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'Kumbayah' bill temporarily halts governance changes in unincorporated S.L. County

Published: Friday, March 7 2014 6:48 p.m. MST

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Legislation that presses the pause button on annexations and incorporations in unincorporated Salt Lake County until November 2015 was held up as a "kumbayah" bill Friday.

The compromise measure freezes boundaries of the unincorporated county, with the exception of an annexation to Holladay that is underway.

It also respects the work of a group of residents seeking to incorporate Millcreek Township into a city. The group recently filed signatures with the county to restart the process of placing the issue before voters.

Public hearings on the issue will be postponed, but backers do not have to start over with the effort. The soonest the measure could be before voters would be 2016.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, described the measure as her "kumbayah bill." SB216 will "save our communities and give them the self-determination they want," she said.

A previously announced plan that contemplated creating an elected municipal council over the entire unincorporated county with the mayor serving as the area’s executive officer is no longer part of the bill. About 160,000 people live in the unincorporated county.

At a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday afternoon, a diverse representation of residents of the unincorporated county endorsed the bill, thanking Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Mayne and House sponsor Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, for their leadership in bringing together people with disparate points of view.

In 2012, Millcreek voters rejected a ballot question by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent to incorporate the township into a city.

But the issues that stirred the effort — protecting boundaries, direct representation, preserving communities, access to affordable services and taxation — did not go away. Hutchings has said people in other areas of the unincorporated area have many of the same concerns.

SB216 would require Salt Lake County to study governance, delivery of services and other issues related to the unincorporated county by Dec. 1.

The legislation would also permit the county to create a municipal services district similar to the Unified Fire Authority or the Unified Police Department to encourage the cost-effective delivery of services such as code enforcement, animal services and traffic engineering.

McAdams said discussions regarding the future of the unincorporated county have been going on for a year.

The common themes that have emerged are that people love and want to preserve their communities. They want good-quality regional services and reasonable tax rates, McAdams said.

"Today we are moving forward toward our mutual success," he said.

McAdams described the process leading up to the drafting of SB216, now in its third substitute, was "democracy at its best" given the diverse voices that participated in a collaborative process that resulted in the compromise legislation.

SB216 is expected to be amended in the Senate, where the bill's third substitute was unveiled Friday.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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