Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Of RDA's and Ag Land Preservation(!)

This morning I attended the meeting of the RDA subcommittee of the legislature's tax reform task force, where the League of Cities and Towns presented their proposal for restructuring the RDA law.

Lincoln Shurtz (League staff), Lee King (Midvale City administrator), and Eric Jorgensen (SLC Councilmember), made the presentation and did a good job. Task Force co-chair Sen. Curt Bramble said there were many things about the proposal he liked (he also said there were some things he would adamnantly oppose -- don't know what those things were, other than eminent domain, which is an absolute non-starter for him). The ideas the League presented will now get kicked around by various groups and inidividuals, and we'll see what comes out at the end of the process.

The last agenda item for the subcommittee was an interesting one. Rep. Scott Wyatt from Cache County wanted to inform the group that he was opening a bill file to allow for county-option redistribution of local-option sales tax funds. He rather liked the idea that had been discussed earlier by the task force of changing the distribution formula for the local portion of sales tax to go to 100 percent population (no point-of-sale consideration), and he was afraid that change would not be forthcoming during the next legislative session. So his idea is to allow for it to be done by allowing each county (I think the cities and county governing bodies) to agree to a distribution formula, then have it put on the ballot for a vote of approval by the voters of that county.

Committee members asked why he felt so strongly about this idea. Rep. Wyatt responded by saying that he thinks this would be a good way to take away the incentive for local governments to seek commercial development to support their budgets. He cited the example of Highway 89-91 running from Brigham City to Logan, saying once drivers descend from lovely Sardine Canyon, they then drive through a long stretch of agricultural land to Logan, which gives the Cache Valley much of its wonderful rural character. The residents of Logan and Cache Valley value highly this image and experience.

Even now, however, he said, there are conflicts going on between the cities over annexation out to the highway, with the ultimate intention of allowing commercial development to bring in more needed tax revenue. By taking away the incentive for cities to seek commercial tax revenue, Rep. Wyatt feels more ag land, especially in this corridor, will be preserved.

Committe members asked him if there weren't other ways to preserve ag land beside changing the sales tax distribution formula. He said there were, but he did not support, for example, the proposal to raise a local option tax for funds for land conservation.

Sen. Bramble asked him why zoning couldn't accomplish what he wanted, since the cities and county had the power to zone. The answer was that this could happen, but it would take tremendous political will, since the temptation to cash in for revenue would be great. Sen. Bramble then said he had a lot of thoughts about how zoning could be more effective to do this, and he'd like to share them with Rep. Wyatt sometime (I'd like to hear them, too, since conservative legislators often tell us we can't be using land use regulation to deny property owners their right to develop!).

Anyway, it was an interesting discussion. If Rep. Wyatt's bill gets written and moves out for discussion, it should be interesting!

Add-on Aug.11: See the Trib article on this meeting.

3 Comments:

At 11:57 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

If you get any info on how he thinks zoning could be used I would be very interested. The city council I sit on is looking at an issue like this. The land owner wants the zone changed from ag/open space to commercial. If it is denied it will probably end up in court.

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

Hey, it's arcritic from WCF. I'd be interested to know what city council you sit on. It seems like developers always get what they want in the end. I guess the question becomes this: is there a good legal basis for keeping open space zoning? If 90% of a city's citizens want to see certain land preserved, does that make it justified? I'll tell you what, in my hometown we have very, very little hillside development. The interesting thing will be trying to keep it that way, and hopefully we can. But when you have these filthy rich developers, it's hard. It's all about money. Those who have it usually get what they want.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Wilf said...

From what the legal eagles tell us, it is difficult to zone private property for "open space," unless there is some hazard to public safety involved like a flood plain, steep slope, earthquake fault rupture area, etc. Otherwise, zoning must allow for some economic benefit to the owner, else you've done "inverse condemnation," that is, you've taken all the value for a public purpose, hence the public should pay.

It will be interesting to see if something like Rep. Wyatt's idea, trying to remove an economic incentive for a city to change zoning to commercial, would work. I personally have my doubts...

 

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