David Ross Scheer: Utah must demand the inland port plan we need

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Opponents of the proposed inland port are escorted out of the Utah Inland Port Authority Board meeting by Utah Highway Patrol officers at the Capitol, June 5, 2019. The Inland Port Authority Board had to cancel its meeting last month after a group of protesters took over the meeting.

The Utah Inland Port Authority has been in business since February 2018, in control of millions of taxpayer dollars, without an official plan. The UIPA hasn’t even said what the inland port will consist of.

This lack of planning has been strategic on the part of the UIPA, allowing them to dismiss concerns about the port’s impacts on air quality, wildlife, wetlands and traffic congestion with vague promises to build a “green” port.

Now, after more than two years, the UIPA board has said it will release a “business plan” by the end of this month.

What should we expect from this “business plan”? In order to address the public’s questions about the port’s impacts, this plan must go far beyond the scope of a typical business analysis. In addition to an analysis of the port’s economic viability, this plan needs to include the following:

  • A statement of the types of buildings and their total floor area on which the report is based. This must include the overall floor area ratio, the ratio of a building’s floor area to the area of the parcel of land on which it is built.

  • A calculation of the volume of traffic expected to be generated by port activities, based on standard planning methods. This traffic will affect our air quality, congestion on our roads and the need to expand or build new road infrastructure. The public cost of the latter must be included in the total cost of building the port.

  • The volume and composition of emissions from vehicular traffic created by port activities, and emissions from port activities themselves, including the operation of buildings.

  • A calculation of the volume of stormwater runoff, and a plan for ensuring that this runoff does not flood or contaminate essential wildlife habitat of the Great Salt Lake and surrounding wetlands.

To calculate runoff, the document must include:

  • A physical plan showing all roads, open areas to be preserved and drainage infrastructure.

  • A policy setting either a minimum area to be preserved as open space or a maximum ratio of impervious areas (buildings, roads and other paved areas such as parking lots and loading docks) to pervious areas.

  • A calculation of the total impervious area of the port based on this policy.

  • A map clearly showing the boundaries of the area where development will be permitted.

  • Firm targets limiting light and noise pollution and policies to achieve them.

  • Clear energy performance standards for all buildings erected within the port.

  • A reasonable estimate of the total water and power requirements of the port and a plan showing how these will be provided.

  • An analysis of how the traffic and air quality impacts of the port will affect adjacent communities, which will bear a disproportionate share of them.

All of this information must be supplemented with sufficient detail to allow the plan’s conclusions to be independently verified.

All Utah taxpayers are investors in the Utah inland port. As with any investment, Utahns are entitled to the information needed to assess the likelihood of getting a satisfactory return on our money. And as with any investment, we should be able to withhold our money if we don’t like what we see.

David Ross Scheer

David Ross Scheer is a Salt Lake City-based architect and urban planner with over 30 years’ experience in planning major developments.