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S.L. County residents pan ‘community preservation’ plan

SHARE S.L. County residents pan ‘community preservation’ plan

Joseph Tolman, Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY — A passionate crowd turned out Wednesday for a public hearing on the proposed boundaries that unincorporated Salt Lake County residents will vote on this fall to chart the future of their local government.

Copperton and Magna residents who spoke said they were upset to see their townships' maps reduced to fractions of their original size.

Millcreek residents worried about losing Millcreek Canyon, Granduer Peak and other community landmarks.

Willowcreek residents, caught between possible annexation into either Sandy and Cottonwood Heights, or both, worried about splitting their community in half.

The boundaries, viewable on the county website, were approved for public input last month, allowing the County Council to continue to work toward a final draft of the map. About 160,000 township or unincorporated island residents then will vote on that map in November.

The stated goal of the County Council and Mayor Ben McAdams is "community preservation" and to give unincorporated residents the choice of how to structure their future governments.

During the fall election, residents in six townships — Millcreek, Magna, Kearns, White City, Copperton and Emigration Canyon — will decide if they want their area to become a metro township or a city. Those who live in small unincorporated islands will vote whether to keep their current status or annex into a neighboring city based on the city’s master plan and County Council review.

The loosely drawn boundaries drew public concern about whether the effort will actually preserve the local communities, even though most of those residents who spoke voiced no issues with the Emigration Canyon, Kearns and White City townships' boundaries, which did not change.

Magna's map shrunk by more than half, and Copperton's boundaries were reduced by more than 90 percent because Kennecott Utah Copper decided not to be included in any township.

Magna resident Bennion Gardner said the reduction of land could isolate the community and diminish future development potential.

"Kennecott has been a part of Magna as long as Magna has been Magna, and I think we should be doing everything we can to keep that relationship," Gardner said.

While Councilman Michael Jensen said "at the end of the day, it's Kennecott's decision to opt in or out," he hopes the agency will hear residents' concerns and make adjustment to the maps.

Millcreek resident Jemina Keller called Millcreek Canyon the "heartbeat and soul" of the community. The proposed boundaries, which exclude Granduer Peak and Suicide Rock, would reduce the township's community presence, she said.

"This is not community preservation. This is community 'severation,'" Keller said.

But Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said county leaders must also consider that many other residents outside of Millcreek also access the canyon. Ultimately, it should come down to which municipalities will be best capable of managing the area, she said.

“We really want to make the best decision for everyone involved,” Wilson said, notig that the County Council is not yet committed to the proposed boundaries and that there will be room for adjustment in coming weeks.

As for Willowcreek, both Sandy and Cottonwood Heights have passed resolutions stating eligibility to annex the area should residents there vote to become part of a city.

But many residents who spoke were not keen on dividing their community among the two cities, and it wasn't made clear whether residents prefered one city over another.

"It's a shame to be divisive," said Willowcreek resident Mark Sullivan. "It's breaking the neighborhood apart."

The next public hearing on the issue is set for 6 p.m. June 30.

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com