December 7, 2011 Staff Report on Weekly Meetings: Week of November 28, 2011
ULCT ended November and started December with the Land Use Task Force, a water nutrient meeting at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Newly Elected trainings, and other meetings.
Land Use Task Force
The Land Use Task Force took and unexpected twist last week as it learned that Sen. Niederhauser’s Transfer Fees Bill had been offered to address Legislative Interim testimony that had accused a certain Wasatch Back County of cronyism in its administration of its land use code. Sen. Niederhauser quickly acknowledged that while a good transfer fee bill may be beneficial legislation, he was looking for a deeper inquiry into how to stem the appearance of limitless discretion and the potential for cronyism in land use administration. His concern appears to be with those few counties that grant urban densities in unincorporated areas, without clear methods. After a fair amount of pointed discussion, it appeared that he was focused on an aberration and that he did not intend to undermine land use discretion generally. Needless to say, this turn of events captured the group’s attention for most of the meeting. Look for this issue to carry over into next interim’s discussions.
The group added direction to the Eminent Domain for Trails bill, requesting additional restrictions on the use of condemnation with respect to trail lengths and multi-jurisdiction trails. The PRC also identified opposition within its ranks that the ULCT will attempt to quell before the session begins. The Task Force also approved the revisions to the Impact Fees bill and the Development Standards bill. Both bills are off to Leg Research. The last Task Force meeting for the interim is scheduled for Monday, December 12 at 2:30 p.m. after LPC. At that meeting, we hope to achieve a resolution for the Fines for Nuisance abatement issue, and to get to consensus on Sen. Niederhauser’s Transfer Fee bill.
Late in the week, we learned that the State Engineer’s Office intended to pursue a bill to reverse the Jensen v. Jones and Big Ditch decisions without addressing certain serious concerns identified by the ULCT over the interim. This is a bold move on the State Engineer’s part because legislators, who are known for their expertise in water and who are also keenly interested in these issues, have relied on the State Engineer’s promise to resolve issues that the ULCT has raised.
Water nutrient Core Group:
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality invited ULCT to represent local government on its internal Nutrient Core Group. The Division of Water Quality is developing a plan for establishing quality standards for nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. This week’s meeting brought together several potential stakeholders. First, science representatives explained the potential negative impact of excess nitrogen and phosphorous on humans, drinking water, biology, water recreation, and the environment. For example, the excess nutrients could lead to the death of plants, animals, and fish, and threats to human health. Second, agricultural representatives expressed concern that increased nutrient regulations would increase the cost on Utah farmers and ranchers. Third, a representative of Publicly Owned Treatment Works argued that the potential regulations could cost local governments and special service districts over $1 billion to comply. Only a handful of water treatment facilities in Utah utilize the most modern technology, and the Division of Water Quality subsidized the construction of several of those facilities with grant money. The next meeting will be January 12 and ULCT will continue to fight state and federal unfunded mandates on local government and maintain water quality.
Newly Elected Training
ULCT went to Logan on Saturday morning to meet nearly 80 new council members from 18 different cities and towns. The legislative team explained ULCT’s role at the legislature and how ULCT will communicate legislative updates to our members via our website. We also explained our new federal outreach and sought recommendations for questions for the congressional delegation. We hope that we didn’t overwhelm the new officials—approximately 150 upcoming bills, state and federal unfunded mandates, and budget shortfalls—and we appreciated their attention, interest, and community service.