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NEW TROUBLES ARISE EN ROUTE TO GOLF COURSE

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Creating the South Mountain Golf Course has become about as effortless as 18 holes of play on the Augusta National course in Georgia.

The already controversial course became the subject of a second lawsuit last week. South Mountain developers have sued Draper over the city's demand that developers agree to an open space easement that guarantees that golf course will always be open space and won't later give way to more development.Meanwhile, some Draper City Council members want the city to exercise its right of first refusal in developers' planned sale of half interest in the course to a Chicago company for $6 million.

That right means that if Draper can raise $6 million, it can step in and assume the same deal the developers made with Crown Golf Properties.

The city is serious about exercising that option, said City Manager David Campbell. The city will not waive that right "to any other entity at this time" - a position that may put the deal with Crown Golf on hold.

Draper Mayor Elaine Redd doesn't want the city to buy the course. She has no idea where it could get the $6 million, she said.

But developers would happily sell the course to Draper, said South Mountain spokesman Lee Conant. "We would be delighted to have Draper buy the course."

The lawsuit has nothing to do with Draper's option to buy the course. Instead, it's an attempt to prevent Draper from filing a "notice of interest" - similar to a lien - on the course that could block its sale to Crown Golf.

If South Mountain developers don't get "significant funding" soon, their financial viability will be in jeopardy, they said in their lawsuit. "The loss of Crown Golf as a buyer would cause immeasurable and irreparable harm to South Mountain," the suit says. Crown Golf may not buy the course if the lien is filed.

The Draper City Council voted Sept. 3 to file the notice, saying it would be recorded with the county Oct. 3 unless both sides could agree on the open space language, the suit says.

Draper officials want developers to accept an easement on the property guaranteeing it will always be open space. Easements are more binding than zoning, which can always be changed, explained Salt Lake County Attorney Doug Short.

The county and Draper argued over a similar issue. However, Draper officials finally agreed to forgo the easement, confident the county wanted to always use the land as a golf course, Short said.

City officials last week told developers if the question of an easement couldn't be worked out by Thursday, they would file the claim. Developers promptly sued to prevent the city from filing the claim. Developers have asked 3rd District Judge Pat Brian to restrain Draper from filing the lien.

The move caught city officials off-guard. "Our good faith negotiations that should have been continuing have been violated with this suit," Campbell said.

City Attorney Mike Mazurin called developers' threatening attitude "most unfortunate and inappropriate."

The city and developers' attorneys had been negotiating over the easement Thursday and Friday morning, he said. The attorneys said nothing about a lawsuit. He learned of the suit Friday afternoon from someone else.

Conant defended the suit. "We feel like our development agreement with the city already guarantees that the golf course can't be anything but a golf course. We have always said that a golf course is all it will ever be." But developers are unhappy about the language of the commitment the city wants them to sign, he explained.

He described it as just a squabble among lawyers over wording. "We don't have any philosophical differences. We both agree the golf course should be nothing but a golf course forever."

Meanwhile, Salt Lake County bosses are still waiting for a letter from South Mountain guaranteeing that negotiations with the county are done for good. Commissioner Brent Overson asked for the letter Monday. On Wednesday, developer Terry Diehl said it would probably be delivered that day. But by the end of the day Friday, county officials hadn't received it, Short said.

Now, Conant says the developers may not send the requested letter. "We verbally told them the deal was off. And we refused to sign an extention on the earnest money agreement." That should be enough, he said.

That word troubles Short. "They've promised us a letter and now they won't send one? If they've really broken off negotiations, then why won't they send us a letter?"

Overson said his staff has repeatedly phoned developers asking for the letter. The county, too, has a right of first refusal on the property, he said. County bosses want official word that the deal is really off.