DRAPER — The Utah Transit Authority and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands are hiring a surveyor to determine who owns a portion of land on which a UTA contractor has dumped topsoil.
The property in dispute is near 12800 South and the Jordan River. As UTA builds the FrontRunner South Commuter Rail line from Salt Lake City to Provo, a contractor has put footing and preparations for a future station platform that will be built as population demands.
UTA maintains the property in question belongs to the transit agency.
But environmentalists believe it is state-owned land. Utah Open Lands informed Forestry, Fire and State Lands of its concerns about UTA's activity on the property. The division's executive director, Richard Buehler, sent UTA a letter Feb. 18, said Jason Curry, division spokesman.
On Thursday, UTA and division officials met, discussed the issue and decided to hire a surveyor, who will establish the exact location of a property line through measurements and legal descriptions, Curry said.
"The bottom line is at the end of the meeting, they agreed to flag it off, their contractors are instructed not to do anything across that line until they figure it out through a survey," Curry said.
If the property does not belong to UTA, UTA will have to restore the property to its former state and mitigate any adverse environmental problems, if there are any, Curry said.
UTA believes the surveyor will confirm their beliefs that the land belongs to the agency. "There is no damage, just some topsoil," UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said.
Zach Frankel of the Utah Rivers Council believes the land is state-owned and that it belongs to everyone, and the issue is a matter or respect for the law.
"If that was your backyard, how would you feel?" Frankel said.
The station has been highly contentious for more than a year. UTA originally eyed land at 13500 South, the site of a 3,000-year-old American Indian village. The land was also considered environmentally sensitive, among the last undeveloped swathes of land along the Jordan River corridor.
In August, UTA officials, environmentalists, state leaders and American Indian representatives reached a compromise that created a conservation easement in perpetuity at 13500 South. In exchange, UTA and its development partners (who want to build an office-retail-residential center around the station) were given the go-ahead to purchase private land at 12800 South.