Last month a judge ruled that Tooele County’s settlement agreement with Southside Gravel was illegal as well as arbitrary and capricious.
Now Tooele County is asking the judge to decide if Southside has a legal right to continue gravel operations on their property east of South Rim.
Attorneys for Tooele County listed the South Rim residents neighborhood group and Southside Gravel as defendants in a complaint for declaratory judgement filed with the 3rd District Court on Aug. 28, 2020.
The complaint asks the court to settle the unresolved controversy between Southside Gravel and the neighborhood group as to whether and to what extent Southside is legally entitled to conduct gravel operations on their property.
Shortly after the court declared the settlement agreement illegal, attorneys for the neighborhood group demanded on behalf of his clients that the county enforce the South Rim Development Agreement by issuing a cease and desist order to Southside Gravel and provide Southside with reclamation instructions and a timeline in accordance with the development agreement.
At this point, representatives of the neighborhood group believe the issue is now between the County and Southside Gravel. They are wondering why the county chose to file a lawsuit naming them as defendants.
The issues of nonconforming use, the development agreement, the issueof abandonment, applicability of the doctrine of diminishing assets and a claim that a former county planner approved a plan for the gravel pit are all issue between the County and Southside Gravel. The county has the legal authority to make these determinations according to state law and county ordinance, but has chosen not to, according to Matt McCarty, one of the individuals named as part of the neighborhood group.
“This lawsuit is a waste of tax dollars, because the county can take action without involving the courts,” McCarty said.
It’s not that simple, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
“A cease and desist order does not resolve the issue and exposes the County to potential liability for wrongfully closing Southside’s gravel operation,” Broadhead said. “Whether Southside has a legal right to extract gravel from its property will have to be decided by a court. A cease and desist order does not prevent that determination from having to be made by a court.”
Members of the neighborhood group requested a meeting with the Tooele County Commission to discuss the merits of the lawsuit, but were refused, according to Gary Walker, South Rim resident.
“”We were refused,” Walker said. “The county continues to deny South Rim residents the right to access elected officials to address issues of land use.”
According to the County’s complaint filed with the Court, the County doesn’t have a process to resolve Southside’s legal claims or the opposing claims of the neighborhood group. Accordingly, the county is asking the court to declaratory relief from the court.
The South Rim neighborhood group said they have spent $87,000 of their own money on this legal battle and have resorted to a GoFundMe account, www.gofundme.com/f/stop-illegal-pits, to raise funds to help with their costs to defend themselves from this latest lawsuit filed by the county, according to McCarty.
Tooele County had an existing gravel pit on approximately 10-acres of land on property east of the South Rim Development. As part of the development agreement for South Rim, the county deeded the gravel pit to Southside Gravel. The development agreement included language that called for the gravel pit to be closed and reclaimed once the development was completed, according to the South Rim neighborhood group.
Southside Gravel claims a legal non-conforming right to extract gravel from a 176-acre parcel zoned RR-1 east of South Rim according to the doctrine of diminishing assets. They have agreed not to extract gravel from the original 10-acre pit. Southside also asserts a written statement from a former County zoning administrator acknowledges their right to extract gravel from the property.
The neighborhood group asserts that any non-conforming use claim is invalid because the property owner claimed in an application for greenbelt status that gravel operations on the property had ceased.
The County, through the complaint for declaratory judgement, asks the court to settle these competing legal claims.