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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dozens of legislative bills may impact Cottonwood Heights say city lobbyists

Jan 25, 2022 01:41PM ● By Cassie Goff

All three city lobbyists agree this year’s legislative session will be focused on housing and infrastructure. (Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights City)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

City lobbyists Greg Curtis, Brian Allen and Chantel Nate sat down with the new Cottonwood Heights City councilmembers on Jan. 4 to discuss the city’s priorities for this year's General Legislative Session. 

Allen and Nate believe some of the key conversations this year will involve the recent redistricting process, election law changes, eminent domain, infrastructure, affordable housing and zoning issues.

“There is a sense that if you can increase density you can lower the cost of real estate,” Allen said. “The legislature wants to negotiate to give more options for high-density housing.” 

Allen reported the legislature wants to discourage large single-family lots while figuring out more ways to support high-density developments. The legislature also wants to allow short-term rentals for anyone who wants them. 

However, the League of Cities and Towns commissioned a study last year that now shows short-term rentals are not helping affordable housing but hurting it. The study is not yet public.

There may also be several bills outlining employee protections for medical cannabis users. Most employers in the state have a zero-tolerance policy, so these bills would protect employees with medical cannabis cards from risk of unemployment from drug tests.

A bill currently (as of publication) under file would prohibit eminent domain to build a public park. “There is obviously a legislature that has heartburn with that,” Allen said.

Retirement policies for public employees will likely be updated through a handful of bills. One speculated bill will allow tier two employees to be able to come back to work after retiring, without negatively impacting their accrued retirement.

“There is a lot of surplus money available so the legislature is looking into a lot of infrastructure,” Allen said.

Curtis mentioned UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation) needs $820 million for their projects. “There will be many budgetary discussions in the back room,” he said.

Part of those discussion will involve the 20 million dollar per year restrictive fund that was created for the Cottonwood Canyons. The funding is intended to help solve traffic problems within both Cottonwood Canyons. However that money is spent will directly impact Cottonwood Heights, and Curtis imagines there will be litigation with any decision. 

“The legislature functions on emotion—there’s not always rational decisions,” Curtis said with a laugh.

Part of that fund will likely go toward UDOT’s EIS solution for Little Cottonwood Canyon. However, “UDOT is tight-lipped with anything related to the gondola,” reported Curtis. 

Cottonwood Heights City Manager Tim Tingey asked the city lobbyists to prioritize bills related to: Wasatch Boulevard (including UDOT’s EIS and transportation), open space funding options, short-term rentals, zoning review modifications, density, justice courts, opioid settlements, retail incentive options, retirement, eminent domain and fireworks. 

Before the session even began on Jan. 18, Allen noted there will be over 100 bills that will likely impact the city. He will be tracking every one throughout the session. 

“Once they start moving, things happen quick,” Allen said.