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A celebratory atmosphere prevailed in the Salt Lake County Council chambers Friday after legislative passage of a bill hailed for preserving the territorial integrity, sales-tax base and character of unincorporated-area communities.

"Now we're going to have peace in the valley," Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, predicted at a news conference after her SB199 was approved on the session's final day. The heavily amended measure (the version that passed was the fifth substitute) is headed to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. He is expected to sign it.

Nearly two years in the making, the bill that creates a new level of government known as a metro township was hailed by several speakers as a fair solution to years of divisive fights as incorporations and annexations ate away at the boundaries of the unincorporated area.

These land grabs made it particularly difficult for what remained of the unincorporated area since the properties lost tended to generate taxes, said county Mayor Ben McAdams, who spearheaded this effort and was roundly praised for his diplomatic, bipartisan approach.

But by preserving the boundaries of the six existing unincorporated townships, their tax bases will be protected — and are more likely to be enhanced because of the newfound political stability — making it easier to maintain the level of municipal services provided by the county.

Delivery of those services, from snowplowing to animal control, will be transferred from the county to a special-service district. It will be overseen by a board made up of representatives from those townships that vote this November to become a metro township.

There's a good chance at least five of the six existing townships — Copperton, Emigration Canyon, White City, Kearns and Magna — will go that route rather than opting to become a city. There is more uncertainty involving Millcreek, which has strong contingents of pro- and anti-incorporation factions. But even if residents choose to form a new city, it could contract for services from the special district.

"This will get us out of the stalemate of the past," McAdams said, giving residents control over their own destinies and not requiring them to pick between local control and receiving a high level of services. "Communities will have boundary protections to stop the stealing of their tax base."

Having a choice was paramount to White City leader Paulina Flint, who's been involved in this fight for nearly 30 years, a period in which Sandy grew markedly around unincorporated islands and peninsulas.

"Every individual in this valley needs to have the right to vote," Flint said.

Rick Raile from Emigration Canyon served as chairman this past year of a county-organized Community Preservation Committee that worked out the 225-page bill's details. He said this plan solved boundary problems for the collective benefit of the county while allowing for the "special needs" of individual communities.

"This will provide a permanent solution rather than [subjecting us] to death by 1,000 cuts," he said. "Now we have a platform to work with."

County Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove said he was not surprised the bill succeeded because of all the grassroots work that went into making sure it featured elements of good government — self-determination, accountability, responsiveness and revenue neutrality.

"I'm looking forward to rolling it out so it can realize its potential," he said.

The next step will be to start educating unincorporated area residents about the questions they will see on ballots mailed to their homes for the November vote.

"We're going to put the bill into layman's terms to share with all of the residents," Flint said. "We want every resident to have a chance to learn what their options are."

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