SALT LAKE CITY — A commission that helps map the future of a region of southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County may have new life before it was set to expire, however, the commission would serve in a slightly different capacity.
The Point of the Mountain Development Commission, which started in 2018 after funding was secured during the 2016 legislative session, voted unanimously on a motion to extend itself for at least two more years during its meeting Monday.
Draper Mayor Troy Walker, who proposed the motion, asked that the commission help serve as an adviser for the towns and cities within the region, the state and various groups planning the future of the Point of the Mountain. The motion Walker proposed also called for asking the state Legislature for “an appropriate level of funding” to continue the committee and put a date to disband in 2021.
It had been set up to “evaluate, study, prepare one or more reports, and make recommendations concerning the future planning and development of the project area,” according to H.B. 318 that allowed the commission to begin.
“I think the greatest thing our commission has been able to do with this whole process — even directed to the prison site — the public outreach has been phenomenal,” Walker said, citing the Envision Utah’s help in gathering public input and the ability to turn that into ideas to solve transportation problems as Utah continues to grow.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn and Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson were among the other members who agreed the board plays a pivotal role in communicating future plans with the public and amongst themselves.
“As I read through the legislation, it really gives this commission broad authority to be able to study and to survey and — what I think — is to ask questions,” Bradburn said prior to the vote. “I think that’s what the public has appreciated so much about this process, (which) is being involved and feeling like they have a voice and it helps us shape the conversation.”
The motion came after Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem. C. Gardner Policy Institute, presented to the committee about a memo she issued regarding the future of the committee. She was tasked earlier this year to review what the committee does and came up with recommendations following interviews with individuals within or around the committee.
Gochnour said the committee essentially had three options: disband, continue the commission in a leadership and communication role or continue the commission in a formal institutionalized role. She pointed out a major concern brought up is that it wasn’t necessarily clear what role the committee played, especially since the Point of the Mountain Land Development Authority was also created. Some members of the commission are also part of the Land Development Authority.
Other concerns were having “short-term” thinking about long-term projects. However, she found that there was a “strong agreement” that transportation is a key issue in planning the region over the next few decades. The memo stated that if the commission continued it would have to create clarity and not add any more confusion or bureaucracy, continue to be transparent and promote state/region leadership.
"I think you should ask yourself the question: who has the regional stewardship for this area? See if you can answer that question," she advised the commission. "And then, do you trust local decisions to serve the long-term interests of the state and region? And then, finally, would one more year of the commission — where it helps to work out interlocal agreements, commission additional studies if needed and figure out funding needs — would that be a good way to get a great answer to those questions?
"This is a phenomenal opportunity," she added. "We've not seen anything like this in our state's history. When the two largest counties in the state come together and create this much energy, and we get one chance to get it right."
After Gochnour’s presentation, a few members weighed in with their opinions. Johnson said Lehi officials found it “extremely critical” to have another organization outside of the city that understands the future of the region so that everyone in the area — from the state to neighboring cities — is on the same page in coming up with solutions to transportation problems.
On the other hand, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, who co-sponsored the bill that created the commission stated he was concerned that there might be “too many cooks in the kitchen” regarding future planning by still having the commission.
“I think we’re ready to get to work now … and I think as we move through this process, I believe we’re sort of, to a point, where we need to be expedient in what we do,” he said. “I guess I would lean more toward (sunsetting the commission).”
Stevenson later clarified he was concerned that the commission had completed its duties as addressed in the 2016 legislative bill, but he said the commission would have a great objective regardless of what its role is in the future. Prior to the final vote Monday, he said he would be “more than happy” to work with Walker on legislation to keep the commission going.
It’s not clear how much funding the commission might ask for during the 2020 legislative session. When it was passed in 2016, the bill that created the commission allocated more than $750,000 for its inception.