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City, Mt. A air grievances in court

Jackson County judge plans to issue a written opinion on rights, responsibilities for both parties
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 18, 2008

The city of Ashland and the Mount Ashland Association aired their disagreement in Jackson County Circuit Court this week over the terms of the ski hill's lease.

After two days of oral arguments in which nine witnesses were called to speak before the court, Judge Mark Schiveley took all the information under advisement and will issue a written opinion later on the rights and responsibilities each party has under the lease.

The city holds a special use permit for the ski area, which is on Forest Service land high above Ashland in the hills that supply the city's drinking water. The city leases the ski and snowboard hill to the association, which manages the resort and plans to expand it.

In October 2006, the city asked the Forest Service to send all communication related to expansion plans, permits and contracts to the city rather than the association, said Kim Clark, general manager of the ski area. The association contended that this change in practice violated the lease agreement, and it filed a breach of contract suit in July 2007.

"The central issue is whether the city breached the lease with the Mount Ashland Association by requesting to be party to communication between the Forest Service and the ski resort operators," said Jens Schmidt, a Eugene-based attorney with the firm Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, whom the city hired to handle the case.

The city argued that as the special use permit holder, it had a right to be involved in communications about the controversial expansion plans, Schmidt said.

The Mount Ashland Association disagreed.

"We feel the city is interfering with our ability to operate the ski area as described in the lease," Clark said.

The association dropped its monetary claim in the breach of contract suit in a settlement last summer, and the city and the ski hill operator agreed to limit the legal expenses that the loser will have to pay when the case is finally decided.

The expansion plan is still on hold as the Forest Service completes additional studies on the effects of adding to the ski and snowboard hill. Environmental groups sued to stop the expansion, and in September 2007 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Forest Service hadn't adequately analyzed environmental impacts of the plan.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.


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