SALT LAKE CITY — About 50 protesters disrupted a board meeting of the Utah Inland Port Authority at the state capitol Wednesday.
As soon as board members sat down to begin the meeting, the dissenters stood up and chanted phrases including, “abort the port” and “we are here to stop the port because it will destroy our communities.”
Troopers with Utah Highway Patrol escorted the protesters into the hallway outside the meeting room.
According to a UHP spokesperson, four people were charged with interrupting a legislative meeting. That includes one person who was booked into jail for resisting arrest.
This continues a trend of protests disrupting meetings of the Inland Port Authority. A similar demonstration forced the postponement of an April meeting.
“How far would you be willing to go to ensure that we have a world and planet to live on?” said protester Darin Mann.
Mann and others say the board isn’t listening to their concerns about the potential effects the Inland Port could have on the environment.
“We have a good old boy network that’s only talking to itself and they are not serving the community anymore,” Mann said.
“We don’t think this is a project that we can allow to go forward,” added Adair Kovac.
When asked to respond to the protest, the Inland Port Board sent FOX 13 this brief statement from chairman Derek Miller that reads, “We are grateful for members of the public who attended and provided comment in a lawful and respectful manner. And for those that continue to participate in the public process and public outreach forums.”
The protesters vowed to continue their efforts.
“This country has a history of direct action,” Mann said. “It’s happened since 1776. It has been quite effective because it opens the door for discussion.”
They promise to do whatever it takes to get the change they are seeking.
“We definitely shook them up,” Kovac said. “We are definitely willing to go to jail for this.”
The meeting continued after the protest was moved outside the room.
The board announced Jack Hedge has accepted the position of executive director for the Utah Inland Port.
EDGERTON, Kansas – This tiny rural town is about an hour’s drive outside Kansas City, where the urban landscape gives way to farmland.
Massive warehouses jut out from the trees and Edgerton’s water tower proudly proclaims: “Global routes, local roots.”
While Salt Lake City’s plans for an inland port is just a concept right now, Edgerton has had one up and running for years.
“We’re the center of the United States!” exclaimed Mayor Donald Roberts.
Containers filled with goods from overseas arrive in Edgerton from California via Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s rail line. From there, the containers are dispersed to a series of massive warehouses that make up Logistics Park Kansas City.
“We’ve got Jet here, we’ve got Amazon here. Really, the e-commerce boom that’s going on,” said James Oltman, the president of Elevate Edgerton, the community’s economic development organization.
From the sprawling network of warehouses, stuff is loaded onto semis and distributed across the Midwest.
“Everybody wants everything in two days,” Oltman said. “From the Kansas City metro, you can reach 85% of the population by truck in two days. You can actually reach 99% of the population by truck in three days. So, just geographically speaking, it’s the most efficient place to start your journey.”
Mayor Roberts showed FOX 13 around the inland port during a recent visit. The site is big, and growing bigger. When it opened six years ago, LPKC was projected within 15 years to be about seven million square feet and employ 3,000 people.
“We really bypassed that!” the mayor said.
Now, LPKC is roughly 12 million square feet in size and employs 4,200. That’s more people than live in Edgerton, which is population 1,700.
“I always refer to LPKC as a city within a city,” Oltman told FOX 13.
More than a billion has been invested by private companies in the inland port, including in infrastructure. As a result, Mayor Roberts said the boom has benefited Edgerton. The community was able to drop property taxes by about 25%.
“We did our first park project in 30-plus years,” he said. “Maybe not big news to a city like Salt Lake, but we built our first Dollar General — the first new retail construction in 40 years in our community. We paved 50% of our residential streets in the last two years, streets that were never paved.”
The mayor argued the inland port also provides good-paying jobs for their part of Kansas, where many high school graduates don’t go on to college. Starting wages range from $12-to-$18 per hour with benefits. Some companies offer as much as $28 per hour, he said.
“That’s not bad money,” he said.
Patrick Robinson, the vice-president of NorthPoint Development, which is building LPKC, said the project creates about 1,000 new jobs every year. The project is moving so fast, they’ve started building warehouses on spec for companies that are anxious to move in.
He showed FOX 13 a 507,000 square-foot facility being prepared for a company that would be moved in within a month. Across I-35, Japanese farm and construction maker Kubota is building a million square foot facility, having outgrown two other buildings at LPKC.
“Our plans call for about 30 million square feet into the future,” Robinson said of the inland port.
Edgerton got the inland port after the nearby town of Gardner said no. BNSF wanted to build a rail yard. Residents rallied to pressure political leaders to yank the project over concerns about traffic and pollution.
“We’ve thoughtfully considered all the feedback we’ve received and I think you’ll see the development has responded appropriately,” Robinson said.
Feedback included green space and berms that block nearby neighborhoods from seeing the warehouses, which are also set back from the roads. Semis have been limited to roads designed to handle the extra weight and told to stay out of neighborhoods. Shipping containers can’t be stored just anywhere, but limited to designated yards.
BNSF’s facility also limits pollution. Massive, 10-story cranes are zero-emission electric powered.
“The facility runs really clean,” Mayor Roberts said. “Have we increased local traffic? We have, but not really. We moved it from one part of the city to another.”
There are a lot of trucks that move in and out of the inland port onto I-35, heading into the Midwest. In Jane Scaro’s yard nearby, Eric Kirkendall with the environmental group Clean Air Now has set up an air pollution monitoring machine.
“We try to be the canary in the coal mine,” he said as the machine buzzed softly nearby.
