Tuesday , May 15, 2018 - 2:02 PM
Construction work continues at the Barker Park amphitheater in North Ogden on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Crews began working on a massive upgrade to the facility in 2017. Some neighbors protested the expansion and filed a lawsuit in early 2018 to halt work.
In handing down the decision after three scattered days of testimony dating to April 11, 2nd District Court Judge Noel Hyde argued, in part, that an amphitheater isn’t necessarily outside the scope of a “traditional” park, a key point of debate. The neighbors suing the city of North Ogden to stop the project argued that the amphitheater plans violate the wording in a 2000 deed governing the space that says the land is to remain a “traditional” city park.
“The court rules there is no single use that defines a traditional-type city park,” Hyde said from his Ogden courtroom after testimony concluded Tuesday. “The court declines to adopt any definition of the term traditional city park that gives specific precedence to one particular type of use.”
Though Tuesday’s decision doesn’t necessarily end things, the judge also rebuffed the neighbors on other points of debate — that they’d face irreparable harm without a temporary injunction and that they would likely succeed in their lawsuit at a trial, among other things. The neighbors — three couples who live adjacent to Barker Park and fear the expanded facility would bring noise traffic and disruption — sought the preliminary injunction to halt work pending a final decision in their lawsuit.
“We’ll be able to complete (the amphitheater) and do our shows this summer,” Jon Call, the North Ogden City attorney, said after the judge’s ruling.
The first phase of work on the amphitheater upgrade is nearly done and should be completed — landscaping and everything — by June 18. Most immediately, the city is planning a concert and fireworks in the revamped amphitheater on July 4 in connection with North Ogden Cherry Days activities. Then, a production of the musical “Once on this Island” is scheduled for July 6-14, according to the city website.
Matt Ball, the attorney for Aaron Christensen, his wife Kim and the two other couples suing North Ogden, expressed disappointment with Tuesday’s ruling but said it doesn’t necessarily end the case. Typically, limited information is available in preliminary injunction hearings, with more substantive information emerging only ahead of a full-blown trial.
Potential options at this stage would be appealing Tuesday’s decision, seeking a trial on the larger issues regardless of Hyde’s ruling or “folding the tent,” Ball said. He said Christensen and the others were considering their options and hadn’t decided on the next course of action.
Work on the upgraded amphitheater started last November after the North Ogden City Council approved a $1.85 million contract with Wadman Corp. to handle the first phase of the project. Talk of augmenting the small, concrete-slab amphitheater that previously sat at the location dates to 2015, and city leaders discussed the plans on-and-off through 2017.
Nevertheless, as work unfolded late last year, the scope of the project took Christensen and others by surprise, leading to their lawsuit last February. They worry about noise, traffic and more brought on by activities at the larger amphitheater and say its construction violates a 2000 warranty deed the city crafted with Ray and Fern Barker in connection with the city’s purchase of the land.
The Barkers sold the land where the amphitheater sits to the city. In testimony on April 11 in the call for the preliminary injunction, John Hendrickson, North Ogden’s city administrator from 1998 to 2002, said the Barkers envisioned a “passive type of a park,” bolstering contentions of the suing neighbors that the new amphitheater, as envisioned, would be a magnet for crowds and violate the 2000 deed.
Then last week, Tiffany Staheli, parks and recreation director for North Ogden, said amphitheaters can be a part of “traditional” parks, gauging by industry standards.
In testimony earlier Tuesday, Call, who has dual duties as North Ogden City attorney and city administrator, said city officials followed proper procedure in advertising the public meetings focused on enlarging the amphitheater. He figures the issue was discussed at perhaps 15 or 20 public meetings and that the first public gathering the foes attended was last September.
The smaller amphitheater never generated any objections that he knows of, Call said. And the argument that the larger amphitheater violated terms of the 2000 warranty deed only came to public light last January, when Christensen and the others started voicing opposition.