Lawsuit filed over Marble fight
February 10, 2004
A dispute over whether to build a museum and community center at Mill Site Park in Marble culminated in a lawsuit filed on Monday.
The suit, filed in Gunnison County District Civil Court, alleges the Marble Town Council violated state meeting laws by making a major decision that would affect the future of a proposed community project without giving the public adequate notice. The plaintiffs are a group of four Marble residents and neighbors.
The project at stake is a tribute to the Yule Marble Quarry, the nearby mine that produced the marble for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
The proposal has divided the small community, population 100, into those who don’t want the project to increase tourism, and those who think the town needs the improvements the project could pay for. Located beyond the town of Redstone up the Crystal River Valley, Marble is just over the Gunnison County line.
The project would include finding a 7-by-13-foot piece of stone to replace the cracked marble at Arlington National Cemetery, and then finding a replica and building a museum and interpretive center around it. The quarry provided the original stone in 1931.
According to the lawsuit, at a Jan. 8 meeting the council discussed an agenda item listed as “Mill Site Committee Update” by Hal Sidelinger, a Marble councilman. But the suit says the council did not just discuss this agenda item ” it allegedly passed a resolution prohibiting various uses of the site for the Tomb of the Unknowns project.
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The suit says Sidelinger called for a motion that “the Town Council not allow a permanent structure for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier project in the Mill Site, nor should the second block of marble be on permanent display in the Mill Site Park.”
Councilman Vince Savage opposed the motion. The motion was passed by the rest of the council.
“The more passion everyone feels about an issue, the more important it is for everyone to play by the rules,” said Luke Danielson, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “If there’s a decision that people really care a lot about, they should be given the opportunity to show up and express their views before a decision happens.
“Everyone in this community will have to live in the same town after this is over, so I think it’s important to do everything possible to avoid maligning everyone and creating a rupture that’s hard to heal.”
The suit asks for a declaratory judgment to make the town’s resolution void and to award the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and court costs.
Marble town attorney Sherry Caloia said while she doesn’t think the Town Council did anything wrong in approving the resolution, she is encouraging them to rescind the decision publicly, hear more public comment and make another decision.
“This decision occurred at a publicly noticed meeting ” it was properly done in a public forum, and the item was on the agenda,” she said. “However, in the interest of getting this issue resolved, I told the board it’s just as easy to rescind their action, allow for discussion and make a decision. Whether they do that is up to them.”
Danielson said whether the suit is dropped depends on whether the council decides to rescind the resolution.
“What we’re entitled to is a decision to make after enough notice, so people have the opportunity to appear and say their peace,” he said. “If we have that kind of opportunity, our main objective would be achieved.”