Special session convenes today | ParkRecord.com

Special session convenes today

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

State lawmakers are slated to meet in a special session today to debate issues related mainly to fixing the budget.

However, with a two-thirds vote the Legislature could overturn Gov. Jon Huntsman’s recent veto of a land-use bill which some Summit County officials are against.

This year, the Legislature approved a substitute version of House Bill 156

that would allow owners of large land tracts in less populated counties to develop one residential unit per 100 acres without following local zoning regulations.

The measure would ban county officials from stopping the new subdivisions if service providers are able to reach the land, deputy Summit County attorney David Thomas said.

"When these subdivisions are approved, no service providers have provided any comments on them, and that can become problematic," Thomas said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "It’s a concern when there are no disclosures that say services may or may not be available."

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Young couples who unknowingly bought lots in the South Summit area several years ago were devastated when their requests for building permits were denied because services couldn’t reach the rural subdivisions, Thomas explained.

"That leads to really sad situations," he said. "Many of those lots got sold off to young families, and for a lot of them this was their dream home."

Rep. Mel Brown, a Coalville Republican who serves Park City and eastern Summit County supported HB 156. Rep. Christine Johnson, a Salt Lake City Democrat who represents the Snyderville Basin, voted against the legislation.

The two senators who represent Summit County, Republicans Kevin Van Tassell and Allen Christensen, voted for the bill.

"Obviously, it will be an issue if people start building in the High Uintas," Thomas said about the mountainous area east of Kamas. "The concern is for the lot owner who may not be aware of it."

Meanwhile, only Huntsman can list items on Wednesday’s special session agenda, which includes considerations related to adjusting funding to the Department of Health and Human Services and Medicaid hospital provider rates.

Other items the Legislature is slated to discuss include appropriations to the minimum school program budget, allocation of funds the state received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and transfers among education funding and the general fund.

"I don’t particularly like special sessions. It cuts out the public," Van Tassell said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "But sometimes they’re necessary."

Most items on the agenda involve only minor budget tweaks, he said.

"There is always something that could come up," Van Tassell said.

One matter may loosen the noticing requirements for public hearings for oil and natural gas projects in Utah, he said.

"We’ve got to tweak that a little bit or it makes that so expensive to notify people," Van Tassell said.