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The boundaries are set but not in stone for the six townships and 44 islands of unincorporated Salt Lake County land whose 160,000 residents will vote Nov. 3 on the future structure of their local government.
Even though there was no real consensus on what to do with Willow Creek or Millcreek Township's eastern boundary, the County Council has signed off on temporary boundaries for all of the unincorporated areas. It had to, simply to enable County Surveyor Reid Demman's staff to complete maps in time for affected residents to study them before a June 3 public hearing on those boundaries.
The council will have several weeks after that to revise whatever borders it wants, Deputy District Attorney Gavin Anderson advised, right up to the early-July deadline for submitting the official legal descriptions that will appear on ballots.
Residents in each of the townships will vote whether they want to live in their own city or become a metropolitan township. The latter presumably would be in union with the other townships, although there seems to be considerable uncertainty about what Millcreek might do, given the pro-incorporation sentiment that still lingers there despite a 60 percent-40 percent defeat in a 2012 election.
Kimberly Barnett, who is directing this process for county Mayor Ben McAdams, said notices about the June 3 public hearing are being mailed out to every home in the unincorporated county. Those mailings will contain a link to a page on the county website https://slco.org/community-preservation where interactive maps can show people what properties are inside and what are outside of the still-fluid boundaries.
Temporary boundaries adopted last week by the council did nothing to change the existing borders of the Emigration Canyon, Kearns and White City townships.
Magna's map shrunk quite a bit, largely with the removal of Kennecott Copper's giant tailings pile between 2400 South and 1300 South.
Farther south, the elimination of Kennecott property reduced the size of Copperton Township by at least 90 percent, confining the new boundary to the perimeter of the quaint residential area.
Neither change elicited any objections. And McAdams said "one of the elegant parts" of the Community Preservation Act that set this election in motion will allow Copperton to annex that Kennecott land in the future, when mining is over and the company wants to develop its property as real estate.
Millcreek • Dealing with Millcreek was harder. Two of this township's boundaries had issues.
On the north, Parley's Nature Preserve in the gully below Tanner Park has been Salt Lake City property in the unincorporated county. But with this election pending, Salt Lake City filed a petition to annex the spacious creek bottom and the popular hiking system it contains for dog lovers and haters alike.
McAdams said Salt Lake City, where he formerly worked, made significant investments in the nature preserve in recent years and he felt it was reasonable for the city to extend its boundary to include that city property.
But only, the mayor added, if Salt Lake City signs an interlocal agreement leaving the provision of police and fire protection there with the agencies serving it now the Unified Police Department and Unified Fire Agency, which are much closer than anything Salt Lake City could send from the north side of Interstate 80.
Absolutely, County Council members demanded.
As long as that promise is in place, said Jeff Silvestrini, a leading member of Millcreek's multiple community councils, current township leaders will "begrudgingly" accept the loss of the northern strip. But in return, they asked that the eastern boundary be extended from the edge of currently developed land up the foothills to the U.S. Forest Service's property line.
McAdams initially opposed that shift, feeling those foothills belonged in a mountain planning district being established to govern the county's four canyons Parleys, Mill Creek, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood. But McAdams said he was persuaded to change his mind by Silvestrini, who argued "the residents are very concerned about responsible development on our foothills. It's our number one priority," he said.
"Anything built between our neighborhood and the Forest Service boundary is in our neighborhood," he added, providing an impetus for Millcreek residents to avoid allowing development that might end up with "houses sliding off the hills and springs breaking out in [other people's] yards because of irresponsible retaining walls. Let us deal with the private property between us and the Forest Service."
Silvestrini, however, also wanted the council to keep Mill Creek Canyon within Millcreek Township, arguing "the canyon is special to us. It's our identity." And if Millcreek incorporates, it will be important for the new city to control the canyon if the mountain planning district dissolves because it proves unworkable in the year that the Legislature gave the concept to become effective.
Neither McAdams nor the council were willing to go that far. But after prolonged debate over how to deal with the foothills, the council voted to accept a boundary shift up to the Forest Service boundary.
That could change after the public hearing, council members insisted.
Willow Creek • Also proving a thorny issue was Willow Creek, largely because county officials have not heard yet whether either of the cities that flank it Sandy and Cottonwood Heights would be willing to annex the residential community if residents vote to join a city rather than remain unincorporated. Barnett said the cities have been asked to formally express a position before May 30 and he expects them to do so earlier than that.
Whatever you do, area resident David Green pleaded, don't divide Willow Creek between the two cities. "We want one voice, one city," he said. "There are 44 [unincorporated] islands. Forty-three will not be divided. Why should we?"
Council members agreed, for now, and said it seemed better to give Willow Creek residents the option of annexing into Sandy if they don't want to stay unincorporated.
But that could change too.