PROVO, Utah — A new lawsuit filed by developer Richard Losee with Utah's fourth district court on Wednesday aims to overturn the Utah County Commission's decision to block future development of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.
The lawsuit claims that the conservation easement placed on the popular waterfall violates Utah County code.
"The process we believe was not properly followed here," said Bruce Baird, the attorney representing Losee in the lawsuit. "We believe that adequate compensation was not offered."
Former county commissioner, Nathan Ivie, initially proposed the conservation easement. Ivie said he disagrees with lawsuit and added that the commission followed the legal process in seeking the easement.
"We went through a very legal process that follows state and county law, and also a very public, transparent process," Ivie said.
Losee initially proposed to build a new drug treatment center, and tram, at the top of Bridal Veil Falls. His plan was stopped by a unanimous vote by the county commission, a decision that Ivie said was what the citizens of Utah County wanted.
"An overwhelming amount of the public supported our efforts to keep bridal veil falls as it is," he said.
Baird argues that the commission misrepresented his client's proposed development for the falls.
"For example, discussions about the whole [of] Bridal Veil Falls being closed to the public as a part of what Mr. Losee was proposing, that's not true," Baird said.
The lawsuit is focused on the commission's decision to categorize the falls as "surplus land" and its decision to place the easement under the control of non-profit Utah Open Lands.
"Basically, if the property is worth more than 15-hundred dollars, you have to go through a decent public process to make sure that the government is getting fair compensation for what it's giving away," Baird added.
Baird said that by blocking the proposed development, the county is losing out on more than $2 million, as well as an opportunity for the public to better utilize the falls.
"We're proposing that 95-percent of it still be in a conservation easement," he added. "The county would get A 2 and a half million dollars out of it, B almost all of it would be placed under a conservation easement, and C the public would have the ability to use the tram to see the bridal veil falls."
Ivie said the development would have simply detracted from the natural beauty of the falls.
"I greatly differ with him on an enhancement," Ivie said. "It's in the interest of society as a whole to preserve that in perpetuity. So, it never becomes something else, never goes to the highest bidder."
Baird said the goal of the lawsuit is to overturn the commission's decision, which would start the entire process over and require the approval of a new conservation easement for Bridal Veil falls.