Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

September 21, 2023
Erda family’s flag is down, for now

A 3rd District Court judge has ordered the temporary removal of an 80 foot flagpole that stood on private property to the south and across Erda Way from Tooele Valley Airport’s runway.

The flagpole was erected on May 12, 2023 by the property owners, collectively referred to as the Kunzes, with a permit from Erda City. 

Salt Lake City, the owner of the Tooele Valley Airport, filed a complaint with  the 3rd District Court on July 21, 2023. The complaint asserts that the flagpole is a safety hazard to air navigation, is in violation of Erda City’s code and is in violation of federal regulations. 

In the complaint, Salt Lake City asked the court to reverse the decision of the Erda City Council to issue the building permit for the flagpole. Salt Lake City also asked that the court either require the Kunz family to correct the zoning violation or issue an order allowing Salt Lake City to enter the Kunz property to take down the flagpole and receive the costs incurred from the Kunzes.

Following an Aug. 28 hearing before 3rd District Court Judge Teresa Welch, Welch issued a temporary restraining order that required the Kunzes to light the flagpole with FAA approved lighting within 24 hours.

Another hearing was held in the 3rd District Court on Sept. 11, where Judge Douglas Hogan granted a temporary restraining order authorizing Salt Lake City or its agents to enter the Kunz property to bring down the flagpole and leave it on the property.

Salt Lake City will initially bear the cost of taking down the flagpole, but the Court will take under advisement the issue of which party shall ultimately bear such cost, according to the judge’s order. 

Hogan’s order said the flagpole is not to be re-erected until the Court holds a hearing on Salt Lake City’s application for a preliminary injunction on Oct. 5, 2023.

Kunz family members told the Transcript Bulletin that the flagpole and flag were a memorial for the family patriarch Dick Kunz’s life as a husband, father and Vietnam veteran. Dick Kunz passed away in 2013 from cancer after buying the Erda property in 2000 and moving his family to Erda.

They also said the flagpole was a move in a 19-year-old battle between the Kunz family and Salt Lake City and their Airport Department over the right to the airspace over their homes and property.

The Salt Lake City Airport Department contacted Dick Kunz in 2004 and said they needed to acquire his property for the expansion of their airport. Specifically, the Airport Department said they needed the property to install an instrument landing system, according to Neil Kunz.

Dick Kunz turned down Salt Lake City’s offer. Two counter offers by Dick Kunz were ignored by the city, according to Neil and Barbara Kunz.

Salt Lake City Council voted in 2007 to condemn and take by eminent domain the airspace over a little more than 12 acres of Dick Kunz’s 20 acres.

The 3rd District Court in Tooele ruled in 2019 that the 2007 condemnation action by the Salt Lake City Council was invalid because the city did not follow the procedure for condemnation as prescribed in state law.

In 2019, Salt Lake City made an offer to the Kunz family. The city offered to buy an avigation easement over the Kunz property at the same price the Kunz family rejected in 2007.

Since the Court Appeals ruled in favor of the Kunz family in 2019, Neil Kunz said Salt Lake City has not attempted to legally condemn the airspace and acquire it by eminent domain, but they have continued to use the airspace for planes taking off and landing at the Tooele Valley Airport.

In 2020, the Kunz family filed a complaint in the 3rd District Court in Tooele charging Salt Lake City and their Airport Department with trespass for using the Kunz’s airspace for avigation purposes at their airport without an agreement or compensation, nuisance law violations, inverse condemnation — an illegal taking of the Kunz property by prohibiting the family’s right to the full use and enjoyment of their property, and breach of contract.

The hearing on Salt Lake City Corporation’s application for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Oct. 5, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. in Judge Hogan’s courtroom in the Gordon Hall Courthouse in Tooele City. 

Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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