Judge Sides With Park City in Dispute With Richardson Flat Developer
A judge in Summit County’s Third District Court has ruled in favor of Park City in a dispute with developer Nate Brockbank.
Following oral arguments last week, Judge Richard Mrazik ruled that while Brockbank and his business entities purchased properties in the Richardson Flat area, with the intent to develop, Park City holds legal constraints on the land, including a conservation easement, that limit its recreational use.
The dispute between Park City and the developer is not directly involved with Wasatch County town Hideout’s attempt to annex into the area.
The properties disputed by Park City were dropped out of that proposal by Nate Brockbank. What was left was 350 acres that the Hideout Council voted to annex at a special meeting on Oct. 16.
That annexation is going to a citizen’s referendum in Hideout on June 22. It is also the target of a brand-new court filing from Summit County.
The hearing held by Judge Mrazik last Thursday, April 15, involved several parcels that have been owned by United Park City Mines, located to the east of U.S. 40 and to the south of State Route 248.
Three parcels, acquired by Brockbank and his business entities, are unofficially known as “Richardson Flat East”. Another parcel, called “Richardson Flat West,” is still owned by United Park, but Wells Fargo reportedly has an interest that could lead the bank to foreclose on it.
Park City’s attorneys argued the city has a conservation easement on the properties. The City’s Special Counsel, Margaret Plane, said it’s part of a development agreement the city made with United Park going back to 1999, when the company was seeking approval for the Flagstaff (or Empire Pass) project.
“One of the things the developer offered was to restrict uses on Richardson Flat to recreational uses or a couple of different options under that part of the agreement,” Plane said.
Plane said the city was concerned about preserving its benefits on the Richardson Flat parcels after they were sold.
“There was a constable sale on some of the properties that are covered by the DA,” she said. “And the parties interested in acquiring those properties indicated an intent to develop. Because Park City wanted to protect the development agreement and protect the public benefit that was negotiated as part of that agreement, the city became involved in the Summit County vs. Brockbank litigation.”
Judge Mrazik ruled that the city has a valid Conservation Easement under Utah law. Brockbank’s attorney objected that the Easement would allow the development of golf courses, a clubhouse, a ball field and up to 750 parking spaces.
But the judge ruled that those uses are minimal, given the overall size of the properties.
Judge Mrazik ruled on two other arguments made by Park City. He said the city had a restriction on the land under a doctrine called “equitable servitude”. But on another motion, he said the city had not shown evidence that it had a covenant that runs with the land.
On balance, though, Plane said the judge’s rulings were decisively in Park City’s favor.
Brockbank’s attorney, Jefferson Gross, told KPCW that they disagree with some of the Judge’s rulings, but appreciate the attention he gave to the issue. Gross said his side is considering their options, which could include an appeal.
Incidentally, the parcels in the dispute do not include the tailings repository, which is still owned by United Park and is supervised by the EPA.