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West Valley City Journal

Magna—from township to official city status

Jun 06, 2024 10:36AM ● By Darrell Kirby

Main Street runs through the heart of what is now Magna City. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

It is nearly five times smaller than its eastern neighbor, but Magna now has something in common with West Valley City. It is a full-fledged city. 

H.B. 35, a bill passed during this year’s state legislature, took effect May 1 and converts the five metro townships in Salt Lake County to city status. Magna, along with Copperton, Emigration Canyon, Kearns and White City, can now essentially fully run their own municipalities, determine their destinies, and assess property taxes to do it. What was Magna’s five-member metro township council is now a city council and the mayor, currently Eric Barney, will now be elected directly by voters in the city during the next scheduled municipal election. 

Barney says that other than a few technicalities, going from metro township to city does not significantly change how Magna does business. “In 2017, when we became a township, that was incorporation. We were incorporated as a wholly independent entity,” he said. Magna was previously an unincorporated part of Salt Lake County and was governed by the county.  

The mayor says momentum had been building the last few years toward Magna and the other metro townships becoming cities. “Through a number of pieces of legislation, metro townships got more and more authority and clarification of what their role was and how they would operate,” Barney said. H.B 35 simply put a stamp on it. “The only differences between a township and a city were that a city would elect their mayor at large and a city had the authority to levy property tax,” Barney added. 

Magna became a metro township in 2017. Prior to that, it was an unincorporated part of Salt Lake County, reliant on the county for all its services. Magna’s 30,000-plus residents will continue to see many of its services provided by the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District under the direction of the Magna City Council, like code enforcement, building permits and inspections, business licenses, and public works such as street maintenance and snow plowing. Unified Police Department and Unified Fire Authority will continue to provide those respective services. Magna Water District is still the water and sewer provider. Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District will keep on picking up trash and recycling. 

Most Utah cities become incorporated through a public vote after their residents request more local control, often to determine how they want to grow and what services they want their tax dollars to provide. 

Communities exploring voter-approved incorporation have traditionally been a relatively rare occurrence, until lately. “That really has picked up a little bit in the last seven or eight years,” said Justin Lee, deputy director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. “Not all of them have gone all the way through, but there has certainly been some interest.” 

The most recent cities to shed county governance are Erda and Lake Point in Tooele County in 2022. Ogden Valley in Weber County is currently studying the financial viability of becoming a city.

There are presently 255 municipalities in Utah. 

Magna is often associated with more than a century of mining, first by Utah Copper Company that later became known as Kennecott Copper. The founder of Utah Copper Company came up with the name “Magna” from the Latin word meaning “great” or “superior.” 

Whether township or city, Mayor Barney says Magna is a good place to live. “There’s a long history and legacy here, a lot of good community aspects.” λ