Utah Supreme Court
March 24, 2016
2016 UT 15 (Click for text of opinion)
The Utah Supreme Court invalidated a condemnation by Salt Lake City (“Salt Lake” or the “City”) of land owned by Evans Development Group (“Evans”) in this case.
Salt Lake needed a parcel of property owned by Rocky Mountain Power to complete a public works project. Rocky Mountain Power planned to use this property to construct an electric substation. The City and Rocky Mountain Power agreed that the City would provide a similarly situated parcel of property in exchange for the Rocky Mountain Power parcel so the City could complete its project. Salt Lake then condemned a parcel of property owned by Evans to exchange for the parcel owned by Rocky Mountain Power. Evans argued that the City’s condemnation of its property to exchange with Rocky Mountain Power did not constitute a permitted public use under applicable eminent domain law. The district court disagreed and ruled in favor of the City.
On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the district court and held that this specific exchange did not satisfy the applicable statutory requirements because the condemning agency must meet the required public uses on the property it condemned. The Court went on to say that even if the City met the public use requirement, Utah law requires the condemning agency to both remain in charge of the public use on the property and to oversee the construction of that public use, neither of which occurred when Salt Lake simply exchanged the property with Rocky Mountain Power for another parcel.