Utah Supreme Court
2022 UT 27 (Click for full text of opinion)
The Utah Supreme Court held that certain zoning provisions of the Utah Inland Port Authority Act were not unconstitutional.
In 2018, the state legislature enacted the Utah Inland Port Authority Act to create an inland port in Utah, overseen by the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA), a newly created political subdivision of the state. The Act identifies approximately 16,000 acres as “authority jurisdictional land”–including about one-fith of the total geographic area of Salt Lake City. The Act mandates that any municipality containing authority jurisdictional land “shall allow an inland port as a permitted or conditional use” under its zoning ordinances. Also, the Act provides that “[t]he transporting, unloading, loading, transfer, or temporary storage of natural resources may not be prohibited on the authority jurisdictional land.” Salt Lake City, West Valley City, and Magna are the only municipalities containing authority jurisdictional land.
Salt Lake City took issue with these, and other, provisions and sued UIPA and the state, asserting that the Act ran afoul of the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause and Ripper Clause of the Utah Constitution. The district court dismissed the claims and the City appealed.
The City claimed that the Act ran afoul of the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause of the Utah Constitution by singling out Salt Lake City, West Valley City, and Magna, treating them differently than other municipalities in the state. Utah’s Uniform Operation of Laws Clause requires that “[a]ll laws of a general nature shall have uniform operation,” and has been treated by Utah courts as a state-law counterpart to the federal Equal Protection Clause. The Utah Supreme Court held that, while the Act does create a class that results in disparate treatment of these three cities, this disparate treatment was not unconstitutional as it was rationally related to legitimate legislative objectives of the Act in creating the inland port for statewide public purposes.
The City also challenged the Act as an unconstitutional delegation of municipal power in requiring inland-port-friendly zoning ordinances and prohibiting interference with transportation and storage of natural resources. The Ripper Clause of the Utah Constitution provides that the legislature is prohibited from delegating the “power to make, supervise or interfere with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects” or delegating the power “. . . to perform any municipal functions.” The Utah Supreme Court held that the Act’s zoning provisions are not unconstitutional because they do not delegate power to any outside group or entity in violation of the Ripper Clause, but are instead lawful legislative mandates directed at municipalities.