County Mayor's Message
Volunteer community leaders of a months-long effort to devise and agree on principles for new legislation unveiled their work and answered questions at a town hall meeting Dec. 10, in the Salt Lake County Council chambers. Their effort follows the 2014 passage of Utah Senate Bill 216, which set the wheels in motion for residents of the townships and unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County to come up with more flexible options to secure their boundaries. That bill and this ongoing effort are the product of a broad 2013 “listening tour” by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who heard about the unique concerns of the 160,000 residents living in townships or the unincorporated area.
Mayor McAdams welcomed the public and thanked the approximately 40 community volunteers who met over the summer to find consensus on the principles for the draft bill. He said the results are designed to be a path forward for more “direct representation on budget matters and local zoning, while maintaining the high-quality, affordable municipal services provided by Salt Lake County.”
“The future we choose will only happen if we can come together as communities to enhance and preserve what we love,” McAdams said.
McAdams turned the meeting over to Rick Raile, a community leader in Emigration Canyon Township who chaired the legislative committee. Raile noted that the group spent “hundreds of hours” in discussions that included legal advice provided by county District Attorney’s office member Gavin Anderson.
He said the volunteers began by looking at the characteristics of every community. “We realized that there were three issues that united us. The ‘three legs of the stool’ were quality services, retaining our unique character and creating permanent governance,” said Raile.
Raile then introduced his committee members. Sandy Hills resident Ron Faerber, who chaired the islands subcommittee, said his neighbors enjoy receiving county services and do not want duplication of government or increased taxes.
Barbara Cameron, from the Big Cottonwood Canyon community, noted that her area is the smallest by population but the largest geographically. She said Big Cottonwood residents want to actively participate in the business of Salt Lake County, while preserving the outdoor characteristics that attract thousands of local and national visitors each year.
Brett Helsten represented Kearns Township. He said his community “wants to stay Kearns” and not be cherry-picked by neighboring cities. He said that Kearns is eager to participate in appropriate economic development which will broaden the tax base and provide jobs.
Millcreek resident Hugh Matheson, who identified himself as a supporter of the 2012 effort to incorporate “Millcreek City,” applauded the mayor for “bringing all sides together.” Matheson said the current proposal keeps boundaries intact, secures the economies of scale—through a municipal services district—that maintains quality, affordable services and avoids the expense of government overhead for those who choose to become a city.
Another Millcreek committee member, Nick Morgan, who expressed appreciation for the effort to give residents better options for responding to the ongoing challenges facing unincorporated areas of the county.
Attorney Gavin Anderson told the audience that as a 35-year veteran of all aspects of township training, he sees the most significant change under the proposal as the power of a new “metro township” to enact its own local ordinances. He went over the different sections of the proposal, highlighting the representation on the municipal services district’s board of trustees.
During the question-and-answer period, residents asked about whether the county would contribute to an educational campaign about the new bill, should it become law. They also wanted to know who the legislative sponsors would be and how a “metro township” would be different than a city. A number of written questions were collected by Associate Deputy Mayor Kimberly Barnett. She also encouraged residents to visit the mayor’s website for updated information, including the outline of proposed legislation that was distributed to those who attended the meeting.
McAdams concluded by explaining that the outline is now in the hands of the legislative counsel. He said a bill will be ready to be introduced early in the legislature’s 2015 session.