Shattered glass. Holes in walls. South Jordan man sues city for wrecking his home
Dec 8, 2022, 11:16 PM | Updated: 11:18 pm
SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Firefighters conduct training exercises on homes when they can.
For that to happen, they need the owner of the property to sign off on it, releasing them from any liability on damage done.
Greg Young told KSL Investigators it came as a shock to discover firefighters had gone room by room through his newly purchased home last July, shattering glass, hammering through walls, and swinging axes into the roof and ceiling.
“A family member drove by and saw a bunch of commotion [at the house],” Young recalled. “There were firetrucks outside and kind of called and asked me if we were demoing the house.”
Young claimed he gave no one permission, nor was he notified of training done at his house by South Jordan Fire Department, just a month after he purchased it.
“I never spoke to anybody, let alone sign something, or text or email. Absolutely not,” said Young.
Young says he was leaning toward demolishing his home but wasn’t ready to pull the trigger just yet.
“I don’t really make decisions… until I know what the whole cost would be,” he said. And he was still weighing whether to remodel and rent out the home in the short term.
“Really just every option was on the table,” said Young.
Clues in the paper trail
The KSL Investigators started digging to see how this could have happened. We received multiple emails and documents through a public records request to the City of South Jordan.
Those documents show a trail of intention by Young to eventually demolish the home and rebuild, including requests and confirmations by Young to shut off utilities, completed asbestos testing, and a permit application to construct a single-family home.
In that application, Young wrote, “planning to tear down existing home.”
There were also two other documents: a demolition notification to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and a signed “Release of Liability and Authorization to Damage Structure” to the City of South Jordan, dated July 22.
Problem is, Young’s signature is not on the release.
Instead, on a line marked “property owner,” another name appears, that of Mark Powell. It’s also his signature at the bottom of the form.
Powell owns a demolition company and is listed on the demolition notification as the demolition contractor. Young claims he never hired Powell to do the job.
“We got a couple of demo bids,” said Young, “hadn’t submitted for a permit or anything.”
KSL Investigators reached out to Powell to ask why he signed the liability release. He declined an interview, and by text wrote, “This is something that ksl tv don’t need to get involved in waste time between owner and city. Always two sides to story”. [sic]
New city policies
With the alleged demolition contractor not offering up his side of the story, we went to South Jordan for theirs.
South Jordan City Fire Chief Chris Dawson told us they don’t have a “written policy per se” when it comes to getting permission to train on private residences.
In fact, when KSL requested the signed liability releases for six other homes used for training since 2020, we were told “no such records were found by the city.”
Dawson said this experience with Young’s home means getting that release signed, and verifying it is signed by the property owner, “certainly happens every time now.”
South Jordan City would not comment on specifics of this situation, because Young filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city, claiming a violation of the “Fifth Amendment,” which “prohibits the taking of ‘private property…for public use without just compensation.’”
Young asked for “damages,” including “the cost to repair the property and the diminished value of the property,” which he believed amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The city claimed the home was already in disrepair before training occurred, with cabinets, the railing, and some of the flooring already removed. They claim numerous windows were already broken, describing the damage in their response and counterclaim to Young’s lawsuit.
In that counterclaim, South Jordan alleged Greg “hired a demolition contractor” and that contractor, Mark Powell, gave the city “permission to conduct training activities in the home,” acting as Young’s agent.
The city wrote “[Young] has in the past via verbal agreements utilized [Powell] for demolition work. Due to past history of working together, and the verbal conversations and emails Plaintiff’s Agent was confident he had actual authority…to facilitate demolition.”
KSL Investigators requested any evidence of a contractual agreement between Young and Powell in which Powell was hired to demolish the home from all interested parties. No documentation proving that Powell had been hired has been provided.
Additionally, the city claimed Young was at “the home when the Fire Department was conducting training.” Young adamantly denied that claim to KSL.
Young said he tried for weeks after the training to obtain a permit to demolish what’s left of the house. That permit was granted days after the KSL Investigators inquired about its status.
Young said he still hasn’t decided what he plans to do with the property.
“It’s probably going to cost more to fix than maybe it’s even worth,” Young said.
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