The Tooele City Council approved a settlement with the former Aposhian Sod Farm during its meeting Wednesday evening, ending a dispute that dates back to 2013.
The long-running disagreement between the former tenant of the Vernon-area sod farm and its former owner, Tooele City, centered on the value of the crop when the lease agreement was terminated.
Following a July 23 mediation, the city and sod farm agreed to a $840,000 payment for the value of the sod, including $112,851.37 already paid by the city in May per an April judgment in 3rd District Court. The lump-sum payment from the city will be made using funds from the sale of the sod farm last December.
The city sold the 1,784-acre sod farm, located near Vernon, for $1.3 million to Six Mile Ranch, Inc., of Grantsville. The city retained the farm’s certificated water rights of 4,181 acre-feet (1.36 billion gallons) per year.
An April 30 ruling in 3rd District Court set the total market value of the sod crop at $1.51 million. The city was awarded $385,600 for attorney fees, breach of contract damages, waste damages and holdover damages, for a net obligation of $1.13 million.
Both the city and sod farm appealed the decision, however, leading to the July 23 mediation organized by the appeals court.
After determining it was receiving no rent or other benefit under the particular arrangements of the lease agreement, Tooele City sought to terminate the lease without cause in 2013. The city, following the required notification, was obligated to pay for the value of the mature sod crop under the agreement.
Aposhian Sod Farm requested $3.2 million, an amount the city could not substantiate, and a lawsuit followed when the lessee refused to leave the property, according to the city’s attorney, Ted Barnes.
The lawsuit was originally tried before a jury in December 2016. The jury determined Tooele City proved Aposhian committed waste on the property of $137,000 and the market value of the sod crop was $2.77 million.
In December 2017, the court granted Tooele City’s motion for a new trial in regard to the sod crop value and determined the city suffered holdover damage and Aposhian had revenues totaling $942,719.45 in 2013, which offset the value of the sod crop at the end of the contract.
Then in May 2018, the court reversed its prior decision that Tooele City was entitled to offset the value of the sod crop with Aposhian’s total farming revenues in 2013.
A new trial on the sod crop issues occurred last December, with the court ruling the value of Aposhian’s sod crop was $1.51 million. In subsequent post-trial memoranda on Feb. 11 and Feb. 15, the court declined to reconsider or denied all requests to adjust the damage or attorney fee amounts.