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County takes a step toward ‘townships’

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The idea that all of unincorporated Salt Lake County should consider forming individual townships gained a nod of approval from elected leaders Tuesday.

Members of the nine-member County Council want to use Magna's efforts as a prototype for ensuring residents of the unincorporated county get a greater voice in land-use decisions.

Magna, the western Salt Lake community of 27,000 residents, is inching closer to being declared a "township" with two separate public hearings scheduled in August.

The first will be at the Salt Lake County Fire Department's training, 3535 S. 8400 West, at 7 p.m. Aug. 9.

A second hearing will immediately follow the regular County Council meeting at 4 p.m. Aug. 14. in the county complex at 2001 S. State.

The impetus behind forming the township is to give Magna leaders more voice in planning and zoning decisions, rather than being forced to look to the county for ultimate approval.

County Council member Russell Skousen, while a proponent of Magna's status as a township, said the county ought to take a broader look.

"We need to be looking at the entire county and dividing it up into townships. These people have a very legitimate desire for more local control, but if by doing Magna in isolation, I am wondering if we are going to hurt ourselves in looking at the rest of the county."

Ron Henline, president of the Magna Area Council and also of the Association of Community Councils throughout Salt Lake County, said an aggressive township formation is already under consideration.

"All of the county councils are considering this. We're trying to get together some maps to move ahead. Let's use Magna as the prototype and go from there."

As proposed, the Magna township boundaries would extend south to 4100 South, west to 7200 West, be a bit east of I-80 and cut north through the Great Salt Lake at about 20th North.

It takes in SaltAir and the lake's marina, but excludes most of AlliantTech and Kennecott Copper's operations.

One glitch in the township proposal moving forward is the burden of additional planning staff the county would have to provide to assist Magna residents.

The planning department has been pared from 68 to 50 and officials estimate another planner would be needed to staff Magna Township meetings if the proposal flies.

That consideration didn't meet with much opposition from the council.

"There are the minimal up-front costs for proper planning versus the long-term impacts of bad planning," county council member Jim Bradley said.

Fellow Democrat Randy Horiuchi agreed.

"There are going to be increased costs, but if the commitment is there to do the township, we have got to be there with the dough."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com