POCATELLO — A family claims the city’s annexation of a portion of its property to develop the Northgate Parkway-Interstate 15 interchange will cost them more than $21 million.
The Rupp Family Trust preserves a 930-acre parcel of land, including water rights, north of the city. But recent expansions by both the Pocatello and Chubbuck cities have encroached onto the family’s land.
In a notice of tort claim filed by Olson Taggart, a law firm representing the Rupps, the family asserts Northgate Parkway and the planned interchange rob the trust of access to development. The letter included in the notice also claims that the city tampered with or destroyed public documents pertaining to this matter.
As Nathan Olson, of Olson Taggart, said, it is not the land itself the family claims it will lose.
“The city hasn’t stolen their land — it’s stolen their rights,” Olson told EastIdahoNews.com. “The Rupps are simply trying to retake their rights to access the property.”
The Northgate Parkway and interchange robbed the family’s ability to develop the land at the southern reaches of its property, Olson added.
“The Rupp Family Trust planned to devote a portion of its legacy land, approximately 380 acres, toward commercial development along the interstate as well as to construct affordable housing,” the claim letter reads.
That plan, Olson said, is no longer possible.
The interchange cuts through the portion of land the trust had planned to use for this development, the claim alleges.
Pocatello city public information officer Logan McDougall provided the following statement to EastIdahoNews.com:
“The city of Pocatello is aware of the accusations Mr. Rupp has made towards the city and developers regarding the Northgate Parkway dedication and annexation. The dedication of right-of-way was accepted, and the application for annexation was granted in compliance with Idaho law and Pocatello Municipal Code. Additionally, the city wants to see the Northgate area thrive as the development will lead to increased amenities, more housing and an expanded tax base.
“It would be inappropriate for the city to comment on any disputes Mr. Rupp has with the developers who funded the Northgate Parkway. Also, because Mr. Rupp has threatened litigation against the city in this matter, the city of Pocatello is unable to comment further at this time.”
The Rupp family, in an attempt to protect its land from the development of the parkway and interchange, tried to have the land annexed by the city of Chubbuck, the letter says. In addition to the claim that the city robbed the Rupp family of its opportunity to develop the land, the notice letter alleges that Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad threatened the city of Chubbuck with discontinued sewer service if it annexed the land.
“Such an act would have been a blatantly illegal violation of the city’s agreement with Chubbuck,” the letter reads.
Following this alleged interaction between Mayors Blad and Kevin England, from Chubbuck, the letter claims that Blad and Pocatello city officials expressed displeasure toward the family, both publicly and privately.
“The family was immediately cut out of all discussion and decisions with regard to the development in and around the Northgate Interchange area,” the letter reads. “On several occasions, the Rupp family was told directly and indirectly that the Rupp Property, including its water rights, would become part of the city ‘whether they wanted to or not.’”
The letter also alleges that the city of Pocatello tampered with or destroyed public documents having to do with the development of Northgate Parkway and the I-15 interchange. The letter does not provide specifics or evidence that proves the tampering.
“It’s a pretty strong allegation,” Olson said. “It’s not an allegation that is given lightly. It requires some facts to support it.”
As Olson said, the Rupp family has kept meticulous documentation of all interactions with the city throughout the process. Olson Taggart also contacted the Idaho Transportation Department and involved engineers and real estate agents for what he said are supporting facts.
The city has yet to respond to the notice of tort claim letter, Olson said, and that is not especially surprising. But, he said, due to allegations this one should incur a response.
“We have not had a response from the city. Most of the time, my experience has been that the city entities don’t respond. They just wait for you to file a lawsuit,” he said. “But I think in this instance, the city would be really foolish to just ignore this. They really should respond and not wait for a lawsuit.”
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