Movie studio bill appears stalled in the Senate
March 8, 2011
Local leaders are continuing their fight against a proposal from a Republican state senator from Utah County who wants a film studio at Quinn’s Junction.
Sen. Mark Madsen said Raleigh Studios is interested in operating a studio in the Park City area. Senate Bill 231 could allow the Quinn’s Junction Partnership, which owns about 30 acres of land along the State Road 248 entryway, to build hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial development on the property.
But local leaders have expressed opposition for S.B. 231 because the legislation would override the planning rules at Quinn’s Junction. Officials say zoning in the area would allow the Quinn’s Junction Partnership to build about 85,000 square feet.
According to Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson, the legislation could allow more than 500,000 square feet of commercial space near the intersection of U.S. 40 and S.R. 248.
"We’ll take our best shot at trying to defeat the bill," Robinson said.
Madsen’s bill appeared to be stalled in the state Senate on Tuesday. Once positioned for a reading on the Senate floor, S.B. 231 was sent back to a committee on Monday.
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"We hope it means this is going to die a slow death," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said. "I think the fact that it has been sent back to committee bodes well for us. It’s going to have to get a vote now to get out of committee and then get back on to the floor, and if it passes the Senate it must still go to the House."
The Utah League of Cities and Towns is against the bill. Madsen and Quinn’s Junction Partnership attorney Greg Ericksen made presentations to the group on Monday hoping to gain support for the legislation.
However, the appeals from Madsen and Ericksen had the opposite effect, Williams said.
"The presentations by Madsen and Ericksen didn’t sway them at all. It seems to me that a lot of people kind of went from ‘well no’ to ‘hell no.’"
Several members of the League of Cities and Towns expressed disdain for S.B. 231.
"This is bad policy," said Gary Hill, city manager of West Point.
According to North Salt Lake Community Development Director Ken Leetham, "there is simply no need for this type of legislation."
Madsen, a Republican, spoke to The Park Record in an interview on Capitol Hill. Discussions about a movie studio in the Park City area have been underway for several years, he said.
The actions of local leaders have impacted property rights by blocking development at Quinn’s Junction, Madsen said.
"I have a longstanding record of standing up for property rights," Madsen said.
He insisted the bill would not usurp local zoning.
"It’s a light touch in response to a heavy hand," Madsen said.
He added that many residents in Summit County have expressed support for a movie studio at Quinn’s Junction.
"I think that the local people are supportive," Madsen said.
Still, the two state senators who represent Summit County said they would vote against S.B. 231. The legislative session ends Thursday.
"Nothing’s dead up here until Thursday night at midnight," said Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, a Republican who represents Park City. "But to bring [S.B. 231] forward again it will take a suspension of the rules and a two-thirds vote to bring it up. I don’t think that is there as I work the body."
Meanwhile, the Park City area has apparently caught the eye of several film executives. Now two production companies claim to be interested in operating movie studios on the Wasatch Back.
The latest proposal came from Utah-based Sunrise Eco Studios. The company has proposed production facilities in Heber and Midway, according to Park City Manager Tom Bakaly.
"Until now Utah has lacked the support infrastructure needed to be competitive with other states for major film productions," Sunrise Eco Studios representative Ken Patey said in a prepared statement sent to City Hall. "Sunrise Eco Studios new film complex levels the playing field and provides Utah what is needed to bring film jobs and economic growth to the state."
According to the statement, the main studio would be located in the old Wasatch High School, which was recently vacated. Another facility may be built near Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway. The main studio may include 170,000 square feet on 10 acres.
"The location is ideal and only 15 [minutes] from Park City and Sundance," according to Patey.