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LAWYERS GIVE OPINION ON UNION PLAN

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The proposed incorporation of Union would have little if any impact on the Salt Lake County Redevelopment Agency's role in the expansion of the Family Center at Fort Union, according to a legal analysis of the issue.

In a nine-page opinion submitted to the County Commission, deputy county attorney Paul G. Maughan and chief civil deputy William R. Hyde say the debts and obligations of RDA projects remain with the initiating agency.If the opinion withstands legislative and legal scrutiny, it would mean that the Family Center's $6 million tax increment obligation to the county would not be affected by the proposed incorporation of the Union community.

The issue was raised by county commissioners after Union residents obtained enough signatures on a petition to begin the incorporation process. The proposed new city would depend heavily on the tax-rich Family Center, which is being doubled in size with about $6 million in financial help from the county RDA.

Also, there have been hints that Sandy or Midvale might be interested in annexing the Family Center.

Commissioners asked their lawyers to find out what would happen to the county's RDA debt and tax increment obligations if the Family Center were annexed or incorporated.

The lawyers said state RDA law is silent on the issue and that the questions have never been raised or answered in Utah. However, they said other statutes provide some guidance for "first impression" answers that will likely have to be addressed by the Legislature and the courts.

According to Maughan and Hyde, the Utah Supreme Court has held that debts of an RDA are separate and distinct from the debts of cities. Therefore, if an RDA project area were annexed or incorporated by a city, "the debt of the agency would not become the debt of the annexing or newly created city either."

They also said the RDA would probably continue to function and receive tax increment from the annexed or incorporated project area until the agency's indebtedness was satisfied or until the statutory limits on the tax increment were reached.

Under the redevelopment agency process, increased tax revenues generated by RDA-supported projects are used to finance public improvements and other development activities. Once the debt is paid, the tax revenues are redirected to the regular taxing entities.

If the Family Center is annexed, the lawyers said, the issue could end up before the Boundary Commission, which was empowered by the Legislature to set conditions for annexations and mediate disputes.

Based on the legal opinion, the proposed city or any annexing city would not be entitled to tax increment from the project until the debt to the county is satisfied.

"A result contrary to those (in the opinion) would jeopardize the obligations of every existing redevelopment project area in the state and threaten the ability of the state to accomplish its statewide purposes of removing blight and of strengthening the economic base of the state," the lawyers said.