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Is S.L. County planning for duplication, chaos?

How does having seven different planning commissions all doing many of the same things grab you?

That's the probable future of Salt Lake County, where planning and zoning issues will likely be reviewed by as many as seven different planning commissions before they are finally enacted.Wednesday, the County Commission asked staffers to come up with some specific estimates of how much it would cost to support five to seven local townships, and their respective planning commissions, in different regions of the valley.

Based on a law passed last summer in a special legislative session, the commission is pondering establishing local townships, the number of which appears dependent primarily upon the cost of administrative support.

"It will certainly take a commitment in funding and resources," said Mike Reberg, associate director of the county's public works department.

Each township would need staff support in as many as four different county departments - development services, planning, engineering and fire. Add to that field-trip expenses and the $80 per diem planning commissioners currently receive and things start adding up.

"Now there are three (commissions), and maybe seven (in the future), and that gets pretty expensive," Reberg said.

In fact, Commissioner Brent Overson said the county may do away with the per diem reimbursements, forcing planning commissioners to work for free.

Public works director Lonnie Johnson preliminarily estimated it takes $200,000 per year to run a planning commission, though each of the smaller commissions would likely cost less than that because of shared administrative support.

There is also the problem of too many cooks - having so many people involved in decision-making could make the process much longer and much more complicated.

"The concern is that it could take forever to get anything done," Reberg said.

There are now three different planning commissions in the county: one each for the existing Emigration Canyon and Copperton townships, and one for all other unincorporated areas.

Last summer, the Legislature authorized a new, watered-down form of townships that would support local planning commissions but that would not have the authority to block incorporations or annexations. They can be created by citizen petition or by a county commission.

The Salt Lake County Commission is opting for the second route to keep things orderly. It is considering the following townships:

- Magna

- Kearns

- East Valley (Millcreek, Canyon Rim, Olympus Cove, Hol-la-day/Cottonwood)

- Southeast Valley (Cottonwood Heights, Granite, Union)

If the commission goes with all four, the existing two townships plus a planning commission for the rest of the unincorporated areas (the eastern canyons and the Herriman area) will make a total of seven planning commissions. The County Commission is considering not creating the East Valley and Southeast Valley townships.