Crowd packs town hall meeting in the Basin
March 1, 2011
A crowd packed a town hall meeting in the Snyderville Basin Monday night.
Leaders of the local political parties organized the event so citizens could question their state lawmakers while the Legislature is still in session. Legislators who attended the meeting included Republican Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, Republican Sen. Allen Christensen, Republican Rep. Mel Brown and Rep. Joel Briscoe, a Democrat.
Christensen, who represents the East Side of Summit County, said this year’s heated discussions about immigration reform have been some of the most controversial on Capitol Hill.
Some people involved in the debates have even received threats, he said.
One bill being considered by the Legislature would require local police officers check the immigration status of some suspects when officers believe they are in the United States illegally.
At the town hall meeting, Brian LaFave, founder of Park City Patriots, a group aligned with the Tea Party, said illegal immigrants should not receive amnesty from state government.
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"I don’t understand where the compromise is," LaFave said in an exchange with Christensen. "The people who are here illegally are already breaking the law."
But many immigrants haven’t violated any state laws by simply being in Utah illegally, Christensen countered.
"We have a huge population of illegal people who are here," Christensen said. "How many times do we have to arrest them before we say enough is enough?"
People in the Park City area have also watched the debate about Senate Bill 231. The legislation is designed to allow a landowner to build a movie studio at Quinn’s Junction without adhering to strict local development codes.
Many local leaders are against the bill.
A Senate committee was scheduled to vote on S.B. 231 late Tuesday afternoon. The vote was scheduled after the deadline for The Park Record.
Those who attended the town hall meeting expressed both support and opposition for the bill.
"I’m in favor of a movie studio at Quinn’s Junction," Summit County resident Jaime Adams told lawmakers.
Supporters of S.B. 231 claimed local leaders have unfairly blocked the project to prevent a studio from being built along the State Road 248 entryway.
"If we can’t get things through the city and the county, who can we go to?" Adams asked.
McCord Larsen said the lawmakers should support S.B. 231.
"We don’t feel like we have had a fair shake at the local planning and zoning," Larsen said.
But Brown, who represents Park City, said he will not support S.B. 231.
Briscoe, who represents portions of the Snyderville Basin, said he will also vote against the bill.
Van Tassell represents Park City and said the Legislature should not approve bills that interfere with local zoning matters.
"That gives me great heartburn," Van Tassell said. "I’ve read the bill. It scares me to death."
But not everyone on Monday was concerned with movie studios and illegal immigrants.
Summit County resident Heidi Matthews, a Park City School District employee, said she worries each legislative session that state lawmakers will cut funding for public education.
"Every year in March we take a deep breath," Matthews said. "This year is certainly no different."
She asked the lawmakers to vote against Senate Bill 65. Matthews said the legislation may shift funding from public schools and provide it to private providers of online education. The bill would allow some high school students to enroll in online courses.
More MIDA legislation
Local leaders were concerned a few years ago when lawmakers approved a bill the allowed the state Military Installation Development Authority to work with private landowners to build commercial projects. Lawmakers formed MIDA to help facilitate the development of military lands in Utah.
The agency has been given the authority to override local development codes.
But this year if Senate Bill 293 is approved, Park City Manager Tom Bakaly said MIDA would no longer be able to work with private landowners to sidestep zoning rules unless approved by a local jurisdiction.
The legislation would reverse the decision lawmakers made a few years ago, which local leaders opposed. Bakaly said he supports S.B. 293.