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Mayor Marcus Stevenson's Message (December 2023)

The Upcoming Legislative Session

It’s that time of year again, and just over a month from now, the Utah State Legislative Session will begin. During this 45-day session our State Legislature will propose a couple thousand new laws, and several hundred of them will be enacted. Each year, the legislature proposes and passes numerous laws that impact municipalities – anything from how we plan for and address growth, to how we respond to and address homelessness, to how communities can be structured as recognized municipalities, and many other topics. During the session, myself, our city council, city staff, and our many partners advocate on behalf of our community and our various needs.

While Midvale City has five legislators who represent portions of our community, the State Legislature is made up of 104 State Senators and Representatives. While this article expresses some of my opinions about the legislature as a whole, I truly appreciate the partnership and advocacy we receive from our Midvale legislators as they work to keep our community at the forefront of these policy decisions. Thank you, Representative Stoddard, Representative Bennion, Representative Eliason, Representative Ivory, and Senator Riebe.


Whether you love or hate the way Utah is growing, the State Legislature has heavily impacted what cities must do or cannot do to address the demands that come with growth. Unfortunately, the State has largely blamed cities for the rising housing costs because of our public process which slows growth down, our parking requirements which makes housing more expensive to build, and the housing lot size rules, which make it harder to build more densely. To quote Governor Cox when recently speaking about these very issues, “if you don’t want state government to make you do it, then figure out how to do it.”

Over the last several years, the legislature has passed numerous laws that impact density, and we anticipate seeing more. As an example, two years ago, the State passed a law requiring all municipalities with a fixed-rail station (the 3 Trax Stations for Midvale), to plan for medium- to high-density zoning within a half-mile radius of each station. While the State has required each city to create plans to build these types of developments, they are not yet binding. We anticipate the State may pass new laws to either make the plans binding or withhold certain funding from cities for not following through. Beyond binding our long-term plans, the biggest looming proposals we hear about are taking away zoning authority from cities or getting rid of parking requirements. At this point, we expect the legislature will begin addressing parking minimums that cities require and address a minimum base density for new developments. While it’s unclear what this may mean for cities, any new laws that address these issues are sure to impact us in significant ways.

Here’s the thing, I don’t disagree with every proposal the State has made – it makes sense to build more densely around Trax stations – but it’s frustrating because many residents feel discontented by the growth and challenges we see with it. Not having a say over the state’s decisions, while simultaneously being blamed for those decisions, puts local governments in a tough spot that deters trust and creates resentment with the communities we call home. I’d much rather take the heat for decisions we chose to make, rather than ones we were forced to make, because then we could truly create dialogue as a community. Instead, each time the State takes away a local decision, it frustrates local governments and the residents we are elected to represent.


As a community that hosts one of the five homeless resource centers in the State, Midvale City is involved in many of the homelessness-related policy conversations that take place throughout the year. Hosting the Midvale Family Resource Center also means that homelessness related policy implemented by the State, tends to impact our community more than many others.

Because of our role in hosting the State’s only shelter designated for families, we receive homeless shelter mitigation funding. This State funding is received each year and is intended to help lessen the impact of the shelter on the surrounding area. Most of our funds are used on six shelter officers and three patrol officers. As we think about the impact of the shelter, it’s often thought of as the impact that those staying in the shelter create on the surrounding community, but the way I think about the shelter, and the way we approach our mitigation funding, flips that scenario. Instead of an outward impact from the shelter, I see an impact from the surrounding area inward towards the shelter. Most of the individuals staying in our family shelter are kids, and it’s clearly not these kids' bringing drugs into our community, committing property crimes, or creating other nuisances. However, we do see many criminals' prey on the vulnerable families who are staying in the shelter, who come from the surrounding areas, especially along the 7200 S corridor. Our officers focus on keeping the shelter and the surrounding area free of bad actors and drugs, to keep the area as safe as possible for the many kids, as their parents work to get back on their feet.

This context is important, because for the last few years, the State Legislature has changed the rules for these mitigation funds and are likely to tighten up the way the funds can be used. This is concerning because as the family shelter, the issues we see are different from the other shelter-hosting communities. For our community, any proposed changes to the mitigation fund could restrict the way we can use these funds, and potentially make it more difficult for us to be able to use these funds on law enforcement costs, which we believe help provide a safer environment for those families.

Furthermore, last year the State passed a law requiring that Salt Lake County come up with a winter response plan to address homelessness during the winter months. Earlier this year, this law was tweaked to require that Davis County and Utah County also have to come up with one of these plans for the 2024-2025 winter. Davis and Utah County representatives pushed back on this change, and we anticipate they may try to have this portion of the law revoked. If this happens and we see less homeless resources across the state, it likely means we will see greater impact in our community.

Municipality Structure & Impact to Unified Police

As the reorganization of the Unified Police Department has continued to move forward, one of the major challenges we’ve run into are the restrictions that townships have on their ability to collect tax revenue, specifically property tax. Townships are a municipality classification that only exists in Salt Lake County, and while in practice they are essentially fully independent cities and towns, they are not able to levy a property tax like any city can. We know that because of the State law that passed last year, which removes the Salt Lake County Sheriff as the CEO of Unified Police, Salt Lake County plans to leave the Unified Police Department. This means we will lose economies of scale, and we will see policing costs go up just to maintain the same level of service. While it may be challenging for our community to keep up with those cost increases, it’s almost impossible for the townships to do so because they cannot levy property tax. There is proposed legislation that will automatically turn all five townships into a city or town, allowing them to raise the necessary funds and stay part of Unified Police. This will save Midvale residents money, because of the economies of scale it provides. The current townships are Kearns, Magna, White City, Copperton, and Emigration Canyon.