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North Salt Lake approves, funds landslide remediation plan

Paul and Jeanette Evans are interviewed next to their home in North Salt Lake Thursday, April 30, 2015. A North Salt Lake landslide is seen at right.
Paul and Jeanette Evans are interviewed next to their home in North Salt Lake Thursday, April 30, 2015. A North Salt Lake landslide is seen at right.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE — Without accepting any responsibility for a landslide that wiped out a large portion of a residential hillside last year, the city, developers and two gas companies agreed Friday to fund the $2 million remediation project.

North Salt Lake and Eaglepointe Development each agreed to pay $625,000, Questar Gas will pay $375,000, and Kern River Gas Transmission Co. will pay $312,500.

"It's a big problem, and there's a lot of money at stake," North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave said, adding that approving to move ahead on the project while various lawsuits are pending fixes the hillside without involving emotions. "Nobody will admit liability today. They just won't."

Arave said the courts will have to decide who is responsible.

Scott Kjar, vice president at Eaglepointe Development, said litigation will take a long time, but the hillside has needed to be fixed since the Aug. 5 landslide.

"We don't feel we're responsible," Kjar said. "We're trying to get things resolved because these people are our clients. We haven't walked away. We love these people."

In addition to its portion of funding for the remediation project, Eaglepointe has paid nearly $1.4 million to build a new home for the family that lost theirs to the falling dirt and mud, as well as for various engineering studies and other services pertinent to the landslide.

Eaglepointe, however, has been sued by the local tennis club, as well as Kern River, for the damages, but in its response to those lawsuits, the developers called out additional defendants, including Paul Evans, whose backyard was split and his home compromised by the landslide.

The Evans' home has been deemed safe to occupy, but family members remain nervous about potential movement.

"We've been watching this happen for about three years now," Evans said Friday. "We've been living this nightmare."

Evans, who filed an insurance claim for property loss with the city last month, has said ongoing development is at least partly to blame for the hill's demise. He alerted developers to a crack in the earth as early as 2012.

Eaglepointe, though, blames Evans for "excessive and extreme" water use, saying that contributed to the muddy spill.

"Water is an essential factor in these landslides," Kjar said.

Arave said the 10 months of finger-pointing hasn't helped in the process of reaching a deal, but he's happy with the end result and said pressure from residents was a key factor in getting things done.

"We have been a long way from this agreement for a long time," North Salt Lake City Councilman Matt Jensen said. "At times, I had given up hope."

Jensen said he doesn't like "the size of the city's contribution," but he said he's "happier fixing the whole thing than only fixing part of it."

Friday's agreement between the parties allows for the city to hire CraCar Construction to regrade the steep slope left by the landslide, build a buttress berm at the base, smooth out any cracks in the earth and reseed the land to provide added stability.

Eaglepointe and the tennis club, which lost the use of three tennis courts, have each agreed to let the city and contractors onto the property to perform the work.

Work on the 90-day contract is expected to begin in about 10 days, according to the mayor.

Evans, who also plans to build a retaining wall at the edge of his property, said he's "excited it is going to get fixed." He's upset, though, that he's part of a lawsuit on the matter and he feels Eaglepointe's claims regarding his water use are "erroneous."

"It's very clear that they made up numbers," he said, adding that he plans to write a formal response to the countersuit to be made public at a later date.

Evans said he hopes litigation won't be necessary following remediation work.

"We hope to see remediation on all fronts," he said.

The council hopes to recoup some money from ongoing legal process and may even ask the state for help under disaster circumstances. Arave said he believes everyone will be treated fairly and that while the city is paying "more than its fair share," it is important to fix the slide.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards