Committee considers film studio bill
March 1, 2011
A Utah legislative committee was scheduled to make a decision about a controversial bill that may allow a landowner to build a movie studio at Quinn’s Junction without following the local development code. The decision was scheduled to occur late Tuesday.
The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee got its first look at Senate Bill 231 on Monday. State Sen. Mark Madsen, a Utah County Republican, introduced the legislation.
Madsen said a studio in Utah is needed for propping up the state’s fledgling film industry.
"We have an opportunity to grow that industry," Madsen said.
Officials at Raleigh Studios are interested in developing a facility at Quinn’s Junction and Madsen said the company has not requested financial assistance from the state.
"What they really need help in is overcoming some zoning difficulties," Madsen said. "Right now the greatest challenge facing this industry is zoning."
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If approved, S.B. 231 may prevent local governments from denying studio projects when proposed in a so-called "film enterprise zone." The bill assigns the power to establish film enterprise zones to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
According to attorney Greg Ericksen, a 30-acre parcel at Quinn’s Junction would make a perfect film enterprise zone. Ericksen represents the Quinn’s Junction Partnership, which owns the land along Park City’s State Road 248 entryway.
"We have a studio that has come in and sketched a site. They have found difficulty making the local zoning options fit," Madsen said.
But local leaders said the zoning at Quinn’s Junction will not allow the roughly 325,000-square-foot studio that Ericksen has proposed. Members of the Summit County Council and Park City Council have encouraged legislators to vote against S.B. 231.
According to County Councilman Chris Robinson, Ericksen convinced Madsen to sponsor the bill so development codes at Quinn’s Junction would not need to be followed.
"This particular landowner has for years not wanted to follow the rules," Robinson said. "This bill doesn’t allow for any public process."
Park City Mayor Dana Williams said the local leaders are not "anti-film industry."
"We do vehemently try to support our general plan and our land management code," Williams said.
Jodi Hoffman, an attorney for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said the group is opposed to S.B. 231.
"The parcel that is in question at this point in time is an entry corridor to a jewel," Hoffman said about the land at Quinn’s Junction. "On this particular parcel it’s about five large grocery stores on the entryway into Park City."
Hoffman called the bill an "affront to land-use planning in Utah."
But supporters of S.B. 231 said the development code in the Park City area is unfair.
"This bill is not about Park City or Summit County. This bill is about the state of Utah," said Todd Bay.
Bay said he is a member of the film industry in Utah. The movie studio would create thousands of jobs, he said.
"This bill is about unemployed people who will be employed," Bay told lawmakers. "Instead of listening to the NIMBY leaders and their neighbors I just ask you to think about our neighbors."
The committee meeting was scheduled to continue past press time on Tuesday. An update to this story will be posted on http://www.parkrecord.com.