What is a Metro Township?

Aerial Photo of 8400 West / 3500 South

Metro Townships Overview

Historically, what were the unincorporated townships of Salt Lake County had very limited boundary protections. As such, they were targets of piecemeal annexations that stripped away much of the most economically valuable commercial retail properties, sometimes while it was being developed, and left behind the housing, which only generates minimal revenue. In the end, this increased the burden on township residents, who were left footing the bill for municipal services without the help of sales and other tax streams. In summary, the status quo was an unsustainable model for the remaining unincorporated areas.

To shore up the unprotected community boundaries and tax base, and to eliminate the policy of piecemeal annexations, the legislature passed Senate Bill 199 – the Community Preservation Act, in 2015. SB 199 triggered an election whereby the residents of each of the six current unincorporated townships voted to incorporate as either a city or as a new form of municipality – the Metro Township. Based on the November election results, five of the six unincorporated townships voted to incorporate as Metro Townships (Copperton, Emigration Canyon, Kearns, Magna, and White City).

What is a Metro Township?

A Metro Township is a form of municipality like a city or town, and is recognized as such under State law. Its governing board, the Metro Township Council is comprised of five members who are elected to serve, just like cities and towns elect their councils. The Mayor of the Metro Township is currently chosen by a vote of the Metro Township Council – the same way some towns choose their Mayor. The Metro Township has a budget it must manage; municipal laws, rules and regulations it must create, change and enforce; and state laws it must follow and enforce. In fact, the state laws the Metro Township must work within are generally the same laws cities and towns must conduct their business by – including the state laws for land use.

Even with the overwhelming majority of the work being done by a Metro Township being the same as their city and town peers, there is a distinct difference Metro Townships have from their city and town peers. The Metro Township’s powers of taxation are limited.  As voter-approved members of the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District (MSD), the Metro Townships are not allowed to impose a municipal property tax.[1] The Metro Township, unlike its city or town peers, cannot impose the Municipal Energy and Use Tax or Telecommunications Tax, saving Metro Township taxpayers money.

Generally, Metro Townships participate in shared-service contract models to receive their municipal-type services with only minor amounts of self-provision of services. Specifically, Metro Townships receive their contracted services from Local Districts and Interlocal Agencies. By participating in local districts, Metro Townships benefit from leveraging economies of scale that individually, no Metro Township could achieve on its own through self-provision of services. This makes the delivery of municipal-type services more affordable to taxpayers. 

Metro Township Participation on the Control Boards of Service Providing Entities

Just because a Metro Township does not self-provide its municipal-type services doesn’t mean it hasn't a say in how those services are provided. The overwhelming majority of the municipal-type services being provided to the metro townships through a Local District or Interlocal Contract Agency has a member of their respective Metro Township Council serving and voting on the Board of Trustees of each of those entities. Examples of this active participation and management of services include the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District, the Unified Police Department/Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area, Unified Fire Department/Unified Fire Service Area, and Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District.

[1] Per UCA § 10-3c-204