WEST VALLEY CITY — The West Valley City Council voted Tuesday to condemn part of the land that houses Clear Channel Communications Inc., the company's eight radio stations and 150-plus employees.
The government taking of property will make way for a planned light-rail line near Decker Lake Drive and 2800 South.
The move was has been fought tooth-and-nail by the property owner, Decker Lake Ventures. The company wanted the Utah Transit Authority to allow left-hand turns across the tracks into its business.
On top of the legal issues, Clear Channel's landlord is complaining that UTA has illegally trespassed onto its property, digging unauthorized holes and destroying seven mature trees.
"It's really a shocking, shocking situation that a quasi-governmental entity will take property rights in such a cavalier manner," said Robert E. Mansfield, attorney for Decker Lake Ventures.
Company officials say they were never approached by UTA in early planning stages, though the transit authority claims it sent notice to all property owners.
"I'm not sure that's the golden rule at work," Decker Lake Ventures owner John Alexander said.
UTA program development deputy chief Ralph Jackson called the tree destruction an accident and has agreed to reimburse Decker Lake, but he agreed the incident exacerbated an already dicey situation.
The fight between UTA and Decker Lake Ventures came before the West Valley City Council because UTA does not have the power of condemnation. Thus, UTA asked the city to condemn part of the Decker Lake property in order to make way for a TRAX line.
Decker Lake Ventures isn't against the line, nor are they opposed to the condemnation, Alexander said. Rather, the corporation believes left-turn access should be provided and could be with little trouble to the transit authority.
UTA representatives said plans for the TRAX line are far enough along that making changes would be very expensive and delay construction. They also pointed out that all of the businesses along 400 South in Salt Lake City are denied left-hand turns.
West Valley City staff agreed with UTA that the current plan, which allows U-turns a few hundred feet away from the Decker Lake property, should be followed.
"I have said in the past that left turns are not an inalienable right, and I believe that still," said Russ Willardson, city public works director.
West Valley City Councilman Joel Coleman, who cast the lone dissenting vote in the 6-1 decision to condemn the property, wanted to wait to force UTA to work with the property owner. Coleman said he was unconvinced that UTA had made a good faith effort.
Coleman's comments were echoed by council member Corey Rushton, who said due process had been followed in this case, but just barely.
In the end, West Valley City Mayor Dennis Nordfelt asked UTA to try to work with Decker Lake Ventures before the city winds up in court.