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Midvale Journal

Planning Commission in Midvale: The front lines of land use

Aug 19, 2019 02:18PM ● By Erin Dixon

Dustin Snow, the new alternate member of the planning commission, receives questions from the council before his appointment is confirmed. (Erin Dixon/City Journals)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Who is responsible for the use of the land in your city?

In many cases it’s the planning commission.

In Midvale, this commission is made of a group of volunteers, each receiving a mere $50 for each meeting they participate in.

Midvale Associate Planner Alex Murphy explained how someone gets a place on the commission. 

“With the exception of residing in Midvale and having an interest in serving for the well-being of the city and community, there are no other required qualifications…Efforts are made to appoint commissioners from each of the five council districts and to have commissioners with diverse backgrounds and interests,” Murphy said. 

“(They) are chosen by the mayor through an application and interview process. The mayor requests the consent of the city council before the appointment is made,” Murphy said. 

The current Midvale Planning Commission has five members and two alternates (who do not vote unless a regular member is absent). City planning staff is also in attendance. 

There are many different types of land use applications, but for the Midvale Planning Commission their projects typically include adoptions to the General Plan, zoning ordinances and review development proposals. They then give their recommendations to the Midvale City Council for their review and approval.

However, the planning commission is not the final decision maker.

“Not all applications receive city council, or even planning commission, review. Legislative decisions, such as changes to a zoning map designation or ordinance language, or new policy plans addressing land use, receive a recommendation from the planning commission which the council considers before making a decision,” Murphy said.

“When the planning commission is acting in its capacity as an advisory body to the city council it has broad discretion in making a recommendation,” City Planner Leslie Burns said. “When acting as an administrative body, it has very little discretion and must make decisions based on compliance with the law and ordinances.” 

For example, in April 2019 there was a plan submitted by Wadsworth Development for the building of two commercial buildings on 7131 S. Bingham Junction Blvd. This parcel was part of a larger plan that had been outlined several years before that ensured that the surrounding land use would be appropriate. 

The commission reviewed the zoning requirements, the style of the buildings that would be constructed, traffic influence, public health and safety influences. Landscaping for proper water drainage was reviewed. Even the types of trees were discussed and the number of parking stalls. 

After deliberation, conditions were set upon their approval: sufficient emergency vehicle access, and exterior lighting and lighting changes. 

New alternate commissioner

In early August, Dustin Snow was appointed as a new alternate planning commissioner. He was recommended by Matt Dahl, the assistant city manager. Snow appeared before the city council and received questions from councilmembers.

“I’ve lived in Midvale since I got married in 2002. Went to Hillcrest, my kids now go to Hillcrest, it’s kinda weird. I’ve built several projects in Midvale. I just like this place,” Snow said. 

Councilmember Dustin Gettel asked Snow’s opinion on the large rental properties that have been built in the last 10 years.

“I think the traffic would be my only concern. Other than that I think they’re great,” Snow said. 

Councilmember Quinn Sperry was pleased by Snow’s application. “Given his background in development I think he’ll have some good insight on things that come before the commission.”

Councilmember Bryant Brown was hesitant to approve of Snow’s recommendation.

“I think he would be a good candidate for the most part. I don’t think our residential growth has been smart in any sense of the word with our disproportionate rental to purchase,” he said. 

Gettel was also hesitant and brought up that Snow was a candidate for city council in district one, withdrew and then appeared as the appointee for the planning commission.

Dahl reassured Gettel that there were several applications that were received and interviewed, and Snow confirmed that he didn’t know about the planning commission position when he withdrew from the race. 

“When Quinn decided to stay on, I didn’t want to go up against him. When I withdrew, I had no idea of this position,” Snow said. 

Snow was ultimately confirmed as the new alternate commissioner, in a vote 4-1, Gettel being the dissenting vote.