By Myrna Trauntvein
In April, Juab County began civil court proceedings to open several roads a landowner near Mona has closed to public use.
Jonathan O. Hafen and LaShel Shaw, attorneys with Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, Salt Lake City, Civil Attorneys for Juab County, filed a complaint in Fourth District Court on behalf of the county.
"Juab County, a Utah governmental entity, Plaintiff, vs. Randy Charles Brooks, an individual; and BCR Enterprises, LTD., a Utah limited partnership, Defendants," reads the court document.
The complaint was dated April 8, 2013.
A civil complaint initiates a civil lawsuit by setting forth for the court a claim for relief from damages caused, or wrongful conduct engaged in, by the defendant. The complaint outlines all of the plaintiff's theories of relief, or causes of action, and the facts supporting each Cause of Action. The complaint also serves as notice to the defendant that legal action is underway.
"This action concerns the public's rights to use several existing access roads on property owned by BCR, and has been necessitated by Brooks' efforts to limit, restrict, and prohibit use of the existing roads," the complaint states.
In 2007, Brooks, acting through BCR, purchased several parcels of land (collectively, the "Property") in Juab County, east of Mona and near the foothills of the Uinta-Wastach-Cache National Forest.
The Property encompassed six county roads (collectively, the "Roads") which had historically been continuously used by members of the public.
"In 2008 Brooks began restricting access of motorized vehicles to the Roads, including by building fences across the Roads and by locking access gates," the complaint states. "By so doing, Brooks has significantly restricted the public's ability to access and use the Roads without his permission."
Cedar Ridge Road intersects with Cemetery Lane, a street originating in Mona City, Utah, and extends northward approximately 0.5 miles to the point where it intersects with Couch Canyon Road. Beyond the intersection of Cedar Ridge Road and Couch Canyon Road, Cedar Ridge Road extends further northward for approximately 0.08 miles to its end.
Cedar Ridge Road had been used continuously, without restrictions and without the landowners' permission, by the general public since at least the late 1940s until 2008.
Couch Canyon Road originates at Cedar Ridge Road, and extends eastward approximately 1.25 miles to its end and has been used by the general public since at least the 1940s until 2008.
Clover Canyon Road stretches eastward from Willow Creek Road, just south of the end of Cemetery Lane, and is approximately 0.55 miles long and has been used by the general public since at least the late 1800s or early 1900s until 2008.
East Bench Road runs from Clover Canyon Road on the north to Willow Springs Road on the south, and is approximately 0.5 miles long and has been used by the general public since at least the 1930s until 2008.
North Vest Canyon Road originates near the east end of Cemetery Lane, and stretches eastward for approximately 0.6 miles to its eastern end and has been used by the general public since at least the 1940s until 2008.
South Vest Canyon Road originates near the east end of Cemetery Lane, and stretches eastward for approximately 0.38 miles to its eastern end and has been used by the general public since at least the 1930s until 2008.
The civil complaint states that the public used each of the roads named as frequently as the general public desired or found it convenient or necessary until 2008 when Brooks started restricting access, including locking the existing livestock gates which span across the road.
It states that the public has historically used the roads in the course of many activities including but not limited to picnics, family outings, church outings, hiking, horseback riding, riding off-road vehicles, camping, hunting, watching wildlife, viewing a waterfall, managing irrigation sources, gathering rocks, hauling wood, caring for cattle, sleigh riding, sledding and getting Christmas trees.
"Juab County has graded and asphalted a portion of East Bench Road," it states.
South Vest Canyon Road provides access to public lands.
The county's civil attorneys have listed three claims for relief with the court.
First Claim for Relief (Declaratory Action--Public Way) is that the public used each of the Roads for a period well over ten years as frequently as the public found convenient or necessary.
Second Claim for Relief (Declaratory Action--R.S. 2477 Road) states that Clover Canyon Road originates on and stretches across land that was first patented into private ownership on June 6, 1914, well after Clover Canyon Road first came into use.
Clover Canyon Road is what is commonly known as an R.S. 2477 road.
"Once an R.S. 2477 right-of-way has been established, it cannot be extinguished from subsequent non-use. Rather, extinguishment can only occur through compliance with state procedures for vacation or abandonment of a public road," stated the document.
The Third Claim for Relief (Costs and Fees--Obstruction of Road) said that the Roads are situated outside of any incorporated municipality and are not designated as state highways.
Furthermore, the Roads have been designated as county roads.
As a result, according to the civil complaint, Brooks is liable for all damages suffered by the county as a result of these acts, including costs and attorney fees incurred by the county in pursuing this action.
Attorneys for Brooks entered an answer or the first responsive pleading which is filed by the defendant in a civil action; a formal written statement that admits or denies the allegations in the complaint and sets forth any available affirmative defenses.
The answer gives the plaintiff notice of the issues the defendant will raise as the case progresses and enables the plaintiff to adequately prepare a case.