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Alta, Salt Lake City prevail in Albion Basin water suit

Published March 13, 2013 7:29 pm

Federal court • Little Cottonwood landowners not entitled to municipal water.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There won't be any new construction in Albion Basin — at least for now.

The Town of Alta and Salt Lake City have fended off another lawsuit surrounding water and development at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Alta property owner Mark Haik, who recently challenged the legitimacy of the Alta Town Council in a separate action, lost a legal bid this week seeking water from Alta and Salt Lake City in U.S. District Court for Utah.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart dismissed Haik's 2012 suit that alleged Alta and Salt Lake City conspired to deprive him of municipal water for his four lots in Albion Basin.

"Simply stated, [Haik] can point to no unlawful acts or misrepresentations by defendants," Stewart wrote.

Haik's attorney, Paul Haik, who also is his brother, did not rule out an appeal Wednesday. "We will look at all our options," he said.

Haik purchased the land in 1994 with rights to 50 gallons of water per day for each lot. At least 400 gallons of water per day are required for a building permit.

It is Haik's second lawsuit in federal court against Alta and Salt Lake City. He lost his initial action in 1997 when Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled Alta had no duty to supply water and that Salt Lake City was not required to do so, either.

Haik appealed unsuccessfully to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Salt Lake City and the Town of Alta entered into a "water supply agreement" in 1976 that made water available to Alta but only within its 1976 boundary.

Haik's property lies within the expanded town limits but outside the 1976 boundary.

In 1991, the Salt Lake City Council adopted a watershed ordinance that prohibited new water agreements or expanding existing ones in an effort to protect canyon watersheds.

Last month, Haik filed a claim with Alta under Utah's government liability act that called into question the legality of Mayor Tom Pollard and Councilman Paul Moxley to sit on the Town Council. That challenge came on the heels of a 3rd District Court ruling that stripped Steven "Piney" Gilman of his Town Council seat after Judge Keith Kelly ruled that Gilman resided in Cottonwood Heights.

Gilman has not said whether he will appeal.

In an earlier interview, Paul Haik explained that based on the ruling in Gilman's case, Alta officials should realize that three of five members of the Town Council may be serving outside the law and therefore "may be harming our interests."

That could set the stage for another lawsuit.

csmart@sltrib.com