Jeremy Ranch homeowners sue Summit County over use of entry gate
April 21, 2018
Jeremy Ranch homeowners filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court earlier this month against Summit County over the use of a gate at the entrance of the luxury home community The Trails.
Justin P. Matkin and Derek S. Parry, of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, a Salt Lake City-based law firm representing The Trails at Jeremy Ranch Owners Association, filed the 20-page complaint on April 6. The suit was filed on behalf of 23 homeowners.
The lawsuit alleges the county erroneously ordered the homeowners association to remove a gate at the entrance of the community after County Manager Tom Fisher determined it was never officially approved. The complaint further claims the development of the neighborhood as a gated community was approved in 1997 by the Summit County Board of Commissioners.
But, the county issued a notice of violation to the homeowners association, alleging the community was in violation of county code for maintaining an illegally installed gate and ordered the gate's removal in November of 2017, according to court documents. The notice also threatened a $250 fine for each day of violation.
The homeowners association was granted a hearing in Administrative Court, where a judge hears issues that are not criminal in nature, in December to protest the notice, but the judge determined the county manager has the final authority over whether the gate was allowed. Fisher's determination claimed "the vehicle control gate was an illegal use at the time of its erection," according to the lawsuit. The gate had been in operation since 2001.
The Administrative Court upheld Fisher's determination and ordered the immediate removal of the gate and recommended a civil fee of $32,500. Fisher declined to comment on the complaint, deferring to the County Attorney's Office. Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said in an email that she is unable to comment on pending litigation.
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The homeowners association attempted to appeal the decision to the county , but the appeal was rejected because it was "incomplete and thus not timely filed," according to court documents. An email from Pat Putt, Summit County's community development director, said the appeal did not include the $400 filing fee or required signature on the application.
The homeowners association removed the gate on April 10.
"We believe the county has acted egregiously," said Jamie Brotherton, a homeowner at The Trails and board member of the homeowners association. "It's like, 'What are you doing? Why are you spending all this time pursuing something that was determined to be legal in the '90s and here it is 2018?'"
The final development plans for The Trails, which includes mention of entrance landscaping and a gate, was approved in 1997, according to court documents the plaintiffs filed in the lawsuit.
"The gate was erected within The Trails development. In connection with the construction of the gate an application was filed for approval of an electrical permit," the documents state. "Although the county cannot find a record that the permit was approved, it was inspected by the county and ultimately installed."
The homeowners association is asking Fisher to reconsider his decision and allow the reinstallation of the gate. The suit is also asking the county to cover the attorney fees and costs associated with the gate's removal and reinstallation.
"It is a gated community and it has been marketed as a gate community," Brotherton said. "Members of the Summit County Building Department have been driving through this gate to inspect properties since it was first installed. I believe in my heart we will prevail."
John Meyer, another homeowner at The Trails and member of the homeowners association, said he's not sure why the issue could not be resolved before reaching district court. He said he's lived in the community for 18 years and the gate has operated for 17 of them.
"If it was something that was controversial, then let the courts decide," he said. "But, I don't see that there is much controversy here when we have all of the appropriate documentation proving that it was approved. We have spent thousands of dollars in legal fees taking the gate off and a huge amount of time researching this."
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