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Center’s Neighbors Demand Demolition
by Ron Davis

The completed expansion of a Utah shopping center now faces an uncertain future–and possible demolition–following a legal victory by the center’s neighbors.

The shopping center is Family Center in suburban Salt Lake City, and the expansion dates back to 1991, when the center’s owners bought adjoining property with plans to build additional retail stores. The owners of one of the neighboring properties, however, rejected the purchase offers of the shopping center’s owners. Not deterred, the center’s owners simply modified their plans and began construction on three sides of their holdout neighbors.

County officials backed the project, with certain concessions. Those concessions included closing a portion of an adjacent public road and the conveying to the county of a right of way along the boundary of the holdout owners’ property.

The property owners responded by arguing that the county had restricted not only private access to their property, but also the access of such public services as sanitation, fire and snow-removal vehicles. They also contended that illumination from large floodlights and noise from the loading dock and trash-compacting facilities at the shopping center addition disturbed “the peaceful use and enjoyment of our property.”

Years passed, and the property owners finally sued the owners of the shopping center, claiming that they violated county regulations, roadway standards, and permits that the county issued. But a county court ruled in favor of the shopping center’s owners, concluding that their actions were in keeping with both the permits and requirements of the county.

The property owners appealed, claiming that the county’s granting of the roadway exceptions was in error. They added that the damages they incurred with the center’s expansion were of such magnitude that the courts were justified in ordering the expansion’s demolition.

The appellate court agreed with the property owners, explaining, “They clearly established the necessary standing by demonstrating special damages. The zoning violation and the undisputed facts demonstrate the irreparable harm. The order includes the imposition of specific metes and bounds to accomplish the restoration of the center’s neighboring property.”

That ruling means that the shopping center’s owners must now remove those portions of their buildings that violate county permits. Plus, they must reconfigure and reconstruct any roadways and rights-of-way that violate county regulations. (Johnson v. Hermes Associates, Ltd., 2005 WL 3110674 [Utah])

Decision: November 2005
Published: December 2005



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