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Summit County Council to start legal action against property owners in road dispute

Summit County Bitner Road option 2.PNG
Summit County
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The county plans a connector road between Bitner Ranch Road and Silver Creek.

The Summit County Council voted unanimously to move ahead with taking a 1200-square-foot parcel of private land for its plans to connect Bitner Ranch Road and Silver Creek.

The Bitner Ranch Road connector project with the Silver Creek neighborhood is moving ahead despite one property owner's objection. Deputy County Attorney Helen Strachan said the council's vote Wednesday puts in motion an eminent domain action against property owners Newton and Kimberly Collinson.

Summit County Public Works Director Derrick Radke told the council he and Strachan met with the Collinsons in February to discuss rights of way for the small parcel.

"He again expressed his displeasure at the location mentioned [and] that the actual area of right-of-way needed is not necessarily the issue." Radke said, "It's just that the road there impacts his view [and] impacts the value of his property."

The Collinsons’ attorney, Justin Matkin, told the council the county should hit the pause button on the project and wait for another appraisal.

"We think there's been just a kind of a gross underestimation of how much it's going to cost. And so, from our point of view, it's just in the wrong spot," Matkin said. "Now we understand that you might have already kind of made that decision on your own. And so, it sounds like it's kind of fait accompli already."

The planning process began in 2015. After considering four or five possible road connections, the council settled on the Church Street option. Radke said the county has been waiting for the landowners to submit a second appraisal since February.

Summit County Council Member Chris Robinson told KPCW he does not think the Collinsons’ issue is money because the parcel is too small to be worth much.

"He thinks that having it anywhere near his property is affecting his view and the peace and quiet that exists up there," Robinson said. "I mean, we're taking a very, very tiny parcel of his land or trying to take [it]. It's a long way, maybe a quarter- to a half-mile away from his home, just a tiny, tiny corner. You know, he doesn't want the road, so he's trying to fight it any way he can."

Robinson said construction wouldn't begin this year, and he is confident the county can resolve the dispute with the landowner before next year's construction season.

"It's a very, very, small matter that I hope will get resolved quickly, especially now that we're serious [and] stonewalling is just not going to be the answer."

The resolution authorizes the county attorney's office to file the complaint for eminent domain and to serve the Collinsons with a lawsuit. Strachan said the county has been unable to negotiate a right-of-way to accomplish its goal of building the connector road, which addresses fire access, connectivity, and general safety for the Bitner and Silver Creek neighborhoods.

The Collinsons and their lawyer have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.