Property line disputes lead to small protest in Salem
A pair of signs rest on a wooden fence on Salem resident Josh Thayer's property on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
A sign rests on a tractor on Salem resident Josh Thayer's property on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Salem resident Josh Thayer speaks during a protest over multiple property line disputes on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
A group of "constitutionalist" protesters stand in solidarity of Salem resident Josh Thayer on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
St. George resident Raul Hevia marches in solidarity of Salem resident Josh Thayer on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
A group of "constitutionalists" march in solidarity of Salem resident Josh Thayer on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Multiple property line disputes between Salem resident Josh Thayer, his neighbors and Salem City led over a dozen Utahns from around the state to protest on Tuesday in solidarity with the south Utah County resident.
Thayer has lived on his Salem property for the past seven years with his teenage son and wife, Nubia Thayer. The three currently live in a trailer parked on the property as Thayer builds a home, which he hopes to make self-sustaining by installing solar panels and collecting stormwater.
For years, the city has told Thayer that part of his property, including a wooden fence and rock wall currently under construction, extends onto a city-owned right of way, according to Walter Bird, an assistant attorney for Salem and Spanish Fork.
“It’s a settled right of way. It’s been surveyed, so there’s really no property line dispute,” Bird said in an interview Tuesday. “The city has its right of way. So the problem is he can’t put an obstruction into that right of way. And so what the city has perceived is Mr. Thayer’s put an obstruction into that right of way.”
But Thayer, who unsuccessfully ran for Salem City Council as recently as 2019, contends that the property in question is rightfully his and said he feels targeted by the city, pointing out that the officials haven’t raised any issues with the neighboring properties.
Additionally, Thayer said there is a second property line dispute between him and a neighbor, claiming that planning maps show that the city adjusted the boundaries of the north edge of his property in 2016. Bird, who began working with the city in December 2020, said he was unaware of such a change.
The dispute’s gotten ugly and even physical at times, according to Thayer, who filmed the neighbor knocking over a piece of pallet fencing that Thayer set up on the disputed piece of property.
Thayer and his wife, who is from Mexico, recently filed a police report after finding in their mailbox a can of refried beans wrapped in a note reading: “You are not from here and you will never be.”
According to Bird, who said the boundary disputes were unconnected and that any conflict between neighbors would be handled as a civil matter, the city sent a letter asking Thayer to remove any obstructions from the right of way by 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
“And so we’ve asked him to remove it, and that failing, the city would have to go in and remove that,” the assistant city attorney said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of “constitutionalists” from around the state, including Sanpete, Salt Lake, Weber and Washington counties, drove to Salem to stand in solidarity with Thayer and physically prevent city officials from removing anything from the property.
“We want peace for this family,” said St. George resident Raul Hevia, who said he met Thayer a few months ago and became infatuated with his situation. “I mean, how can you live like this for so many years? It’s just impossible. People are entitled to live in peace.”
The group, which included a few teenagers and young children, placed signs around the Thayers’ property reading “The city is singling out this property & harassing,” “Come stand with us” and “The Thayers deserve justice.”
When 3 p.m. rolled around and no city officials showed up at the property, the group marched around the neighborhood, including past the Salem City Office, chanting “Due process for the Thayers” and “We want peace in the neighborhood.”
Bird said the city stated in the letter to Thayer that it has “all remedies, civil and criminal,” to resolve the dispute if Thayer wouldn’t voluntarily comply.
“But I think the preferred course of action is to go in and have the city remove that obstruction, and then Mr. Thayer would be billed for that or financially liable to have that happen,” he said.