Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, wants the legislature to have final say on any decision to sell state-owned lands.
SB247 requires any sale of state land over 300 acres to be approved by the Legislature as long as lawmakers determine that sale is “in the public interest.”
Davis’ legislation also puts into the statute that the state would prefer to lease the land instead of selling it.
“We purchased that property for a state reason, it should stay a state resource,” says Davis.
Davis says the current brouhaha over public lands ownership is not the genesis of his proposal; rather he’s worried about the potential sale of the land where the state prison now sits and the Utah State Fairgrounds.
“All of a sudden we’re looking at all of this prime land in Salt Lake County that the state owns now proposed being sold to a developer. Why not put it on a leasehold where we never lose it?”
Davis says a leasehold would not prevent development on the land. In fact, Rio Tinto Stadium sits on land that is still owned by Salt Lake County.
“I believe the LDS Church does that a lot,” says Davis. “I know there’s a couple of school districts that are doing it, too. Development still goes on, and a leasehold doesn’t stop it.”
Davis admits there’s not much time this session for his idea to get a proper vetting, but he feels it’s time to start the discussion about the issue.
“We need to open this open this up and ask if we should be selling all of the state lands to developers or should we be holding on to some of it and still allow for development.”
Davis says his legislation would exempt SITLA lands from the legislative oversight process.