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Tear them down. That is what Pearl Meibos wants to see happen to the Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as the Ross, that have served as her view in Fort Union for more than a decade.

She might get what she wants.

After battling Hermes Associates for 14 years over an expansion at the Family Center at Fort Union, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Hermes violated zoning laws by imprisoning the Meibos home with brick walls on three sides and encroaching on what was supposed to be a 20-foot setback.

In the unanimous ruling, the Utah high court upheld a district court's ruling that found Hermes is required to remove the section of their buildings that encroach on the easement that buffers Meibos' house.

This decision comes after a previous Utah Supreme Court ruling in 2001 in which the high court ruled Hermes had deliberately violated zoning laws set out by Salt Lake County when it constructed the brick buildings.

That still left a question of how Meibos was to be compensated for her damages. The latest ruling requires that Hermes actually remove the parts of the buildings in dispute, as well as include landscaping and a cul-de-sac the company agreed to construct with the county. Although Hermes no longer owns the buildings, the firm remains legally liable because it was the original builder.

Score one for the little guy, Meibos told the Deseret Morning News.

"We feel vindicated now. All we wanted was the right to be treated like citizens and have rights," Meibos said. "It's not all entirely based on who has the most money."

However, Meibos lays some of the blame on Salt Lake County for allowing the construction to go forward, despite her family's protests that the buildings violated zoning laws.

"None of this would have happened had Salt Lake County enforced their laws," she said.

Mark Morris, an attorney for Hermes, agrees. "Obviously, Hermes never believed it was violating any of the zoning ordinances," he said. "We built something and the county told us it was proper . . . and now many years after the fact, another trial court judge and the Utah Supreme Court have determined it wasn't."

Morris said Hermes is considering its options, which may include a motion to have the Utah Supreme Court reconsider its ruling.

Meibos said she doubts the high court, with a unanimous ruling, will reverse its own decision. As for the buildings, Meibos wants them reduced to rubble.

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That's not going to happen, Morris said. "Demolish the center, no. Move some walls farther away, that's a possibility."

If the high court rejects Hermes' motion to reconsider, Morris said his company will submit an action plan, which will likely include a proposal to remove the back walls of the two buildings, effectively shortening the stores.

Since the controversy arose, the area was annexed from unincorporated Salt Lake County into Midvale city.

Midvale City administrator Lee King said whatever plan is approved by the court, Hermes will have to work with Midvale city.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com