Summit County will feel impacts of new affordable housing legislation

An amendment in bill passed last week may take away some local control regarding land use in Kimball Junction

The Summit County Courthouse.
Park Record file photo

A new bill with a provision seemingly targeted at Summit County has made its way through the Utah Legislature.

The robust bill, H.B. 462, which is nearly 4,000 lines long, is intended to address affordable housing and related services. However, an amendment in the legislation includes a provision that specifically mentions Summit County — and may take away some local control regarding land use in Kimball Junction.

Deputy County Manager Janna Young told the Summit County Council on March 2 that the bill requires counties that have created a transit district by Jan. 1 and have a hub in unincorporated areas serving more than four routes to create what is known as a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone, or HTRZ, at that hub — which is west of the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction in Summit County’s case — by Dec. 31.

The Utah Legislature created the HTRZ last year to address the housing crisis by encouraging mixed-use, multi-family and affordable housing developments within a certain radius of public transit stations. It also allows the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to motivate the Utah Department of Transportation to prioritize local improvements because of the increased density. HTRZs also help communities use a portion of incremental tax revenue growth over a period of time to help support development costs, according to Jeff Jones, the county’s economic development and housing director.

The bill was introduced on Feb. 23 and expands previous legislation that requires certain counties to adopt a moderate-income housing plan as part of their general plan and submit it for state approval. The legislation, which is also linked to other bills focused on local land use as well as housing and transit, impacts the planning department and creates new deadlines for when the county must have developed plans.

If the county fails to create an HTRZ before the deadline or if the state rejects the moderate-income housing plan, the county would not be eligible for state money on pivotal transportation projects. County staff must also zone the area after developing a plan while working under the time constraints of the new deadlines before the state makes a formal decision on the moderate-income housing plan.

Typically, Summit County involves the public in any process related to land use or zoning and provides updates as necessary, which is different from the process of the Utah Legislature, according to Jones.

“Summit County wants to comply with state code but there’s a lot of pressure,” he said.

Jones said the HTRZ is a tool that is intended to allow staff to plan ahead while considering the need for housing around public transportation hubs. However, other legislation would change the makeup of an HTRZ to require 51% of the developable land inside the zone to have residential uses allowing around 40 units per acre – which was reduced from 50 units in the initial draft.

One positive of the legislation is that it will address affordable housing needs throughout the state, according to Jones. But others in the community are worried it will give developers more freedom when submitting project plans.

Mitch Solomon, a leader within Friends of Summit County for Responsible Development, which was formed to oppose a development proposal at the Tech Center site in Kimball Junction, called the bill “a disaster.” His group is concerned the legislation will allow the developer of the site, Dakota Pacific Real Estate, to go through with their plans despite opposition from the community.

Dakota Pacific initially proposed 1,100 residential units, a hotel, office space and commercial space before rescinding their application in December amid public outcry. Solomon suspects the developer may now try to submit a similar plan and that the county would have less authority to deny it.

“This is the wrong project,” he said.

An amendment to related legislation, H.B. 303, would also limit a county’s ability to utilize inclusionary zoning. Both Summit County and Park City have inclusionary zoning, which requires new developments to build a certain number of affordable housing units available to families earning less than 80% of the area’s median income.

The change requires a proposal to include a minimum of 10% affordable housing units, but the standard in the Snyderville Basin is around 20% of units, according to Jones.

A grandfather clause allows jurisdictions to keep inclusionary zoning where it is already in place, but prohibits it in certain areas that don’t have it, such as the East Side, where population is anticipated to grow in the future.

Solomon criticized state representatives for “usurping” power from the county and impacting its ability to manage its own growth and development.

The Senate voted 24-3 in favor of H.B. 462 on Thursday. Sen. John Johnson, R-Ogden, and Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, who both represent Summit County opposed the legislation. Winterton tried unsuccessfully to remove language from the bill that required Summit County to create the HTRZ in Kimball Junction.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, did not return the Park Record’s request for comment.

The House passed the bill on Friday, the last day of the legislative session, and it will go to Gov. Spencer Cox to approve or veto.

Moving forward, county staff anticipate challenges in complying with the bill. Jones said the legislation requires counties to look years into the future. He said the County Council will likely discuss it in the coming weeks.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized elements of the bill.

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