Marble case rolls through court
A Gunnison judge said Monday he would rule in early February regarding a year-old lawsuit accusing the Marble Town Council of violating the state law that requires decisions be made in open meetings when the council killed plans to develop the Marble Mill Site Park.A 10-hour hearing on Jan. 24 before Judge James S. Patrick, chief judge of the 7th Judicial District, pitted disgruntled residents of the small mountain town against Town Council members in a continuation of a fight that dates back to early 2004.Area residents filed the lawsuit on Feb. 9, 2004, against the town of Marble, the Town Council and three council members – Hal Sidelinger, Wayne Brown, Robert Pettijohn and Mike Evans.The plaintiffs, Larry and Dana Darien, Dan Brumbaugh and Tom Williams, claim Colorado’s Open Meetings Law was violated Jan. 8, 2004, when the council made an unexpected decision to shelve plans to develop the publicly controlled Marble Mill Site Park. The plaintiffs claim the Town Council voted on the matter without publishing the proper notice. Town officials counter that the item was on their agenda that night, even if it didn’t indicate that formal action would be taken.Some area residents, including some members of the Marble Historical Society, had been making plans to develop the Marble Mill Site Park as a tourist attraction and historical site. The ambitions for the park hinged on a proposal to mine new blocks of marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The tomb is deteriorating and has been slated for renovation. The original tomb was carved from marble quarried from the town of Marble, and project proponents hoped the new stone slabs could be mined and carved in Marble. The new carvings for the tomb would be put on display in the Marble Mill Site Park as a tourist attraction if park advocates had their druthers. Other improvements, including at least one large building, were proposed as part of a package deal.Controversy immediately arose over the idea, leading to a protracted and highly publicized battle between factions in town. One side felt the project would provide a needed economic boost; the other felt it would spoil the town by bringing in too much “industrial tourism.” The battle ultimately led to the Town Council decision – purportedly made in violation of state law – that is the subject of the lawsuit.Town officials argued in court that proper procedure was followed by the council, in that public notice of the meeting contained a reference to discussion of the Mill Site Park proposal, even if the notice did not state explicitly that there would be a vote on the issue. But advocates of the Mill Site Park development plan felt the council’s decision was made without their input.”I had the right to be heard, to make my opinion known … in a fair manner,” Dana Darien said about the Jan. 8 meeting. She, along with other residents of the area, did not attend the meeting and was informed of the decision at a later date.Editor’s note: For a longer version of this story, please see this week’s Valley Journal weekly newspaper.
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.