City wants public feedback on potential changes to inland port zoning

Map of the boundaries for the Inland Port Authority. Image courtesy Salt Lake City.

Now that the Salt Lake City Council reached a compromise with state leaders on the proposed inland port, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is looking to new zoning regulations to mitigate the environmental impacts of new development in the city’s far west corridor.

The mayor has directed the Salt Lake City Planning Division to begin updating the zoning regulations within the inland port to specifically address the following objectives and policies: improving air quality,
minimizing resource use, maintaining sensitivity to the area’s unique natural environments, identifying neighborhood impacts and addressing community concerns.

As required by statute, the mayor also wants to add inland port uses as permitted and/or conditional to the zoning districts that are located within the inland port designated area.

According to the city, HB 2001 requires the city to update its zoning ordinance to support inland port uses before December 31, 2018.  That means the city has just over four months to adopt updated zoning regulations for the inland port or it loses its opportunity to regulate inland port uses.  Even with updated zoning regulations, based on existing legislation, the Inland Port Authority Board will have final land use authority within the designated inland port area.

“My Administration will explore every possible opportunity to protect the city’s interests and our Constitutional authority over how land is developed in our jurisdiction,” said Mayor Biskupski in a statement. “While we are being forced to expend tremendous effort and time to meet this arbitrary deadline, the troubling fact remains even our updated regulations can be overturned by the Inland Port Authority Board at any time.”

According to the mayor’s office, one of the main focuses of the zoning change project will be to evaluate the types of uses that might be associated with an inland port and develop regulations that support Salt Lake City’s sustainability and master plan goals. Many inland port uses are already allowed in the M-1 (Light Manufacturing) zone, which occupies the majority of the defined inland port area.

“While we continue to explore our legal options, it is important that we update our zoning in the impacted areas to ensure our values are clearly defined prior to any significant action taken by the unelected Inland Port Authority Board,” said Mayor Biskupski in a statement.

Over the next six weeks, the city will reach out to the public, property owners, special interest groups and developers regarding any proposed zoning updates. The Planning Division also seeks input on how the city can address the standards that the inland port authority appeal panel is required to use related to impacts from an inland port use.

Those standards include: the potential environmental impacts inland port uses may have on air quality, surface water, and groundwater; the extent to which an inland port use will apply the best available technology or systems to mitigate any environmental impacts; and the potential impact an inland port use may have on abutting property owners and migratory birds.

After the initial community outreach, any potential zoning amendments will need to go before the Salt Lake City Planning Commission for a recommendation before going before the city council for final approval.

The city has spent almost a decade exploring how to best develop the 3,000-acre area west of the Salt Lake City International Airport known as the Northwest Quadrant. The area is home to sensitive wetlands and the fluctuating southern shore of the Great Salt Lake and officials explored various potential uses before deciding on light manufacturing.

Earlier this year the city took several significant steps in developing the area by creating a Tax Increment Financing District and entering into developer agreements with property owners.  That momentum came to a halt in March when the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 234, the Inland Port statute, that turned over the management of the NWQ and a proposed inland port to a state-appointed board.

City council leaders reached out to state officials after talks between the mayor and Governor Herbert’s office fell apart in May.   In July, the city council and state leaders reached an agreement on several amendments to SB 234 that clarifies boundaries and council representation and removes all wetlands identified in the city’s Northwest Quadrant Master Plan.  Additionally, the revised bill removes zoning from jurisdictional lands and requires a sustainability plan as part of the business plan. It also includes a provision that 10 percent of property tax increment will be dedicated to affordable housing.

Engagement Calendar:

Glendale Community Council Meeting
August 15th, 7:00 PM
Glendale Library

Community Open House (1)
August 20th, 6-8:00 PM
Day-Riverside Library

Online Engagement
August 20th

Planning Commission Briefing
August 22nd, 5:30 PM
City and County Building

Community Open House (2)
August 23rd, 6-8:00 PM
Sorenson Unity Center

Community Open House (3)
September 5th, 6-8:00 PM
Sorenson Unity Center

Planning Commission Public Hearing
September 12th, 5:30 PM
City and County Building

Planning Commission Public Hearing and Potential Recommendation
September 26th, 5:30 PM
City and County Building

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.