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NO GROUNDS FOR RIO GRANDE’S SUIT AGAINST S.L., ATTORNEY SAYS

SHARE NO GROUNDS FOR RIO GRANDE’S SUIT AGAINST S.L., ATTORNEY SAYS

Salt Lake City has asked a judge to dismiss a second lawsuit filed by a business accusing the city of damaging the company's success by placing facilities for the homeless nearby.

Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird told 3rd District Judge Michael Murphy on Monday that Rio Grande Associates has no grounds to sue the city because they do not control the activities of homeless people near the business. Rio Grande Associates owns a building located at 331 Rio Grande St., only yards from the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center.Baird said Rio Grande could have damage claims if the city had done one of three things:

-Acquired land around the business

-Imposed special zoning restrictions.

-Denied or delayed building permits and prevented development.

He said none of those conditions apply in this case.

"We, the city, haven't done anything to Rio Grande's property. At best a third party (transients) have done something to Rio Grande," Baird said.

Donald F. Dalton, Rio Grande's attorney, said the city had established a "transient zone" in the area near the business and that transients in the area have harmed the business. He told Murphy that a California case allowed residents who lived in an established airline flight path to sue for damages.

"This transient zone has been a physical interference to a private business's right to use its property," Dalton said.

The business group is seeking $2 million in damages from the city and $2 million in damages and $2 million punitive awards from the the Salvation Army and United Way. United Way owns a shelter and Salvation Army owns a soup kitchen in the area.

Rio Grande's suit says transients in the area have appeared drunk, used obscene language, panhandled, loitered, slept, urinated and committed other acts that affect business in the area. They also claim that the city has intentionally focused services for the homeless in the area.

Baird said the city had not created a special zone for transients.

"This idea of a transient zone is ludicrous. There are plenty of businesses that operate in that area that are not affected by transients," he said.

Baird disputed the applicability of the California case to the local one. In California, officials had mandated flight routes, he said.

"We do not control the destination of transients," Baird said. "As for the Salvation Army, they are in no way mandating an approach through Rio Grande's property."

Rio Grande filed a similar suit in 3rd District Court in August.

Murphy dismissed that case in a Nov. 6 decision, ruling the city was immune from the suit under a state governmental immunity statute. In addition, Rio Grande argued, the city had violated a master plan by concentrating homeless in the area. Murphy ruled the master plan was not a legally binding document suitable for basing a lawsuit on.

Murphy said he would rule on this new case, filed in December, in two weeks.