SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall likened the council's emergency meeting Friday to what it would do after a "major earthquake."
"Today, I feel the same sense of trauma," she said, pausing as she choked up.
The council held the special meeting two days after the Utah Legislature swiftly passed a bill city leaders said would have grave consequences for the city's northwest quadrant by creating an inland port authority board with the power to usurp city administrative land use decisions and capture 100 percent of the project area's tax increment.
Mendenhall said SB234 would mean a tax increment opportunity loss of almost $500 million to Salt Lake City schools over the next 25 years and a loss to "every city function that can be supported by the kind of growth that almost a quarter of our city that is being taken away from us (can achieve)."
"Our city suffered a major casualty this week," Mendenhall said. "It's what feels like an amputation to me at this point."
Mendenhall's comments came right before the City Council and Mayor Jackie Biskupski held a roughly 90 minute closed meeting with attorneys. Afterward, both offices issued statements calling on Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the bill.
In a prepared statement, Biskupski called the bill "an unprecedented land and power grab of nearly 22,000 acres."
But their calls come the day after the governor already said he had no plans to veto the bill.
Herbert was not available for comment Friday, but his spokesman, Paul Edwards, said in a statement the governor still plans to sign it.
"(The governor) met with Mayor Biskupski yesterday to listen to the city's concerns," Edwards said. "Although at this moment in time (at the front end of the bill review period) we always share the caveat that we need to see the final copy of the bill and review it for any unintended errors or consequences before providing a definitive response, if the bill comes forward in the form that we anticipate, the governor plans to sign it."
Edwards noted that the governor first introduced the concept of an inland port at his Global Summit several years ago, so "he has been watching this closely."
"We recognize that it may require some modifications and improvements in the future, but we believe the basic fundamentals are in place to start moving forward with this very important driver for economic development in the state," Edwards said.
If the governor doesn't veto the bill, Salt Lake City may have another recourse.
Biskupski told the Deseret News in an interview as she walked out of Friday's closed meeting that if the state implements the bill, there "is opportunity" for a lawsuit.
"There's the potential for sure," the mayor said. "There are significant issues in the bill that were just not thought through very well. What I'm hoping for is that the state moves slowly and perhaps continues to work with the city to get back to a reasonable partnership. ... But it will be interesting to see if they start implementing the bill."
Mendenhall said the city has "a lot of legal concerns" with the bill "and we are going to examine every option that the city has to protect our local authority."16 comments on this story
"Whatever led to the passage of this bill is not good process and not good policy, it was backroom politics," she said.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, has disputed city's claims that SB234 usurps city land use authority. He said the state drafted the bill to work in "concert" with the city to develop a global trade area or inland port — a project he has argued would be too big for one city or even one county.
Hughes did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening.