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Cabin owners clash with rental developer

By Rick Sherman

Concern over parking space

Carbon County Commissioners have put off a decision about vacating roads in the Campsite Subdivision at Scofield Reservoir. A public hearing was held during the regular commission meeting Wednesday to consider a petition from the homeowners association to vacate roads and rights-of-way. The public hearing was well attended by Campsite Subdivision property owners, many of whom spoke in favor of vacating the roads.
One property owner who was absent but represented by his attorney is opposed to the move. Lehi real estate broker and property management agent Brian Brown is concerned the Campsite Corporation intends to deny access to his properties. He has offered to purchase the roads for $20,000 and has also filed a lawsuit to block the vacation of the roads.

Owners petition

Brown v. Scofield Reservoir Camp Corporation is ongoing with several pending motions in Seventh District Court. The lawsuit was filed on June 30, 2016, and a barrage of legal documents has been exchanged between Brown and the campsite organization. In the meantime, the Campsite Corporation has taken its case to the county commission in the form of the petition to vacate the roads. If the county relinquishes its interests in the roads, control would fall to the homeowners association– the Scofield Reservoir Campsite Corporation.
Following a lengthy discussion and comments from the public, the Commission voted two to one to table action on the petition for the time being.
Brown is at odds with the other property owners over two cabins he owns in the subdivision, which he offers as vacation rentals. According to a listing on the website, vrbo.com, one of the cabins is two bedrooms and sleeps 12, while the other is a 3,650 square foot “Lake House” with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. It sleeps 45 and is currently listed at $638 per night with a two night minimum. The facility features a pool table, ping-pong table, two 65 inch TVs with satellite subscription, a kid’s movie room, hot tub, propane fire pit, chaise lounge chairs, stainless steel appliances, disposal, microwave, coffee maker, washer and dryer and even kitchen cookware and utensils, among other amenities.
According to documents released by the Board of Directors for the Scofield Reservoir Campsite Corporation, a large majority of the cabin owners have expressed disapproval of Brown’s operation of a rental resort business because the cabin rentals change the character of the campsite from a fish camp and water sports weekend getaway, to a site of commerce. Also cited are health, safety, security and water quality concerns, and repeated violations of the Campsite bylaws by Brown’s renters.

Unrelated to litigation

Attorney for the Campsite Corporation Clayton Preece pointed out the public hearing had nothing to do with any litigation, but was focused on the roads. He said, “The purpose of this public hearing is for the commission to review whether good cause exists for vacating the roads, and whether the public interest or any person will be materially injured by the vacationing.”
Preece recalled that when the subdivision was created in the 1960s, ownership of the roads was retained by the county. But in 1983 the County Commission determined that the roads were only used by the Campsite Subdivision property owners, and not by the general public. The Commission then conveyed the roads by quit claim deed to the Scofield Campsite Subdivision.

Transfer responsibility

Preece said the transfer was made to shift the responsibility of maintaining the roads to the Campsite Corporation and save the cost to the county. The SRCC, using funds contributed by its members, has maintained the roads for more than 30 years. With regard to individuals being harmed, Preece said anyone with an easement cannot be denied access. That legal right will not be impacted by vacating the roads.
Preece noted the records of the quit claim conveyance are either lost or not readily available in historical documentation, so the Board of Directors of the Scofield Reservoir Campsite Corporation, in an effort to correct this situation submitted a petition to Carbon County to formally vacate the roads in question and adopt a necessary ordinance. In conclusion, Preece affirmed, “There is ample evidence of good cause, and there is no material injury by vacating these roads.”
Brown’s attorney, John Morris countered that the 1983 quit claim deed was flawed because a vacation is required before a quit claim transfer can be made. “We’ve provided written authority to Mr. (Deputy County Attorney Christian) Bryner stating very clearly under Utah law, that deed is invalid, period. It has no effect,” he stated. “In our mind there is no question about the ownership of this property. These are public roads right now.” Morris also pointed out that there is a public beach that is accessed by the roads but when questioned, he conceded there is no space available for parking. “They’ll have to park on the highway and walk down a couple hundred yards to the beach,” he admitted.
Morris said if the decision is made to vacate the roads, the public interest would not be served because the maintenance of the roads by the SRCC is not proper consideration. He said, “Above all, your obligation as Commissioners is to be a good steward of property in this county. If there’s property to be sold or maintained in this county, make sure you get fair market value.”
Morris also claimed there is potential for his client to be injured if the petition to vacate the roads is granted. That’s because the SRCC would take receivership of the roads and its bylaws would govern the subdivision. Violation of any provision could result in water service being cut off, and road access being denied. He singled out and criticized many provisions of the SRCC bylaws, characterizing them as vague, overly strict and unreasonable.
“So for those reasons,” Morris said, “This just isn’t the right time to vacate the roads. We ask that you hold on doing that until these bylaw issues are sorted out, until it’s clear who owns the roads.”
Commission Chairman Jake Mellor said he would prefer to further review before making a decision. Commissioner Jae Potter, though, wasted no time in making a motion to approve the petition to vacate the roads. When the motion did not get a second, Commissioner Mellor stepped down to make a substitute motion that the item be tabled for further review. Commissioner Casey Hopes seconded the motion, saying he thought that the petition should wait until the legal matters are settled in court, and then bring it back for a decision. The vote on the substitute motion to table the item was two to one, with Potter opposed.

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