big girl and fully capable of planning and serving the development of the area. It most certainly does not deserve to be treated as a struggling Third World nation that needs some kind of protectorate imposed upon it to be sure it handles the job properly.
That didn’t stop a Senate committee from approving the bill Friday. If it becomes law, it would overlay the city’s rightful authority with a body that could overturn city zoning and other land-use decisions over some 30 square miles of land. It could also skim 5 percent off the top of any revenue from any special taxing district that might be set up to provide services and infrastructure for the area or any part thereof.
There are only a few days left in the regular session of the Legislature. Lawmakers have more pressing things to do with their time. They should leave this questionable idea for another, more carefully considered, day.