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Park City planning official in court over property renovation

The property of Park City Planning Commission Chair Sarah Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Work at her Park City home is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Rick Egan
The Salt Lake Tribune
The property of Park City Planning Commission Chair Sarah Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Work at her Park City home is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The chair of the Park City Planning Commission wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit over her home renovations.

A complaint was filed in May against Park City Municipal and Sarah Hall, the chair of the Park City Planning Commission, by her neighbor, Bob Theobald. Six other neighbors have since signed onto Theobald's lawsuit.

The group says Hall and her husband violated Park City’s building and land use code on their 7-acre property off Meadow Creek Drive. In addition, they say the city didn't provide proper oversight and adequate enforcement of the project.

In a motion for summary judgement filed in November, the attorneys for the Halls and the city say the application for the home remodel was submitted more than two years ago. The application was approved, fees were paid, and a building permit was issued without opposition. The Halls then began spending over $1 million to remodel the property.

More than a year later, Theobald submitted a complaint to the city, protesting certain aspects of the project. He alleges the Halls disrupted sensitive wetlands, planted trees that blocked regulated viewsheds, and built a hot tub without the proper permit.

Theobald also claims Hall used her authority on the planning commission to loosen rules around hot tub and spa permits, to keep her home renovation in line.

Park City Attorney Margaret Plane later told city officials Hall’s behavior was legal and she did not have to disclose any conflict of interest.

Sarah Hall is not commenting on the case. However, at a planning commission meeting in February, her husband Gerry dismissed Theobald’s claims.

“This is not the first time Mr. Theobald has had an issue with neighbors,” Mr. Hall said. “Over the last two years, he has brought action against three neighbors on our cul-de-sac — one for a pickleball court, one for a permitted and already built sauna, and now our house as well. My opinion is that if you have issues with three of your neighbors that need to be raised to the point of bringing legal action over the course of two years, the problem probably isn’t your neighbors, the problem is probably with you.” 

Theobald’s allegation about the neighbor’s sauna that Hall mentioned was reviewed by the city’s Board of Adjustment, which found that it did violate code. The board’s decision also meant the other neighbor couldn’t construct their pickleball court.

Hall's attorneys say Theobald’s new complaint isn’t sufficient to trigger an appeal, and even if it was, he filed it too late.

In an opposing motion, Theobald and his neighbors argue that after he first raised concerns, Park City hid a new set of amended plans that were submitted and approved, and purposefully strung him along to prevent him from appealing the decision.

Theobald says the late filing doesn’t excuse an improper permit, and maintains that the action on Hall’s property is illegal. He questioned why Hall is the chair of the planning commission, which is second only to the city council when it comes to land use applications.

“It’s a problem that we have a tainted planning commission, especially when we’ve got all these issues coming down in front of us, such as the Deer Valley loop road, we’ve got Olympics in the future," Theobald said. "There’s a lot of things that have got to be done, and I think the planning commission has to be 100% fully disclosed with integrity.” 

Park City Manager Matt Dias said he’s confident the planning department went through the right process and followed code.

“We’re going to defend the decisions that we did with rigor, we went back and reviewed, and we think we have good standing, and we’ll have to see where the chips fall.”

A city spokesperson added that the legal and planning departments consist of "dedicated professionals" who are "too often subjected to undue criticism."

The Army Corps of Engineers sent an inquiry to the Halls this summer asking for more information about “potential unauthorized activity in wetlands.” A representative from the department’s office in Bountiful said Monday he could not comment on the inquiry.