Thomas A. Ellison
Salt Lake City, UT
(801) 578-6957 Direct
(801) 578-6999 Fax


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Thomas A. Ellison


Thomas Ellison is a partner of the firm providing real estate, land use and development services to the real estate, construction, financial, energy, health care and technology industries. His practice focuses on the requirements of real estate development projects including land use entitlements, equity, development and construction financing, strategic partnerships and joint ventures, construction contracts and property acquisitions and leasing. His clients include developers of planned communities, resorts and urban mixed-use developments in the Intermountain West and Northwest. He also represents clients in connection with state and local legislative matters, business acquisitions, business reorganizations and workouts and dispute mediation.

Representative Work

  • Representation of a ski resort owner in revising local ordinances and obtaining all necessary development agreement approvals for the creation of new ski and golf resort community on 1,677 acres of land, including up to 1,350 homesites and resort units and a mixed-use village core with lodging, retail, golf and ski facilities.
  • Representation of a property developer in the negotiation and documentation of a joint venture to develop an urban high-rise office and retail project.
  • Representation of a master planned resort community developer in connection with the negotiation of general plan and ordinance amendments, density and land use configuration entitlements and a long-term development agreement for a community consisting of 1,900 residential units and hotels, golf courses and related commercial development.
  • Representation of ski resort expansion projects in connection with ordinance amendments and development approvals, including approvals for the development of residential lots in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Representation of an apartment developer in connection with the entitlement of 450 apartment units involving the required development of a golf course.
  • Representation of an office park developer in connection with ordinance amendments and entitlements for an office park in excess of 100 acres including environmentally sensitive lands.
  • Representation of a land owner's association in connection with the development of general plan, development code and growth management recommendations in an area that is experiencing rapid growth, including the creation of policies and procedures for the approval of large, multi-phase master planned developments and the creation of development agreement policies.
  • Representation of the construction lender on a 13 story downtown office building. This representation required daily involvement as the owner's representative in connection with the construction, leasing and management of the building, commencing with the developer's default during the midpoint of construction of the building shell.
  • Representation of an industrial concern in the negotiation of land acquisition and redevelopment financing agreements and the obtaining of development permits and service agreements in connection with the development and construction of a new industrial facility.
  • Representation of a health care provider in the siting and zoning approval process for a psychiatric hospital in Salt Lake County. This representation required the development of a zoning approval strategy based on special provisions of the applicable zoning ordinance and the conduct of neighborhood and public board meetings.
  • Representation of developers, lenders and major land users in connection with the evaluation and negotiation of appropriate offsite improvement and impact fee requirements and payback arrangements in light of applicable state and local law requirements for such matters.
  • Evaluation of potential claims and representation of land owners in actions against municipalities under applicable state and federal case law in the areas of takings, vested rights, spot zoning and arbitrary and capricious administrative actions.

Professional Honors & Activities

  • Selected as Best Lawyers® as Land Use & Zoning Law Lawyer of the Year, Salt Lake City, 2016
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America© (currently: Construction Law, Land Use & Zoning Law, Real Estate Law), 1994-2016
  • Selected as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" (Utah) by Chambers USA (currently: Real Estate), 2005-2015
  • Listed in the 2011 Utah Business "Legal Elite"
  • Listed in Mountain States Super Lawyers®, 2007, 2010 
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated with Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Member, Utah State Bar Banking and Finance, Real Property, and Construction Law Sections and its Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee
  • Chair, Utah State Bar Banking and Finance Section, 1980-1981
  • Member, Mediation Panel, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, 1995-2009
  • Adjunct professor of law, 1979-1981, instructor on negotiation theory and practice, 1991-1994, University of Utah College of Law
  • Member, American College of Real Estate Lawyers, 1994-2012


  • "Development Agreements; When Do Regulations Go 'Too Far'-A Utah Perspective on Regulatory Takings and Related Land Use Case Law"
  • "Quality Growth on the Political Frontier-Is there a 'Utah' Way to Control Sprawl?"
  • "The Law of Takings and Exactions after Dolan"
  • "Cities on the Move: The Urban Experience of Salt Lake City"
  • "Land Use Planning and Clean Air Opportunities"

Civic Activities

  • Member and past chair, Salt Lake City Planning and Zoning Commission, 1981-1990
  • Member and past president, Utah Chapter of NAIOP
  • Member, Urban Land Institute
  • Licensed real estate broker in Utah
  • Chair, Westminster College Board of Trustees, 2012-2015
  • Member, Westminster College Board of Trustees and its Executive, Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, Student Learning and Campus Planning committees, 1991-2012
  • Member, Salt Lake City Zoning Ordinance Revision Committee on Downtown Zoning Issues, 1991-1995
  • Member, Downtown Alliance Organizing Committee, 1989-1991


  • University of Utah College of Law, J.D., 1977
    Order of the coif
    Editor-in-Chief, Utah Law Review, 1977
  • Yale University, B.A., 1974, magna cum laude, and departmental distinction


  • Utah

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