Kirkendall said it wasn’t the trains or warehouses that were necessarily big polluters, but the semis.
“It’s the trucks that are the polluters,” he said.
Kirkendall, who moved after the inland port was built, said he does not believe Edgerton and developers have adequately addressed concerns about traffic and pollution. He’s gathering the data to see what the actual pollution impact of the inland port is on Edgerton.
“It grew really fast. Much faster than projected,” he said. “Probably worse impact on traffic congestion and air pollution than we expected. We haven’t measured the numbers yet, but I expect it’s just a matter of physics: X trucks equals so much diesel exhaust and pollution.”
Scaro has watched the inland port grow and move closer to her property. She fought it for years, even joining a lawsuit over it.
“This is not the type of economic growth I’d like to see in this community,” she said. “I feel like you’re not going to get homes built anymore. You’re not going to have people wanting to come here to live. You’re going to have businesses coming here that want to have that economic success.”
Since the port has arrived, Scaro acknowledged that while she doesn’t necessarily like it – she doesn’t hate it, either.
“It could be a lot worse, I suppose,” she told FOX 13. “It’s nice to be able to get on the interstate, it’s closer. It’s not nice to compete with UPS when they’re releasing their delivery trucks for the day.”
Scaro said she still has concerns about air quality and water pollution. But she believes residents did make a difference in what the inland port is like.
“We banded together and we were able to impact the development. Maybe not as much as we wanted to, but we still impacted the development,” Scaro said. “It wasn’t a lost cause.”
Kirkendall agreed, saying that because of residents’ involvement as the port was developed, everything had to be considered.
“The people in Salt Lake City ought to be looking along the same lines,” he said of the pending inland port project in Utah.
Mayor Roberts said many of the original fears of Edgerton residents about LPKC never came to pass. He said they do listen to concerns about the inland port.
“Candidly, a lot of the complaints that were talked about here never came true,” he said.
Robinson said there were some key differences between LPKC and what Utah officials envision in an inland port in Salt Lake City. For example, Kansas is flat and windy while Utah is grappling with worries about air pollution and wetlands.
“Given the limitations with the mountains in Salt Lake City, it’s probably a different discussion here in Kansas,” he said.
Robinson has visited Salt Lake City to meet with officials about the inland port project. He offered advice to state officials and residents:
“If I were to give one piece of advice, it’s have a hearty discussion with the community about what you want your community to look like,” he said. “In the near-term and beyond.”
SALT LAKE CITY — In Salt Lake City Wednesday, a demonstration was held to stop the inland port project.
Environmental and community groups say the project threatens the wetlands near the Great Salt Lake and will bring increased pollution to the entire valley.
“Our concern is that this area will develop in a way that will harm our quality of life, will harm bird habitat, wildlife habitat, cause traffic congestion and problems for neighboring communities,” said Deeda Seed, a spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity.
FOX 13 has been examining at what an inland port could look like. Thursday on News at Nine, we’ll bring you a special report from Kansas where they have an inland port. We’ll talk to boosters and critics of the massive project.
SALT LAKE CITY – Activists shut down a Utah Inland Port Authority meeting in Salt Lake City Wednesday afternoon, leading to board members walking out of the meeting.
As soon as the monthly board meeting began in the gym of North Star Elementary School, a group from Civil Riot walked in with a bullhorn and banners.
“Board members: You have been listening, you haven’t been responding,” Civil Riot organizer Ethan Petersen said on the bullhorn, as he walked toward the front of the gym.
Two Facebook live videos show how the interaction played out.
At one point, the group chants, “Whose land? Our land! Whose land? Our land!”
They linked arms in solidarity.
While public comment was on the agenda for the meeting, the board indicated that it wasn’t meant to be in this form.
“We are going to have a people’s port meeting,” Petersen said on his bullhorn.
Civil Riot called it a ‘people’s port meeting.’ The Utah Inland Port Authority called it a ‘disruption.’
To Civil Riot members like Adair Kovac, this was the only way they felt they could speak up about the controversial inland port.
“This fight, is a fight that we’re in, and it’s important,” Kovac said. “And we can’t just ignore it.”
The proposed import/export center would sit on a huge chunk of land in Salt Lake City’s northwest corner.
Kovac explained their concerns—from potential impacts on environment and wildlife, to transportation congestion problems and negative effects on neighboring communities.
“And yet still, the [port board’s] been going on without listening to the public… They’ve left us with no other choice to let ourselves be heard,” Kovac said.
“Abort the port! Abort the port!” protesters chanted, at the board.
The board called off their meeting several minutes after Civil Riot members arrived. It’s unclear if and when they’ll reschedule.
“I’m sorry to the members of the public, and especially those who came to make special presentations,” a port authority board member said, before board members got up and exited the room.
The Utah Inland Port Authority Board later issued a statement about canceling the board meeting:
“This evening an individual with a bullhorn and banners disrupted the Utah Inland Port Authority Board meeting. After the chair explained they could be heard during the public comment period, the individual continued the disruptive behavior and the meeting was adjourned. The Authority meets monthly to conduct business, hear presentations from stakeholder groups and receive public comment. Unfortunately, none of this could happen including a presentation from the Great Salt Lake Audubon on a buffer zone for environmental preservation. It is regrettable when an individual obstructs the opportunity and rights of the general public to be heard. The Utah Inland Port Authority Board remains committed to working collaboratively with all interested parties to address growth and challenges in a productive and safe environment.”