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Cover Story

The Canyon Inn: In Your Face Page 1

In the shadow of a proposed $59 million development, a Cottonwood Heights bar owner stands his ground against DUI-driven cops.

By Stephen Dark
Photo by Erik Daenitz 
Posted // April 27,2011 - It’s after 11 p.m. on a Saturday night in early April in Cottonwood Heights. Driving his beige truck down a four-lane street from his bar, Canyon Inn owner Jim Stojack is on “harassment” patrol.

He drives 24 blocks west on Fort Union Boulevard to the Cottonwood Heights Police Department and turns into its parking lot at 1300 East, his headlights shining on the unoccupied police trucks and chargers. Then he turns around and heads back up the boulevard, as the strikingly large American flag in front of Whole Foods ripples in the night sky.

The Canyon Inn sits at the intersection of Fort Union and Wasatch Boulevard, the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon opening just across the street. Ever since Jim and Kim Stojack say Las Vegas-based mortgage broker and property investor Kevin Gates threatened to have Cottonwood Heights City force them to sell their business four years ago—allegedly so Gates could build a substantive entrance to the land he owns directly behind and above the Canyon Inn—the Stojacks family, as well as the Canyon Inn’s employees and customers, have been subject to what they claim amounts to harassment by some local police officers. Gates denies any such claims.

On what were the bar’s busiest nights—Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays—over the past several years, Stojack has taken to driving Fort Union late at night with a video camera in hand, documenting for media or possible legal action, he says, how around closing time the police stir from their lair to descend upon unwary drinkers leaving his bar. From 11 p.m. to 12.30 a.m., there’s not a police car to be seen.

With each trip that Saturday night along Fort Union, Stojack sees the relatively few customers’ cars parked at his bar, due to the active police presence, he argues. “You’d think that [the tax dollars paid by customers] would mean something to Cottonwood Heights,” he tells a City Weekly reporter along for the ride. Three years before, he says, not only would his parking lot be packed with cars, but also the Utah Transit Authority Park & Ride on the other side of Wasatch Boulevard and the gravel frontage across Fort Union. “This is depressing,” he says, referring to the scattered cars outside his bar. “That doesn’t pay bills.”

Click image to enlarge
A map of the DUI arrests made by CHPD officers between September 2008 and December 2010, in part focused on the “golden mile” of Fort Union Boulevard
Then, after 12.30 a.m., the first sleek Cottonwood Heights police charger glides past. Officers call Fort Union Boulevard “the golden mile,” Stojack says. Why it’s golden might have something to do with the dramatic uptick in DUI arrests since the Cottonwood Heights Police Department was formed in September 2008. Comparing Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office DUI arrest numbers with those of the Cottonwood Heights Police, both obtained through records requests, shows that Sheriff’s officers made 58 DUI arrests in 2006 and 54 in 2007. Astonishingly, between September 2008 and December 2010, Cottonwood Heights Police racked up 527 DUI arrests. But Stojack alleges DUIs aren’t all the police are interested in. As he drives up and down Fort Union, the tension in his face becomes increasingly evident. He says he expects a police officer to either pull him over or attempt to intimidate him. Just before 1 a.m., an officer obliges.

A Cottonwood Heights Police truck coming from the opposite direction passes by him, slams on the brakes, spins around and comes up behind him in the far right lane. Stojack repeatedly glances in the rear-view mirror. Suddenly, the truck, without its emergency lights on, speeds up, passes him in the inside right lane, races past, then cuts in front, forcing Stojack to hit the brakes, seemingly inches away from colliding with the truck before it flies into a side street.

The angry, scared bar owner gives a shuddering sigh. “They do it to mess with me,” he says. “I just want to get out of this alive.” The years of alleged harassment have had an impact on his wife’s health and their marriage, frightened his children and, last year, almost closed his business, forcing him, he says, to use his savings to cover payroll.

