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Taylorsville Journal

Kearns is now officially a city

May 06, 2024 02:54PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Kearns became a city as of May 1, thanks to action taken by the Utah State Legislature last February.

As of May 1, the Kearns Metro Township became the city of Kearns. It culminates quite a journey from when the community incorporated as a city in 2017, but was known as a Metro Township like Magna, Copperton, White City and Emigration Canyon. Their names were legally changed to cities this month after the state legislature passed HB 35 in February, a law signed by Gov. Spencer Cox.

Mayor at large Kelly Bush said the legislative action makes two changes beyond just the city designation—how voters will pick their city leaders, and how the community will amend its tax structure.

“We’ve come a long way from 2016 as a township to now being a city,” she said. “We’ve come from being an infant to an adult.”

She said as the law and legislative action goes, it’s really quite simple–a name change. Townships were “a strange beast for lawmakers to wrap their heads around,” she said. “We were already operating as cities, but we didn’t impose property taxes, and our designated mayors were the chairs of the township councils. Government leaders struggled with townships being considered legislative bodies–what they were looking for was wall-to-wall cities.”

Now these designation changes provide that–cities with borders next to one another. It may also serve as an end to annexation efforts by an incorporated city trying to add an unincorporated area.

Bush said it also opens Kearns up to “many more opportunities for different types of taxes—meaning the use of taxes. Everything we’ve done as a community to this point has been done with just sales tax. Now we can gain usage of telecommunications tax. We can impose a property tax that gives us the flexibility to pay off some of the services we’ve been getting from special service districts. We can work with law enforcement and fire protection so it’s not hitting our taxpayers so hard every time they want to do an increase. We hope that we can set up a good tax structure so that we’re not getting out-taxed on our properties,” she said. 

The new name won’t change services residents receive, like those from the Unified Police Department and the Unified Fire Department.

Bush added Kearns is active in economic development efforts. That includes development along 5400 South near the corner of 4000 West, and in the industrial park area along 4700 West. The city will work towards an RDA–redevelopment agency–to pull in more businesses.

“With the possibility of hosting another Olympics at the Oval, we’re getting increased interest from manufacturers in the warehouse district,” she said. “We already have a number of businesses working there now—more than the general public might realize.” She said the city will likely see taller buildings as well, since Kearns is landlocked between other cities like West Valley, West Jordan and Taylorsville.

“You can’t build out in many places, so you have to build up.”

The city council will elect its new mayor along with two councilmembers in November 2025. The city will also be divided into four districts rather than the five the township was using–still leaving five elected leaders–the mayor and four councilmembers.

“We have a very bright and exciting future to look forward to in Kearns,” she said. “Being a city will only enhance that.”

There won’t be an official celebration this month, but the annual Kearns Night Out on June 8 at the county library will be the first official community event for the new city. λ

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