SALT LAKE CITY — Under a mandate of the new law passed in last month's special legislative session that she protested, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski's administration is gearing up to update zoning regulations for an inland port in the city's northwest quadrant.
Though not ruling out possible litigation to continue fighting the controversial Utah Inland Port Authority — the entity created by the Utah Legislature to guide the creation of a global trade hub — Biskupski is calling on the public to attend a series of meetings to give input on the zoning changes.
The new law, HB2001, which was supported by the Salt Lake City Council after it negotiated with state leaders, requires the city to update its zoning ordinance to support inland port uses by Dec. 31.
If the city doesn't by that deadline, the city will lose its opportunity to regulate inland port uses, Biskupski said. However, the mayor pointed out the Inland Port Authority board still has the power to have final land use authority within the port jurisdiction — about 16,000 acres of undeveloped land west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
“My administration will explore every possible opportunity to protect the city’s interests and our constitutional authority over how land is developed in our jurisdiction,” Biskupski said in a statement issued Friday, again hinting at the possibility of a lawsuit to undo the port authority on constitutional grounds.
“While we are being forced to expend tremendous effort and time to meet this arbitrary deadline, the troubling fact remains even our updated regulations can be overturned by the inland port authority board at any time," Biskupski said.
The city is planning at least seven events over the next six weeks to take public input on issues including air quality, minimizing resource use within the port's jurisdiction, respecting environmental sensitivity, and identifying neighborhood impacts or other community concerns, according to city officials.
“While we continue to explore our legal options, it is important that we update our zoning in the impacted areas to ensure our values are clearly defined prior to any significant action taken by the unelected inland port authority board,” Biskupski said. “This effort will also provide a meaningful way for the public to finally have their voices heard.”
The meetings include:
• Glendale Community Council meeting: Aug. 15, 7 p.m., Glendale Library, 1375 Concord Street
• Community open house: Aug. 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Day-Riverside Library, 1575 W. 1000 North
• Planning Commission briefing: Aug. 22, 5:30 p.m., Salt Lake City-County Building, 451 S. State
• Community open house: Aug. 23, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S. 900 West
• Community open house: Sept. 5, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S. 900 West
• Planning Commission public hearing: Sept. 12, 5:30 p.m., Salt Lake City-County Building, 451 S. State
• Planning Commission public hearing and potential recommendation: Sept. 26, 5:30 p.m., Salt Lake City-County Building, 451 S. State
Biskupski fought HB2001 on the basis that City Council leaders negotiated with Gov. Gary Herbert and other state leaders behind closed doors, amid mounting public frustration over the transparency of the port authority's creation.
Before opposing the City Council's negotiations, Biskupski also negotiated with Herbert behind closed doors, but broke off talks when she said it became clear to her that state officials had no intention of returning the city's final land use and taxing authority.
In the upcoming meetings, city officials want to hear from the public, property owners, developers and other groups about how the city can address the standards that the port authority appeal panel is required to use, under HB2001, related to impacts from an inland port, including possible environmental impacts on air quality, surface water and groundwater.
Other standards include the extent to which an inland port use will use technology to mitigate environmental impacts, as well as the potential impact the inland port may have on nearby property owners.
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said she's "grateful" the mayor's administration is making sure to provide opportunities for public input.
"We feel positive about the results of HB2001 that has allowed the city to re-enter the planning and discussion process of the inland port development," Mendenhall said. "These opportunities and all others that have been created to give (the public) a voice in the inland port process are good for the city and good for our constituents."
Mendenhall also noted the council is planning on including public comment opportunities in various council meetings in the coming weeks.
More information about the city's upcoming planning process can be found at www.slc.gov.