Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Here We Go Again on Regional Facilities

A story in this morning's DesNews again points to the issues surrounding important facilities of regional significance -- this time, a major sewage treatment plant. This story is about the Salt Lake County Council's approval of changes to the federally required water quality plan for the valley, which are needed to give legitimacy to the plant and the ability to tap into federal dollars. Of course, there is significant opposition (what can be done these days without it?). Riverton City approved a conditional use permit for the plant a while ago, which is being appealed by opponents as well.

All this is deja vu to some extent back to the battle a couple of years ago over the Metro Water District plans for a water treatment plant in Draper. The issue eventually boiled down to the desire by the District to locate a needed regional facility in a given location vs. the ability of a community to govern its land use. The state legislature was brought into the fight, and a bill loomed for some time that would have exempted water treatment plants from control by local land use ordinances. Such a measure raised the specter of a whole raft of uses thus coming to the legislature to seek their exemptions as well.

The issue was eventually settled between the Metro Water District and Draper City, but Rep. Greg Hughes and Rep. Ralph Becker put forward a bill that would have created a process to review and settle such disputes in the future. This South Valley sewer treatment plant issue was on the horizon then as another issue (that might be a harbinger of more in the future) if we didn't find a way to effective deal with such issues.

The bill, however, was eventually watered down and ultimately only required that various entities that build facilities of regional significance (cities, counties, special districts, school districts, and even major utility companies) must notify each other as they develop long-range plans.

Well, a fat lot of good that has done in the sewage treatment plant case. We have another rousing dispute going, and once again a legislator is threatening to step into the fray with a special bill. Sen. Waddoups has a bill file open titled "Siting Criteria for MultiCommunity Treatment Facilities."

So here we go again. It just seems like we can't ever effectively deal with some of these problems that are staring us in the face. I talked with Ralph Becker about this issue and what might come of it, and he said while he has sympathy for all the issues we talked about a couple of years ago, he's not too excited about trying to do anything again because of how his and Greg Hughes' efforts were treated last time.

So here we are, again. And you can bet your bottom dollar this won't be the last time we see this issue come up.

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