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Not even Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young can get water for a lot in Little Cottonwood Canyon's Albion Basin.
The former Brigham Young University and San Francisco 49ers QB recently sent a letter to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, pleading that he be allowed a water connection for a lot near Cecret Lake at Alta. Salt Lake City owns the water rights in the canyon dating back to a court ruling more than 100 years ago.
Young also requested that his "Cecret Lake lot neighbors be allowed similar connections."
The Salt Lake Tribune could not reach Young for comment Friday. But his father, LeGrande Young, said the repeated denial of a water connection from Salt Lake City and, hence, a denial of a building permit from the town of Alta, is wrong.
"It's unfair. Salt Lake City is giving water to people at Snowbird," he said, noting that the town of Alta is "dead set against development."
But the senior Young conceded that the battle isn't new. "It's been going on for 25 years."
Alta Town Administrator John Guldner admitted that Alta doesn't want more development in Albion Basin. But, he added, "Salt Lake City owns the water rights, and it holds all the cards."
Alta incorporated in 1970 and penned a water contract with Salt Lake City in 1975.
The following year, Alta annexed the Cecret Lake area. That annexation agreement provides for police, fire and sewer services, Guldner said. But not water.
And Salt Lake City isn't about to begin selling water rights or permits to build housing in its watershed, said Jeff Niermeyer, director of public utilities.
In 1991, the Salt Lake City Council established a comprehensive water policy after "methodically" studying the issue, Niermeyer said.
"Our ordinance applies to all. We don't make a distinction on who makes the application," he said, referring to Young.
But Kevin Tolton a Bountiful physician with property near Young's who also is seeking a water connection said Alta and Salt Lake City are harming development rights of property owners.
Tolton contends that he and his neighbors have water rights that are being denied in an effort by Alta and Salt Lake City to impede development.
"These Cecret Lake lots qualify under the 1976 agreement," he said.
Guldner and Niermeyer, however, point to two legal cases: Melville versus Salt Lake City (1977) and Haik versus Alta (1998) that have upheld Salt Lake City's water rights.
"I've heard this from Dr. Tolton for 10 years," Niermeyer said. "But he's never been able to demonstrate that he has an approved water right."