KelvynCullimore.jpgCottonwood Heights part-time Mayor Kelvyn H. Cullimore Jr. (pictured at right) sits calmly in the board room of publicly traded medical-equipment business Dynatronics, where he is chairman and CEO. He’s heard complaints from Stojack about the police dating back to his first months as mayor in 2005. He doesn’t think the officer in the truck intentionally tried to run Stojack off the road. Maybe “he was on the way to another call, he cut a little too close. I don’t find [Stojack’s interpretation] credible,” Cullimore says. Stojack has alleged that Gates and Cullimore have business links outside the state, something City Weekly was unable to substantiate. Such allegations, Cullimore says, “have no basis in fact. That’s got to go to his credibility.”

At the heart of this murky saga stand two implacable forces. One is a confrontational bar owner who claims municipal forces are conspiring with financial interests to steal his business. The other is a police department whose zealous commitment to DUI arrests is such that some argue it bleeds into darker territory. Neither side, it seems, will back down. Feeding into this shoving match are the ever-evolving ambitions of a developer and a mayor whose vision of the future for the seven square miles of Cottonwood Heights, pressed up against the east bench of the Wasatch mountains, is to develop it from a bedroom community into a self-sustaining city.

The city’s incorporation, recalls Mayor Cullimore, was in part driven by residents wanting more control over development issues. Cullimore says the contentious Canyon Centre development, which will include two high-end hotels with over 200 guest rooms, two class A office buildings and two restaurants, could well provide an upscale identity for Cottonwood Heights that Cullimore, for one, would like to see his community achieve. “It’s part of our gateway,” Cullimore says. The upscale $59 million development, which hinges on local tax entities agreeing to channel future tax revenues from the development to a parking structure and some infrastructure improvements, will be “remarkable,” he says, although “what’s remarkable to me may be something someone else curses.”

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Posted // March 30,2014 at 20:31 Of course Jim and his family have every reason to be paranoid. He is dealing with corrupt businessmen and politicians. He is also dealing with the type A personalities of corrupt law enforcement officers who are more than willing to play the roll of bully and thug. It happens every day across the USA. Only some of you out there have any idea what it is like to have freight train filled with corruption headed your way. I do. Just type my name into a google search. Jim and his wife need their patrons to support him. Step up to the plate. Go out to the Inn and have a drink. Take a taxi home. Not much more than the money you'll spend on gas. He can win this battle. The developers need to write him a check for fair market value or even a little more or, risk having their petty little corrupt tactics of bulling, intimidation, etc become public knowledge. Do they want to risk becoming the next Swallow, Shurtleff, Lawson trio? They need to know that there is always a weak link in their corrupt gang. Someone in their camp will talk and implicate them all.


Posted // November 1,2012 at 20:52

Shane, you're an idiot. Did you even read the article???


Posted // October 30,2012 at 18:11

Don't get me started.  I don't don't know him and have never met him but I support Stojak (bar owner) 100%. There are crooked politicians, judges, and police in every direction you look these days.  I live in Sandy and the poor cops have been reduced to nothing more than a traffic citation collection agency for the city.  It's an abuse of power and a complete travesty.  To you Mr. Stojak I say shout louder and fight the dirty corrupt scum running our city's.  As for me, I'll continue to buy beers at your place from time to time just as I have for the last 20 years.  Best of luck to you!


Posted // September 14,2012 at 16:25

Cottonwood Heights PD is still harassing businesses and their customers. i can't believe this is still going on. The police will stop you and just make something up to try to give you a ticket. They are out of control and think they are untouchable. Mayor Cullimore and Chief of police Russo deny any wrongdoing and let it continue to happen.  Isn't ther anyone out there who can stop whats going on in this city??????


Posted // February 2,2012 at 10:17

Who is this cullimore person in the story?  is it the same a**hole attorney out of sandy?  Don't know why he is still a attorney, that's UT.  If it is the same a**hole attorney, told he had a drinking problem too.


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