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Measure to ease changing county lines leaps hurdle

SHARE Measure to ease changing county lines leaps hurdle

A bill that would make it easier for counties to shift their boundary lines easily advanced to the Senate during interim committee hearings this week.

SJR4, sponsored by Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Sandy, calls for amending the Utah Constitution so that county commissions could make minor changes to the county boundaries without a countywide vote. Walker has also included enabling legislation that would limit the changes to 1,000 feet or less.

To amend the state constitution, the resolution must pass both houses by a two-thirds vote then be approved by voters in November.

The Political Subdivisions Interim Committee has struggled with the county boundary issue since summer, when they learned that dozens of homes in Draper's SunCrest housing development straddle the Salt Lake-Utah county line. Latest estimates are that 94 homes will be divided.

Walker said that minor shifts to the boundary should be able to go through the legislative bodies of the two counties, instead of requiring a countywide vote. She also said that the changes should not have to get approval from the state Legislature, as was proposed by a separate bill. That bill, SJR3, was withdrawn by Sen. Millie Peterson, D-West Valley City.

"This should be a local issue," Walker said. "The counties know more about their local issues than the state."

Under Walker's bill, the county commissions would have to agree on the change. If one or both of the commissions can not agree, than it would have to go to a countywide vote.

"It is not my intention to make this an easy task," she said.

Although SunCrest is the only development currently facing the problem, similar projects in Wasatch, Morgan and Utah counties have said they may have to build on the county lines. Currently, people living in homes divided by the boundaries have a myriad of unanswered questions, including which county they should vote in and who can tax them.

The bill does solve existing problems, but it does not address the main problem of subdivisions that cross the county lines. Because SunCrest is within Draper, the county commissions did not have a say in the approval, which is was the genesis for the issue, said Brent Gardner, director of the Utah Association of Counties.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "But it does not solve the whole problem."

E-MAIL: jloftin@desnews.com