The Park Record editorial, March 2-4, 2011 |

The Park Record editorial, March 2-4, 2011

SB231 runs roughshod over local communities

It is difficult to determine which is more reprehensible a developer who tries to use a state legislator to beat local zoning restrictions, or the state legislator who decides to wield his power to help a buddy make a buck.

Late Friday afternoon Utah Sen. Mark Madsen finally slipped some content into a boxcar bill, SB231. As feared, the wording would pave the way for his friend, campaign contributor and developer Greg Ericksen, to build a film studio along the eastern entry corridor to Park City, over the objections of both the city and Summit County.

It is Madsen’s second assault on local land-use efforts on Ericksen’s behalf. The first was a set of amendments to the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA) that attempted to use the Air Force’s desire to build a hotel as a way to supersede local authority and to ensure the project would be built on Ericksen’s property.

MIDA has since found another location for the Air Force retreat, but that hasn’t stopped Madsen and Ericksen from devising another scheme to more than double the density allowed on the parcel, which is located across S.R. 248 from the U.S. Ski Team headquarters, the city skating rink and the Park City Medical Center.

As currently proposed, SB231 would give the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) the authority to establish a film enterprise zone where a developer could build up to 17,500 square feet per acre with structures as high as 60 feet. In addition to a film studio, the developer would be allowed to add retail and food-service facilities, without regard for local land use restrictions.

Madsen’s end run is troubling for many reasons, not just because it would usurp the established zoning limits in the area, but also because it represents a gross misuse of power. The eleventh-hour tactic, followed by a hastily scheduled hearing before the bill was properly read into the record, shows blatant disrespect for the public process.

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Other legislators have wisely begun to distance themselves from Madsen’s effort. They see it, rightly, as a dangerous precedent that would give lawmakers the power to spot-zone parcels for specific landowners.

SB231 was scheduled for a committee hearing late Tuesday and, with any luck, Madsen’s fellow legislators will put this folly to rest.

If they don’t and SB231 somehow receives majority support in both the Senate and the House, and is not vetoed by the governor, it is a sure bet that Ericksen and his partners will be first in line at the GOED with an application eerily similar to the exact language in the bill.

But, if by some miscarriage of justice the bill is approved, there is still hope the GOED would have the good sense to wait for application that has the surrounding community’s support.