Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 18, 2020
A big step

If incorporation is pursued for Erda, the process must undergo rigorous public review and scrutiny 

For Erda residents who want more say over the leadership and future of their rural community, this coming November may give them that shot.

As reported in last Thursday’s edition, a new feasibility study by Zions Public Finance Inc., concludes that incorporating Erda’s 45-square miles, 2,927 residents and 29 businesses is feasible without an additional tax burden on property owners.

According to the study, the tax impact for a $250,000 homeowner in Erda would see a net savings of $18.68 for the first year of incorporation. Furthermore, the study says, property taxes in the Town of Erda would continue at a net savings for the same property owner for at least another four years.

With the feasibility study done, the next steps are public meetings to discuss the document and allow citizens to comment. After that, the study’s sponsors must collect signatures of registered voters within the proposed city’s boundaries. If they can obtain signatures from at least 10% of those voters, the proposed incorporation may appear on this November’s ballot. 

It could be argued the slim margin of tax savings for the $250,000 homeowner in Erda is too negligible to justify incorporation. But it is well known there is another motivation behind pursuing town status for Erda: The area is getting squeezed by growth, and land use decisions are under the purview of the Tooele County Commission and Tooele County Planning Commission. 

“If incorporated the government will be closer to the people,” said Kalem Sessions, one of the study’s citizen sponsors. “We will have the opportunity to be in control of our own destiny. We know growth will occur, but decisions about that growth will be made by people tied to the community. We have been concerned about some of the spot zoning that we have seen from the county.”

The word “concern” is an understatement. For the past several years, Erda residents have become renowned for telling Tooele County officials they don’t want to see their community’s rural character vanish under a sea of homes, particularly on lots smaller than five acres. Such sentiment has gone beyond just words. Citizens there are pushing to have controversial land-use decisions made by the county reversed by voters, at least one of which will be on the ballot this fall.

After the failed incorporation attempts by Stansbury Park and Lake Point in 2016, it will be intriguing to see how Erda residents decide the matter if it lands on a ballot. Also of interest will be how far proponents and opponents may polarize over the proposed incorporation, and what they say and do to sway others to join them. 

During the proposed incorporations for Stansbury Park and Lake Point, proponents sought more local control while opponents expressed fear such control would come at a higher cost in property taxes.

Similar themes are likely to erupt if incorporation backers succeed in getting Erda on a ballot. But whether they do or not, it is hoped the overall review and decision-making process will undergo rigorous public scrutiny. Incorporation is a big step for any community to consider and it requires transparency to result in a decision that represents the will of its citizens.

 

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