Appeals court sides with Summit County
June 9, 2007
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Summit County in a lawsuit that accused government officials of engaging in racketeering.
Plaintiffs in the case included Anderson Development, South Summit resident Nadine Gillmor, members of the Milton O. Bitner family, Evergreen Development, Dwayne Pace, Joan Pace, Gale Pace and Kathleen Pace.
"The case presents the latest battle in a legal war being waged by several landowners against Summit County & and its zoning regime," the first line of a 17-page ruling from the Court of Appeals states.
The plaintiffs claimed the county’s zoning ordinances constitute "a pattern of extortion in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)," the ruling states.
The civil complaint was filed Oct. 3, 2005, against past and present Summit County commissioners and Basin planning commissioners, former Summit County Community Development Director Dave Allen, County Planning Director Michael Barille and Dave Thomas, a chief deputy Summit County attorney.
By basing the amount of development rights Basin landowners receive on how many concessions, like trails, rights-of-way and open space are deeded to Summit County, the defendants broke the law, claimed Bruce Baird, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs.
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Baird filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City after the Summit County Commission shot down Gillmor’s request to build about 300 new homes on about 300 acres near Trailside Park.
Residential base densities in the Basin currently allow for one unit per 20 acres, however, landowners can double the density by offering amenities like open space that benefit the community.
Perhaps to dodge the zoning restrictions, landowners tied to this case have brought several lawsuits against Summit County challenging development codes in the Snyderville Basin, the Court of Appeals ruling filed June 5 states.
"We conclude that the District Court was correct in finding landowners could not prove the existence of any predicate acts, as required by [law]," the recent ruling states. "As the District Court correctly noted, such a holding would put ‘the cart before the horse.’"