Thursday , March 01, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments
NORTH OGDEN — As a lawsuit challenging construction of the Barker Park amphitheater winds through court, the work forges ahead.
It’s got the lawyer for the irate homeowners who are suing to stop the work warning that the construction could all be for naught.
“It’s a big concern,” said Matthew Ball, representing the three couples who filed suit against North Ogden.
Ultimately, he cautioned, the upgrade will have to be torn out — presuming his clients prevail in court — and the taxpayers of North Ogden will have to foot the demolition bill.
Jon Call, attorney for North Ogden, had no comment on the notion of having to undo the amphitheater work. Construction started last November on the $1.85-million upgrade, the first phase of an overall improvement project estimated to cost $4.3 million when complete.
But he said city leaders decided not to halt the work after learning of the lawsuit, filed Feb. 20 in 2nd District Court in Ogden, because of the costs that would have been involved.
“We’d be out $10,000 or $20,000 a month for every month of delay or more,” he said.
The three married couples living adjacent to Barker Park who filed the suit seek a stop to the work and removal of the improvements made thus far. They worry about noise and disruption caused by the new amphitheater, which replaces a much smaller facility, and say the larger complex violates a covenant deed outlining how Barker Park may be developed.
But last week, 2nd District Court Judge Camille Neider denied their request for a temporary restraining order that would have temporarily stopped the work until the issues were sorted, Ball said. Another hearing on the matter that was originally set for Wednesday, meanwhile, has been postponed until April 11.
The focus of the rescheduled hearing is the amphitheater critics’ call for a temporary court injunction, also to halt the work while the larger issues of the lawsuit are parsed.
Ball said he sought a delay because of the preparation required for injunction hearings.
“It’s almost like a mini-trial,” said Ball, adding that it would include witnesses, testimony and more.
Completion of the first phase of the amphitheater upgrade is expected to occur between late-May and mid-June, according to Call. The enlarged stage of the upgraded facility is largely done, though it will ultimately be covered. Now, crews are preparing to install the walls of the new section behind the stage that will house dressing rooms, a green room, a storage area and more.
The original facility consisted of a small uncovered stage, at ground level, and vertical slabs around it.
Officials have talked about upgrading the Barker Park amphitheater since at least around 2015, and a plan emerged last year. It was the focus of debate by Mayor Brent Taylor, the North Ogden City Council and others. City leaders ultimately signed off on the first, $1.85-million phase, with a formal groundbreaking on Nov. 15.
The critics emerged in January, including nearby residents Aaron Christensen and Sean Casey, who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They voiced concerns about the scope of the plans, which were grander than what they had thought they would be. They said the process indicates a lack of transparency by city officials and more.
Ball said an out-of-court resolution is possible, but he was skeptical.
“It’s always a possibility, but I think it’s sort of unlikely,” he said.
Proponents envision the larger amphitheater as an outlet for those in the local theater and arts community as well as a venue for traveling shows, among other things. The success at the old amphitheater of a 2016 production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” inspired plans to upgrade the facility.
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