Weber County incorporate

This map from a study commissioned by the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office shows the area, in tan, of a proposed new city covering what are now  unincorporated portions of western Weber County. Some in the growing area have pushed the idea of turning the area into a city, and the study into the proposal will be the focus of a series of four public meetings between Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, 2019.

Incorporating sparsely populated western Weber County, and turning it into a self-sufficient city, would cost the average homeowner in the area an extra $50 or so per year in property taxes.

According to a study into the possibility, the new unnamed city, extending across nearly 57 square miles of land, could expect some $1.5 million in tax revenue per year in its first years of operation, money that’s now managed largely by Weber County. Estimated expenses would range from around $1.7 million to $1.8 million per year, leaving a shortfall that could potentially be covered by a new property tax, around $50 per year on a $250,000 home.

The findings have Greg Bell, part of the western Weber County contingent pushing the idea of turning the area into a new city, optimistic about the prospects of incorporation.

“I absolutely think it’s feasible,” he said, though the study will be the focus of a series of public meetings through mid-October to let others weigh in for themselves. The historically agricultural area has experienced fast residential growth, to the chagrin of some, and Bell and others say becoming a city, with a locally elected mayor and city council, would give locals more control over how expansion progresses.

The new property tax load created by incorporating could bear on whether the push succeeds, Bell has said, and he acknowledged that some may automatically be turned off by the prospects of a tax hike. The study into incorporation, commissioned by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office and carried out by Zions Public Finance, is a required step outlined in state law in the process to turn an unincorporated area into a city.

At the same time, though, Bell noted that taxes in the growing area — marked alternately by wide open fields and growing housing subdivisions — are likely headed up anyway, even if it doesn’t become a city. Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins confirmed that, saying the county is likely to seek a hike in the municipal services fee, the county-levied property tax meant to generate funds to cover the costs of providing services in unincorporated areas.

The fund meant to cover expenses in unincorporated areas has “been going broke for years,” Jenkins said. Money generated by the municipal services fee “doesn’t even come close” to covering actual expenses, he continued, and commissioners are looking at doubling the tax, for starters, to bolster the revenue stream.

Bell and a handful of others from the unincorporated areas of Warren, West Warren, Taylor and West Weber, submitted the initial petition seeking incorporation to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office last February. Per the process spelled out in law, the state subsequently contracted with Zions to investigate the feasibility of incorporation, completed in August, and now four meetings are scheduled to let the public hear directly from Zions and state reps on the matter. According to Bell, the meeting dates, times and locations, all in western Weber County, are as follows:

6 p.m. Sept. 30 at West Weber Elementary, 4178 W. 900 South, in the West Weber area.

5:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at Kanesville Elementary, 3112 S. 3500 West, in the Taylor area.

7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Reese Park bowery, 7100 W. 900 South.

6 p.m. Oct. 15 at Warren Park, 1400 N. 5900 West.

‘GOING TO MOVE AHEAD’

The 32-page study completed by Zions is available online. Here are a few details:

The city would cover 103.4 square miles, 46.7 square miles in the Great Salt lake and 56.7 square miles on land, the area west of West Haven, Marriott-Slaterville, Plain City and Farr West.

An estimated 4,663 people live in the zone, “highly dominated by large and small residential and agricultural parcels along with large areas of vacant land.” Commercial development is “very limited.”

Population density, factoring just the landmass of the proposed city, would be a sparse 82 people per square mile, which compares to 93 per square mile in Hooper and 1,158 per square mile in West Haven.

The city could contract with Weber County and Marriott-Slaterville to provide certain city services.

The city would be more reliant on sales tax revenue than property tax revenue. However, it has a strong property tax base and “any property tax rate increases would be spread over a large base and could provide substantial revenues.”

Zions estimated tax funds now going into county coffers that would become city funding at $1.4 million to $1.56 million per year in the first six years of the new city’s existence. Expenses in the period, by contrast, would range from $1.66 million to $1.84 million, potentially necessitating a tax hike to make up the deficit. A city property tax could generate the needed funds, and Zions estimates the impact to the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would range from around $43 to $51 per year in the first years of the city’s formation.

Bell is eager to move forward, having touted incorporation most notably, as a way to give locals more control over the pace of development in the growing area. The next step, after the four hearings, would be for proponents to gather enough signatures on petitions to put the question of whether to incorporate on the ballot. Depending on how quickly he and other proponents can do that, the question could go to voters in the June 30 primary next year.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re going to move ahead with the next phase, gathering signatures,” Bell said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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