The 2024 legislative session kicked off two weeks ago and there are already dozens of bills the County Courthouse has its eyes on.
Summit County officials are monitoring about 20 bills ranging from amendments to the controversial law that targeted the county’s local land use authority in the previous session and short-term rentals, revisions to Truth in Taxation, and legislation that could create an outdoor recreation fund to offset the impacts of tourism.
Deputy County Manager Janna Young, who leads the county’s legislative team, is scheduled to give the Summit County Council an update on the Utah Legislature at 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday. More than 1,400 bills have been introduced by the start of the session, which ends its 45-day run on March 1.
Transportation, child care, funding for emergency medical services, energy policy and Olympics planning are the top priorities for Summit County, though officials are preparing for other legislation that could impact local operations.
State Rep. Kera Birkeland, a Republican representing House District 4, which includes Summit County, introduced House Bill 135 for Summit County. The legislation repeals provisions in last year’s Senate Bill 84 that required Summit County to create a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone as a strategy to increase moderate-income housing.
The new bill would amend the language of the law that’s the subject of the county’s lawsuit against Dakota Pacific Real Estate. S.B. 84 was criticized last session as spot-zoning. It required Summit County to adopt an HTRZ, which is meant to promote affordable housing around a public transportation hub, but it also gave the owner of an undeveloped property in the zone certain building rights.
The substituted language was nearly identical to what Dakota Pacific had been pursuing at the Park City Tech Center in Kimball Junction. It also impacts the county’s eligibility for transportation and transit funding.
Birkeland and other Summit County representatives mistakenly voted for S.B. 84 in 2023 after they said they were blindsided by the last-minute substitution. She attempted to repeal the legislation last February alongside Rep. Mike Kohler.
The Republican was ultimately unsuccessful after an uphill battle last session, and she could face similar challenges this year with H.B. 135.
Summit County also expects changes to short-term rental legislation. Young did not indicate whether local officials support or oppose H.B. 180, which requires municipalities to adopt regulations for the units and prohibits them from operating without a permit.
Utah has been clamping down on nightly rentals as the units pop up across the state, particularly in the Park City area. The county has also been exploring ways to regulate and restrict short-term rentals while remaining compliant with state code. It’s estimated that the units make up 22% of the local housing stock.
Officials banned nightly rentals in accessory dwelling units — a standalone structure or incorporated within or added to a single-family residence to provide additional living space — per state guidelines in November.
The units have been seen as a way to provide affordable housing to employees such as farmhands or seasonal workers in Summit County, but other communities have used accessory dwelling units to house tourists.
Local officials are against a bill seeking to revise Truth in Taxation. Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Utah County, introduced the legislation, H.B. 354, requiring voter approval for taxing entities to impose property tax increases during specified tax years.
Young said this would impact the county’s ability to go through the process of raising taxes to cover critical services in response to increased costs. Summit County this fall considered Truth in Taxation for the first time in six years as it worked to approve a more than $80 million budget.
There’s also been a bill introduced by Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist, R-Salt Lake, to establish an outdoor recreation impacts fund. The legislation would create an account using a portion of the sales tax revenue from sporting goods sellers and appropriate the money to rural counties of a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-class designation.
The fund can be used to mitigate tourism-related impacts on solid waste disposal, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical services and fire protection.
Summit County is currently excluded from the bill as a third-class county. A county is third class if it has a population of 40,000 or more but less than 175,000. A fourth-class county has a population of 11,000 or more but less than 40,000. However, officials hope the legislation will be opened to third-class counties.
Members of the County Council met with U.S. Rep John Curtis’ office in early January and discussed the challenges and disproportionate impacts communities face when they are reliant on tourism economies, in which essential services are funded by taxpayers rather than visitors. They also broached the idea of using federal dollars for a similar fund.
The 2024 session is expected to be an extremely busy one for Summit County. Young will provide updates to the County Council every week.
Visit le.utah.gov/~2024/2024.HTM to follow along with the Utah Legislature during the 45-day general session.