- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Nearly 700 acres of land at the state prison located in the burgeoning corridor in Draper of high tech companies isn’t expected to be vacant for another six years, but Utah lawmakers are already taking steps to ensure they have a development plan to take advantage of the valuable terrain.

Members of an economic development committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to form the commission that will plan a development strategy that creates jobs and takes advantage of the growing high tech employment center the area has become.

The decision comes almost a year after a Utah commission approved a wetland-rimmed site a few miles west of Salt Lake City International Airport for the state’s new 4,000-bed prison.

Construction of the new prison is expected to cost $550 million and be completed by around 2020. The old prison site is expected to be cleared and ready for redevelopment by 2022, the committee said.

The group anticipates receiving about $800,000 in funding to pay for such things as the salaries for the politicians serving on the committee.

The commission will be made up of state lawmakers, local government representatives and members of the technology industry. Its members would be required to have their plan completed by next year.

If done properly, state officials estimate development of the prison land could bring $500 million to more than $2 billion in economic activity.

Because there are multiple counties and cities that will be affected by the development of this land, it’s important that the state helps to plan its development, said the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Assistant Whip Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

“When you have this many jurisdictions involved, it seems like the state can help play a facilitating role as well as help provide resources to bring everyone to the table,” Wilson said.

Critics worry that the new group could seize control over local governments’ taxing dollars.

Lynn Pace, president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said he supports the plan, but he wants it amended to say that the state government would not seize control of local governments’ taxing dollars.

Wilson responded to the concern during the meeting by saying the group simply provides recommendations and has no intention of taking local government taxing authority. He said they will consider including such an amendment.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said she opposes the proposal because her constituents want the land to be developed by the private sector.

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