SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill filed in the Utah State Legislature looks to make some concessions to Salt Lake City over development of the inland port.
House Bill 347, made public late Friday night, gives Salt Lake City about 25% of the tax benefits from the massive project. It also requires some development out there to comply with city regulations and gives the mayor a seat on the Inland Port Authority Board.
The bill is sponsored by House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, who drafted the original inland port legislation. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski sued the state, accusing it of a "land grab." Mayor Erin Mendenhall has continued the lawsuit (which is currently in appeals) while simultaneously negotiating with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
"The removal of the state control over land use appeals and the tax increment distribution in this bill are big strides forward not only for Salt Lake City, but also the other 248 cities and towns throughout Utah that could be impacted by this statute and the state’s potential power to override municipal land use and taxing authority," Mayor Mendenhall said in a statement Saturday.
"The collaboration on HB 0347 is promising and represents major progress for Salt Lake City, but there are still environmental assurances we need to address moving forward. This inland port and the negotiations we have today will impact generations of Salt Lake residents. The potential for future statutes to be undone and used to harm the city is a driving force behind our work for something more certain."
The mayor said she would pursue the lawsuit while continuing to negotiate with the legislature.
Another bill in the legislature calls for more to be done to mitigate environmental impact. Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, has sponsored Senate Bill 112 that creates standards for hazardous waste, water use, and dust.
None of the bills unwind the inland port, which is what many environmental activists have long advocated for. They argue the project will dramatically increase pollution along the Wasatch Front with more trucks and trains.
"Don’t be fooled. Developers win big time with Rep. Gibson’s 'Inland Port Modifications' bill," Deeda Seed of the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in a Facebook post analyzing the bill.
"Senator Gibson’s H.B. 347 is a terrible bill that gives developers vested property rights (for 40 years), to build things that fall under the description of “inland port uses”. This is potentially everything from huge warehouses, a second railyard, to a coal storage and transfer facility. These developers would only be required to adhere to the zoning laws in force as of December 2018 and nothing else," she wrote.
The inland port has been dubbed the largest economic development project in state history. It's a massive import-export center that brings products through customs faster to be distributed throughout the region. Located near the Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City's Northwest Quadrant, the area has seen a boom with warehouses popping up including Amazon.