Town of S’mass is dragged into land-use lawsuit | AspenTimes.com
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Town of S’mass is dragged into land-use lawsuit

Catherine Lutz

The town of Snowmass Village will participate in a lawsuit between a developer and some disgruntled neighbors, according to a ruling by a local judge last month.District Judge Peter Craven ruled on May 4 that the town would have to be “joined” in a lawsuit that the Snowmass Land Co. filed against the Two Creeks Homeowners Association. The land company’s lawsuit, filed in March, revolves around the potential development of a parcel of land near the Two Creeks neighborhood.What the ruling means, said Two Creeks attorney Lance Cote, is “that you can’t sue us over something that the town has such a critical interest in without joining the town.”In 1991, the Snowmass Land Co. and the town had entered into an agreement to reserve the land in question for a potential golf course extension. The reservation, good for 25 years, was incorporated into the Two Creeks neighborhood declarations in 1994. But now the Snowmass Land Co. wants to develop the land, arguing that circumstances have changed since golf holes won’t be built there.Under the judge’s ruling, the town will be asked to provide information related to the agreement, probably as a defendant in the suit.”We may have to respond as to what our position is regarding a couple of elements of the lawsuit,” said Town Manager Mike Segrest. “But we really haven’t gotten to the point of drafting any positions on it.”Segrest said that being involved in the lawsuit would not cost the town anything, and “we’re making sure the town’s interests and rights are preserved.”Earlier, the Two Creeks Homeowners Association had filed a motion to dismiss the suit, on the basis that it did not state a claim for relief. The judge rejected that idea and ordered that all the homeowners (of more than 50 lots) be joined in the suit. That action is under way and may take some time, said Jim Johnson, a lawyer for the Snowmass Land Co. He said the developers have no intention of dropping the suit.The ongoing legal battle pits a group of wealthy, mostly second-home owners against a developer who wants to build more luxury homes in their neighborhood.Owl Creek Townhomes Phase IV, currently in the town’s review process, calls for 17 luxury townhomes off of Owl Creek Road near the Two Creeks neighborhood. But from the moment Snowmass Land Co. indicated it wanted to develop the land over a year ago, its well-heeled neighbors vociferously objected, saying that the land was intended to remain open space or, at the most, three holes of golf.”This is going to be one big messy litigation,” Two Creeks Homeowners board President Jim Rifkin said at a public meeting in March. It was then that the land company filed its suit, which seeks a legal interpretation of the Two Creeks’ homeowners covenants. The lawsuit hopes to find that the homeowners association is not a third-party beneficiary to the golf course reservation agreement, and that the agreement can be terminated, even if the association objects.The townhome proposal, which is currently being reviewed by the Snowmass Village Planning Commission, also includes a slew of benefits to the town, such as water rights, open space and cash. But the Planning Commission has indicated that it is not warm to the idea of the development. Although the board was split, the majority of the commissioners thought that circumstances hadn’t changed sufficiently to warrant development in the area, and that the townhome project would change the character of the neighborhood.


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