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APA Utah News & Events


October 16, 2023 by Nicole Mason


October 16, 2023, By Wilf Sommerkorn

Things are beginning to come together for what the 2024 Utah legislative session may bring on housing, planning and zoning reform.  There’s been a lot of talking going on over the interim since the 2023 legislative session by a variety of groups, most notably the Land Use Task Force (LUTF), the Commission on Housing Affordability (CHA – now a subcommittee of the UEOC), and the Unified Economic Opportunity Commission (UEOC).

On Friday (the 13th!) last week, the CHA met to finalize their recommendations to the UEOC as to what topics to pursue for the coming legislative session.  There were a couple of different lists sent to the CHA by their own working group and the LUTF.  The first list is those items there was general consensus about.  That list includes:

  • Adopt a statewide building code for modular housing to streamline regulations and inspections
  • Adopt state infrastructure funding to facilitate housing production
  • RDA/CRA flexibility to share resources between cities, invest in homeownership (up to 100% AMI), and housing set-aside expenditure timing
  • State funds alignment with good local planning that facilitates a variety of housing types. State funds act as incentives (this is like the Smart Growth measures from the 1990s – Utah is finally getting there!)
  • Align state economic development incentives with the production of workforce housing
  • “Missing Middle Housing” toolkit to provide technical assistance to local governments and home builders to improve planning for affordable housing
  • Improve land use outcomes in the courts (maybe establish specialized land use judges/courts)
  • Address how garages count toward parking minimums in residential areas.

None of these proposals have specific legislative language yet, that will come, depending on which of these items the UEOC chooses to endorse in their meeting coming up this Wednesday.

There was also a list of policy issues on which agreement had not been reached.  The list was presented to the CHA, with the question of what they would like to see happen with that list.  After some rounds of discussion, it was decided that the CHA would pass the list on up to the UEOC with the recommendation that discussion on these issues continue, with the hope that some kind of agreement could be reached.  Here’s that non-agreement list:

  • Prohibiting parking minimum requirements
  • Prohibiting or limiting residential structure setback requirements
  • Making general plans “binding” – that is, requiring mandatory consistency of land use regulations with general plans
  • Establishing minimum base densities for communities
  • Allowing local governments to be liable for damages/financial penalties for non-compliance with adopted land use regulations
  • Establishing a land use appeal authority at the regional or state level

The Land Use Task Force has also gelled around some legislative proposals for the upcoming session, which are more in the realm of what the LUTF normally does and moves forward in the legislative arena.  These issues include modification of the subdivision process bill adopted in the last session; timing of sidewalk replacements and bonding in developments; processing times for land use applications and building permit applications; annexation code recodification; timing of inspections; development agreement language; and a few others.  More on these to come.

I will flesh out some of these proposals more in future postings, as discussions continue.

There are a couple of nagging concerns on my part about all of this.  The biggest is that we do not have specific language for any of these proposals yet (with a couple of exceptions in the LUTF).  Last year, because of legislative staff workload and relative inexperience with land use codes, the bills did not come out until quite late in the session, and often had problems in how they were written.  I’m hoping the legislative staff will work more closely this time around with some of the more experienced LUTF members.

Another concern is that we often still get land use bills that a lone legislator will introduce in response to a constituent or party of interest issue.  These happen outside the process of the LUTF and, now, the CHA and UEOC.  Everyone has to scramble during the session to deal with these, and they can take up valuable time and energy.  Not really sure what can be done about these, it may just be life in the legislative arena.

Anyway, watch this space, there’s lots more to be said about all this.

By the way, if you find all this interesting, be sure to attend the upcoming Regional Solutions Event being put on by Salt Lake County, Zoning Reform for Housing Attainability on Nov. 9.  The keynote speaker will be Jerusalem Demsas, a writer at The Atlantic who has produced some great stuff on housing affordability and land use.  Here’s the link to register.

Also, don’t miss the upcoming Utah Land Use Conference on Oct. 24-25 in Sandy, which will have some great discussions on many of these topics as well.  Just click on Conferences in the bar at the top of this page.


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