Greg Hughes fires back at S.L. over port authority pushback

SALT LAKE CITY — As it made its way through the Utah Legislature, Salt Lake City leaders condemned the bill that would create a Utah inland port authority, sounding off alarms that it would usurp city land use decisions and capture an absurd amount of tax increment.

But House Speaker Greg Hughes — who spearheaded SB234 in efforts to establish the Utah Inland Port Authority before the end of his final term this year — is firing back at the city, claiming that while he was “getting hammered over usurping land use control,” the city in its own inland port development agreement gave away a long list of concessions to developers.

Hughes’ criticisms come as Salt Lake City and state leaders gear up for a special session to reconcile their differences over how a future Utah inland port development will be controlled.

Hughes, R-Draper, also says it’s “fundamentally not true” that the inland port authority usurps land control, arguing that SB234 “memorializes” city land use control in language stating the authority shall respect existing land use and agreements with property owners.

“I can only take being falsely accused for so long,” the speaker said.

Yet city officials stand by their argument that the port authority’s appeal process allows the board to overturn any city land use decision.

Hughes, who scoured provisions in the city’s northwest quadrant development agreement in a recent interview with the Deseret News, accuses city leaders of being not just “hypocritical” of the state in their concerns about the Utah Inland Port Authority, but reckless in their concessions to developers for about 4,000 developable acres in the city’s northwest quadrant meant for the inland port.

“I think its worse than hypocritical,” Hughes said. “I think it’s irresponsible.”

A development agreement is between the city and two of the northwest quadrant’s largest landowners: Rio Tinto Kennecott and NWQ LLC.

Provisions of the agreement Hughes criticized include a 40-year term, no set schedule for the property’s development, no explicit requirement to actually create an inland port, and a provision he said would “lock in” current city land use laws for the next four decades.

“I would argue that the public purpose and the taxpayer dollar is more protected under the governance of the (Utah Inland Port Authority) than the handful of developers that have been given complete control for phasing, implementing and land use for 40 years,” the speaker said.

But city leaders — and landowners participating in the agreement — disagree.

‘Not remotely the same’

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and other city leaders came to the defense of the development agreement, saying the speaker is drawing comparisons between two incomparable issues: a city-created project area — managed according to city laws and processes — versus an unprecedented government board that would have total control over multiple taxing entities’ tax increment, as well as the power to take appeals for city land use decisions.

“To say they’re somehow the same, they’re not even remotely the same,” Biskupski said in a recent meeting of the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards.

Salt Lake …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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