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A Utah court has rejected the city of Tooele's appeal to overturn a $20.7 million judgment, and now the city will have to pay that sum plus interest to a developer who says Tooele has tried to stymie progress of his subdivision.
In 2009, a jury awarded the amount to Tooele Associates for money lost on its Overlake subdivision, but the trial court soon set aside the verdict, ruling that the jury's findings were "irreconcilably inconsistent."
The Utah Court of Appeals, however, disagreed.
In a ruling handed down Thursday, the appellate court found the city had breached its development agreement and had hindered Tooele Associate's work.
"We have always had faith in the legal system to do the right thing and this decision vindicates that faith," Tooele Associates managing partner Drew Hall said in a prepared statement Thursday.
Tooele Mayor Patrick Dunlavy said it was too early to say whether the city would appeal the decision.
"We'll sit down and analyze the court's ruling and then we'll take it to the next step," he said. "We realize this is a process. My administration inherited this lawsuit when we took over, and our approach is to continue to do the best we can to protect the interest of Tooele city."
The city and developer entered into an agreement in 1997, allowing for a mixed-use development that would include some 7,500 homes. As part of the deal, Tooele Associates gave the city 30 of its 2,800 acres in exchange for the city providing culinary water.
Attorney Bruce Baird said the city failed to follow through on its end of that agreement. And in 2002, claiming the city was delaying the development in a move to slow residential growth, Tooele Associates filed suit.
At trial, a jury found that the city had cost, and would continue to cost the developer money. Tooele Associates was awarded about $22.5 million, though that sum was offset by the jury's finding that the developer had cost the city roughly $1.8 million in damages.
At the time of the verdict, Tooele Associates said it preferred to find a way to finish the Overlake development, rather than collect from the city. On Thursday, Baird said the developer would have to reassess where it stood on the subdivision on the city's north boundary.
The attorney said he hoped Tooele would not further appeal.
"Maybe at some point the citizens of Tooele city will get tired of spending millions of dollars on lawyers and losing," Baird said.