SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 8, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A judge ruled on Wednesday that the Utah State Legislature’s creation of an Inland Port Authority Board — with authority over about a third of Salt Lake City’s western land — is not unconstitutional.
The Inland Port is a huge import-export center being planned for the western area of Salt Lake City, taking up as much as a third of the land. The project has become highly controversial. Critics say it would be bad for the environment and air quality, and would take up too much land, among other things.
Salt Lake City officials worry it would deprive the city of tax revenue and the right to manage the use of city land.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski had filed the lawsuit in March, alleging the Legislature violated Article VI, Section 28, of the Utah Constitution when it created the inland port authority.
That article and section read: “The Legislature shall not delegate to any special commission, private corporation or association, any power to make, supervise or interfere with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects, whether held in trust or otherwise, to levy taxes, to select a capitol site, or to perform any municipal functions.”
An amendment to the lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the bill that created the port authority, which Biskupski said was “designed to incrementally force Salt Lake City to bend to the Legislature’s will.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, sworn in on Monday, told reporters on Wednesday that the judge’s decision was a “great disappointment.” She added that the city plans to appeal the case to the Utah Supreme Court.
“It’s our responsibility to our residents in Salt Lake City and really to cities throughout the state of Utah who will be impacted by this decision to get clarity from a higher authority,” Mendenhall said.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s office issued a statement Wednesday praising the judge’s decision:
“We appreciate the thoughtful analysis the district court put into this ruling,” the statement says. “While achieving perfection in lawmaking is difficult, collaboration is key to achieving the best possible results.”