Utah's Winter Olympic organizers may be facing another round in an ongoing bout with a landowner in Summit County - this time over a $2 million state grant that would help secure land for ski jumps and a bobsled-luge run.
Hi-Ute Investment Co. filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court in Summit County Friday that seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the transfer of the grant between the state Community Impact Fund Board and Summit County. It contends the sports park would damage the environment of the Bear Hollow area and the board was beyond its authority when it approved the Summit County grant."Once the funds are distributed, construction will begin immediately, and the pristine beauty of the area will be permanently and irreversibly damaged. Hi-Ute will be irreparably damaged," says the suit, which names the board, its eight members and the Summit County Building Authority.
The suit says private investors, California-based C.C. Myers & Co., would also unlawfully benefit from the fund transfer. C.C. Myers and Summit County have tentatively agreed that in exchange for a road - to be built with the grant money - C.C. Myers will give the county 300 acres of land. The land is part of the former Sun Peak Resort project. It will retain some residential building lots in the area for future development.
Joe Tesch, of the state attorney general's office, told the Utah Sports Authority Tuesday that Summit County intends to go ahead with its plans to use the money to help obtain the land. The county would, in turn, transfer the land to the Utah Sports Authority. That would mean the Utah Sports Authority would benefit from the money and that's wrong, the suit also says.
The reason the Sports Authority and C.C. Meyers don't have any right to benefit from the funds is because state law designates such funds for only state agencies and subdivisions impacted by mineral resource development, plaintiffs argue. The Utah Sports Authority was created by the Legislature to oversee the spending of $54 million in sales tax revenues to build winter sports facilities.
Furthermore, the suit states, the Legislature took away the board's authority to make grants for the Summit County project when it struck "Winter Games" as an item eligible for Community Impact Fund Board funding in a special session last year.
The Community Impact Fund Board distributes money the state receives from the sale, bonuses and royalties of mineral leases on federal lands. Under federal law, the state is entitled to 50 percent of such revenues.
On Friday, attorneys for Hi-Ute Investment backed away from asking 3rd District Judge Scott Daniels for a temporary restraining order to halt the transfer of money because the Utah attorney general's office said a final land deal in the area wouldn't be closed until Nov. 1, said Jay Bell, Hi-Ute attorney.
This is not the first time that Hi-Ute has crossed swords with Summit County and Olympic officials. The Hi-Ute land and the adjacent "Bear Hollow" site proposed for the winter sports facilities are located near Kimball's Junction on I-80. At one point Hi-Ute had agreed to sell part of its land for the winter sports park. Hi-Ute suddenly dropped out of the deal and has made legal challenges to the project and threatens more.