Senate advances bill to control inland port in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY — The bill that would create a way to control the development of a global trade hub in Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant cleared the Utah Senate on Monday, but without addressing the city’s top concern.

SB234, which would create a new governing body called the Utah Inland Port Authority to oversee the development of thousands of acres in Salt Lake City’s last developable swath of land, passed on a 24-3 vote Monday night. It now goes to the House.

A few changes were made to the bill, including reducing the amount of tax increment the port authority would be able to take from 5 percent to 2 percent, along with some boundary changes.

Though Salt Lake City officials were still reviewing the changes to the boundaries late Monday, David Litvack, Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s deputy chief of staff, said city leaders "continue to be concerned" about the bill because the substitute did not address the city’s main concern of keeping land-use authority with the city.

"Of paramount issue to us continues to be land use, and as it is currently written, (the bill) causes concern about the state usurping core city functions in planning and zoning," Litvack said.

Ever since the bill was unveiled just last week, city leaders have been voicing concern that it would redirect final administrative land-use decisions to an appeal panel consisting of the Utah Inland Port Authority members, giving the board the right to "override" local land authority, Biskupski said.

The city would also have less representation on the board than state leaders, with only three appointees to the state’s four.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said the area has "tremendous potential of economic growth" to the state, and the intent of the bill is to work in "concert" with the city and the county to develop a global trade area.

"This is I believe a landmark bill that gives us the opportunity to make one of the best economic decisions we can possibly make," Stevenson said on the Senate floor. "This will be probably one of the largest economic engines we will ever put in place."

Senate Democrats, including Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, voted against the bill, though they spoke about the state and the city still having the opportunity to work together to create a global trade area.

"There are many concerns still pending that puts me in a bind," Escamilla said, adding that she "looks forward" to addressing them as it moves forward.

When asked if the city officials are confident they will be able to address their concerns with land-use authority as the bill heads to the House, Litvack said he "couldn’t speak to that," but added "that continues to be our chief concern and we’ll continue to work on it both with the House and the Senate."

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