The Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman is a neutral, non-partisan office in the Utah Department of Commerce that protects the property rights of the citizens of Utah. The Office assists citizens and government agencies in understanding and complying with property rights laws, resolves disputes, and advocates fairness and balance when private rights conflict with public needs.
The Ombudsman Office is a neutral, non-partisan state agency, and does not represent individual parties. The Office can assist with problems through advising, or by resolving disputes through education, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or advisory opinions.
The Office is a division in the Utah Department of Commerce, and is established by state statute. It currently is staffed by three attorneys who are knowledgeable in eminent domain, takings, and land use law–Jordan Cullimore, Marcie Jones, and Richard Plehn. Oversight of the Office is provided by the Land Use and Eminent Domain Advisory Board, a seven-member body comprised of public and private stakeholders appointed by the Governor.
The OPRO helps citizens and government officials with matters related to takings, eminent domain, and land use law in several ways, including resolving disputes through education, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and Advisory Opinions.
– Inform and Educate: The OPRO can answer questions, explain the law and legal processes, and review options available to solve and avoid problems.
– Negotiation: The Ombudsman can be a liaison between property owners and local or state officials to discuss a matter or potential dispute. The Office will attempt to help everyone understand the perspective of the others involved, and try to find an objective resolution. The involvement of the OPRO also helps minimize the impact of strong personal feelings.
– Mediation: The Ombudsman can convene a meeting with the parties, and facilitate settlement discussions. By doing so, the OPRO will assist all parties to evaluate facts and issues and reach a resolution to the dispute.
– Arbitration: At the request of the property owner, the Ombudsman can arrange arbitration, and require the condemning entity to participate. A neutral third party decides the matter, after considering the positions of all parties.
– Advisory Opinions: The OPRO can research specific issues of land use law, and prepare an Advisory Opinion that attempts to resolve the dispute in accordance with the prevailing law.
The Office’s mandate is to help resolve disputes between private citizens and state or local government entities. Therefore, the Office typically is not involved in disputes between private property owners except in very limited circumstances. (e.g., when a private party has condemnation rights under state law). However, do not hesitate to contact the OPRO with questions. We will provide as much information as we can to assist you.
This article was originally published in The Urban Lawyer in 2010. It explains the history and function of the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman.
Urban Lawyer Article