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Provo’s #WhatsNext Announcement: City to Purchase Rock Canyon for More Than $1 Million

We’re excited about it because it really protects that neighborhood, the neighbors that are over there, and the canyon.

In what has been hyped by Provo City as being “epic,” “significant,” and “huge,” Mayor John Curtis announced this afternoon that the city has reached an agreement to purchase land located at the mouth of Rock Canyon.

“This is just another benefit to the city,” Provo Deputy Mayor Corey Norman told Beehive Startups in an exclusive interview leading up to today’s announcement. “We’re able to keep and maintain what really makes that eastern side of Provo unique. We’re excited about it because it really protects that neighborhood, the neighbors that are over there, and the canyon.”

For the better part of 15 years, a number of parties, including the city of Provo, have been involved in a contentious and expensive litigation regarding Rock Canyon’s future and various ownership claims. Each party had a vested interest in the property. While some were primarily interested in economic development, others wanted to preserve the canyon in its present condition.

“We could go on for another 20 years or so and not get this thing resolved, but instead here we are on the doorstep of solving something that’s been going on for 10 years and could be tied-up in court for another 20,” said Norman.

The deal will reportedly cost Provo City more than $1 million. The money is expected to be drawn from the general fund of the city.

“This is one of those rare things where everybody is going to walk away with something. And, really, most people are walking away with most of what they asked for,” said Norman.

Rock Canyon will now be overseen by Provo City’s Parks Division. The city plans to preserve the canyon in its present state.

“We’re going to keep it kind of this rustic destination for people who want to recreate,” said Norman.

Rock Canyon Litigation Chronology (as provided by Provo City)

April, 1998: Richard Davis and Greg Sperry each acquire 50% undivided interests in land located at the mouth of Rock Canyon (Property).

March, 1999: Sperry conveys an undivided 25% interest in the Property to Stephen Kapelow (who later conveys his interest to Design West).

November, 2000: Davis files a lawsuit against Sperry and Kapelow, claiming he should have full ownership of the Property.

October, 2003: Before his lawsuit is adjudicated Davis permits others to extract rock from the Property. Provo City files misdemeanor charges against the extractors claiming they removed minerals without a permit.

June, 2004: Sperry and Design West sign an option agreement granting Provo the right to buy each of their respective undivided 25% interests in the Property.

August, 2004: Provo assigns its option interests to Red Slab in exchange for Red Slab giving Provo a conservation easement on whatever interests Red Slab acquires in the Property. Sperry conveys to Red Slab his undivided 25% interests in the Property — Design West does not convey its interests.

November, 2005: Davis amends his complaint against Sperry and Kapelow to add Red Slab, John Valentine (Red Slab’s principal) and Provo as additional parties. The primary claim against Provo is that it illegally annexed the Property.

September, 2006: The Fourth District Court of Utah County dismisses Davis’s claim that Provo illegally annexed the Property. Davis’s other claims remain.

August, 2008: The Utah Supreme Court affirms the trial court decision dismissing Davis’s claim that Provo illegally annexed the Property.

April, 2010: All litigation parties stipulate to limit trial issues to those of ownership percentages and several other matters.

May, 2010: Provo, Red Slab and Sperry file motions for summary judgment to resolve various issues relevant to the April, 2010 stipulation.

November, 2010: The district court enters its final order and judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Provo, Red Slab and Sperry on ownership percentage interests and other issues.

July, 2011: The district court enters its final order and judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Provo, Red Slab and Sperry. The ruling decides Davis and Red Slab each own 50% interests in the Property and that Provo has an undivided 50% interest in the conservation easement. The Court does not decide if Davis can or cannot mine the Property.

July, 2011: Davis files a notice of appeal of the district court order granting summary judgment. The case is assigned to the Utah Court of Appeals.

July, 2012: Richard Davis passes away.

September, 2012: By order of the Utah Court of Appeals, Beverly Jean Black Davis, Richard’s wife and personal representative of his estate, is substituted, in her capacity as personal representative, as the party in place of Richard.

October, 2012: Utah’s Court of Appeals reverses the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of Provo, Red Slab and Sperry.

November, 2012: All parties file petitions for writs of certiorari to the Utah Supreme Court.

February, 2013: The Utah Supreme Court denies all petitions for certiorari.

May and October, 2013: Mediation Sessions between the parties. At the end of the second session the parties agreed in principle on some basic terms rough of a possible settlement.

March and April, 2014: Parties agree on essential terms of the settlement as contained in a final settlement document.

Published 4/29/2014