A 3rd District Court judge found Grantsville’s annexation of more than 3,500 acres in 2014 is valid and was performed properly, in a partial summary judgment ruling Thursday.
The partial summary judgment is part of the larger lawsuit between Grantsville City and Tooele County, as well as the Deseret Peak Special Service District, over an alleged breach of contract concerning water and sewer service to Deseret Peak Complex and Utah Motorsports Campus.
The lawsuit, filed by Grantsville City, seeks not less than $1.2 million in total compensatory and punitive damages.
Grantsville City submitted a request for summary judgment regarding annexation on Oct. 25, on a portion of the County’s counterclaim, which alleged the City had breached its contract by annexing the area — including Deseret Peak Complex and the race track — prior to fulfilling its obligations.
Specifically, the County’s counterclaim argued the County is not governed by the state’s municipal code and the City has not levied taxes against any County properties within the annexation area.
The County also contended the former Miller Motorsports Park only paid taxes for one year, in 2015, and not more than one year as required by the state code. The County became the property owner of the racetrack in 2015, which removed it from the tax rolls.
In the ruling by 3rd District Court Judge Robert Adkins, he said he believed the section of state code referring to annexations applied to governmental entities such as Tooele County and the Deseret Peak Special Service District, as it did not specifically state otherwise.
“The Legislature, had it chose to do so, could have specifically exempted Tooele and other government entities from application of the statue,” Adkins said. “It did not.”
The section of state code referenced defines the criteria for a valid annexation as the municipality levying taxes for more than one year and no resident contesting the annexation in court within the first year.
Grantsville City provided information that 19 separate taxpayers paid property tax in 2015 and 18 of those taxpayers also paid in 2016, with the sole exception being Miller Motorsports Park. The race track became tax exempt in 2016 when it fell under County ownership.
The County claimed Grantsville City did not collect property taxes in the annexed property in 2014, the year the annexation was approved, according to the Adkins ruling. Adkins said the County’s declaration corroborated the City’s claim that taxes had been levied on the annexed area beginning in 2015.
“There is no evidence in the record that disputes Grantsville’s claim that it has levied taxes since 2015, and that taxes have been paid,” Adkins said.
In his ruling, Adkins also disagreed with the County’s claim that the City didn’t meet the burden to have all taxpayers pay property taxes for more than one year after annexation.
“Defendants have added three words to their argument that are not contained in the state, i.e., ‘all of the,” Adkins said. “The statute does not say ‘all of the’ taxpayers, as claimed by Defendants.”
Adkins also sided with Grantsville City’s claim that no court challenge was made against the annexation within one year from its finalization in November 2014. The County’s counterclaim against Grantsville’s lawsuit was filed on May 24 and Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall identified that as the first legal challenge to the annexation in his declaration.
“Mr. Marshall, as Mayor of Grantsville, would have knowledge of litigation filed against the City,” Adkins said. “Defendants have failed to file anything that disputes Mayor Marshall’s claim on that issue.”
The annexation, which encompasses about 3,520 acres, was therefore deemed valid by Adkins and the ruling was made in Grantsville’s favor.
The remainder of the lawsuit filed by Grantsville City and the countersuit by Tooele County remain ongoing.