The city of Ashland faces paying $334,369 in legal fees because the Ashland City Council tried to intervene in Mt. Ashland Ski Area expansion plans.
The City of Ashland faces paying $334,369 in legal fees because the City Council tried to intervene in Mt. Ashland Ski Area expansion plans.
The amount the city has to pay could grow past $410,000 if the City Council decides to appeal a judge's ruling against the city and loses the appeal.
On the other hand, if the city won on appeal, the nonprofit Mt. Ashland Association would have to pay the bulk of the legal fees that it and the city have racked up.
The City Council is scheduled to decide whether to appeal during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.
The same night, the council will decide whether to appropriate $450,000 in the city budget to handle costs to date and possible future costs related to the ski area fight.
The battle between the City Council and the Mt. Ashland Association began in 2006 when the council voted to instruct the U.S. Forest Service to deal only with the city regarding a timber sale related to the proposed ski area expansion. The ski area is on Forest Service land high in the Ashland Watershed, source of the city's drinking water.
The city wanted the Mt. Ashland Association to submit a detailed business plan and allow a team of experts to monitor expansion activities to prevent erosion.
The Mt. Ashland Association, which manages the ski area, sued the city in July 2007 in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging the city had interfered with the expansion.
In June of this year, the Mt. Ashland Association and city of Ashland reached a partial settlement that the party that won the lawsuit could only recover 50 percent of its attorneys' fees from the loser up until the time of the partial settlement agreement. The winning party could still recover all of its attorneys' fees from the loser for legal work done after the agreement.
In October, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley ruled that the city had interfered with the Mt. Ashland Association's rights under a lease it has with the city.
The city has spent $225,000 on fees for outside attorneys — above the $160,000 the City Council authorized earlier this summer.
The Mt. Ashland Association recently filed a court document asking for the city to pay it $109,369 to cover part of the association's legal fees, according to Darrel Jarvis, an attorney representing the association.
Appealing the Jackson County Circuit Court ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals could cost the city another $50,000 in attorneys' fees.
Jarvis said without knowing what argument the city of Ashland would make on appeal, he can't estimate the costs to the Mt. Ashland Association of fighting the appeal. But he said an appeal in a civil case usually costs at least $25,000.
"We think our chances of prevailing on appeal are heavily in our favor," Jarvis said, noting that Judge Schiveley of the Jackson County Circuit Court already ruled in the Mt. Ashland Association's favor.
The ski area expansion was halted even without the City Council's involvement in the issue.
Environmental groups filed a different lawsuit against the expansion, which was blocked by a 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in September 2007 that the Forest Service had not adequately analyzed environmental impacts of the expansion.
The Forest Service is conducting more analysis.
In other business Tuesday night, the City Council is scheduled to:
hold a public hearing about an addition above a garage at 960 Harmony Lane; reconsider a previous decision to grant an exception to street rules for a building on the corner of North Main and Glenn Streets; consider adopting an ordinance setting procedures for reviewing and selecting public art; and consider a rule that the city can't buy uniforms and other clothing made in sweatshops.
For a complete list of agenda items and details on each item, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=11488.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To post a comment, visit www.dailytidings.com.