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Developer bill takes another bashing

Rep. David Ure and Sen. Beverly Evans spoke to about 75 people during a Thursday night open house at the Santy Auditorium. They described their opposition to a controversial developer-friendly Senate bill. Grayson West/Park Record
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Although the bill appears DOA, Parkites are still worried that Utah legislators will dramatically change zoning laws in favor of developers, as outlined in Sen. Al Mansell’s Senate Bill 170.

On Thursday night, Parkites attending an open house with two local legislators repeatedly criticized the Mansell bill and Rep. David Ure and Sen. Beverly Evans largely agreed that the legislation was not smart for Utah.

The open house, held at the Santy Auditorium, drew about 75 people, a significant crowd for a legislative open house in Park City. The legislators addressed a number of topics but the Mansell bill drew the most interest.

The bill, which Mansell has said he would withdraw, would greatly limit the amount of oversight a local government has in planning and zoning issues, such as requiring zoning that does not hurt the financial expectations of a property owner and barring decisions that are based on what the bill describes as "public clamor."

The bill is seen as greatly favoring developers but infringing on the rights of regular Utahns and stripping local governments of lots of their powers in planning-related decisions.

The legislators fielded questions and comments about the Mansell legislation and said that they did not like the bill as it was drafted.

"I said, ‘Al, have you lost your mind,’" Evans, a Republican from Altamont, said of her response to Mansell’s bill.

She claimed that the legislation targeted Summit County, where Anderson Development is battling officials as it tries to win approvals for a big project in Silver Creek Junction.

"This bill is directed at Summit County," Evans said.

She said parts of the bill have "validity" but she did not identify which clauses she spoke about, adding that she was amazed with the contents after spending six hours reviewing the legislation.

Ure, a Republican from Kamas, disagreed with the assertion that the legislation was drafted to address issues in Summit County. He called Mansell an "honest person" in their relationship.

Ure was somewhat conciliatory toward Mansell, saying that some cities are making demands on developers that they should not be. He urged local governments to consider development applications from both the perspectives of the property owners and the public.

Ure predicted that the discussions, though they appear largely over for the current session, will continue.

"This is a long ways away from the end of the tunnel," Ure said.

The Mansell bill in the last two weeks became one of the most controversial pieces of legislation under consideration during the current lawmaker session. Local governments and watchdogs were enraged when the bill was released, saying that it would curtail the ability to regulate developers.

For instance, the bill barred local governments from considering aesthetics, congestion and sprawl when drafting a general plan, the document that outlines how a community grows. It made it criminal for a municipal officer to violate a land-use ordinance.

The crowd on Thursday night argued against the legislation.

Gene Moser, a former member of the Summit County Commission, called the bill "punitive."

"There’s all kinds of flaws," Moser said.

Mayor Dana Williams criticized the bill, saying that "citizen input is reduced to public clamor," which he called offensive. He described the legislation as a "total screw-you Summit County bill."

In an interview afterward, Williams said he is pleased that Mansell decided to hold off on the legislation.

"I’m very encouraged. My faith is renewed in the system," the mayor said.

He added, however, that there is the potential that the legislation could re-emerge.

"I’ll be very anxious and on my toes, if you will, to see what that is," Williams said.

Ricardo Velarde, a Snyderville Basin resident who opposes a development in his neighborhood and criticizes the Mansell bill, said it is too early to claim a victory over the bill because the Legislature remains in session.

"I (won’t) be happy until the Legislature session is over and it never went through. I don’t believe it’s dead. These guys are snakes," he said, referring to the legislation’s supporters.


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