BASALT, Colo. Parking is at such a premium in downtown Basalt that the owners of a commercial complex on Midland Avenue unsuccessfully waged a court battle this week against the town government over control of 12 spaces.The owners of the businesses in the 165 Midland building alleged in the lawsuit that the town grabbed control of spaces that were intended to be private and converted them into public spots. The lawsuit by the condominium association claimed that "no proper legal authority exists or was granted" to the town to use the spaces.The town countered that control of the parking area was given to the government in a 1987 agreement, as Basalt was sprucing up with a downtown improvement project. The town government plowed and maintained the parking area for 18 years without a legal challenge from the 165 Midland building owners.The lawsuit was filed in June 2005 and finally went to trial this week in Eagle County District Court. The lawsuit was filed after parking became a problem in the once sleepy downtown. A parking space is nearly impossible to find these days at lunchtime and after noon during the heart of summers and winters.The town government instituted timed parking a few years ago to free up spots. Most spots have a two-hour limit, and there are a handful of 15 minutes spaces sprinkled throughout the two-block commercial core.The disputed parking spaces are on the south side of Midland Avenue. Four are in front of 165 Midland Ave., a nondescript commercial building that houses offices rather than retail shops. Another eight or so spaces, depending on how well drivers park, are located in front of the historic Frying Pan Inn, which was the Primavera restaurant and now is Tempranillo.The lawsuit said an easement agreement was negotiated by a former owner of the "Iron Horse Building" and the town government in 1987 to provide access for the town to install a public sidewalk, utilities and "street improvements." The owners of the units in the 165 Midland building attacked the validity of the 1987 agreement."The Easement Agreement is signed by the President of the Iron Horse Condominium Association," the lawsuit said. "Upon information and belief, no entity known as the 'Iron Horse Condominium Association' existed or had authority to convey any interest in the common areas ... upon which the public parking has been installed and is currently maintained by Defendants."The town maintained that it was a legal and valid agreement, and that any legal challenge needed to be taken before 2005, according to Basalt town attorney Tom Smith. The statute of limitations expired and therefore any claims were barred, he said.The association contended the town's use of that parking for the public constitutes "a deliberate and unlawful physical invasion of the Plaintiff's property rights" as well as a taking of the property without compensation.The association sought an injunction to prevent the town's continued use of the spots for public parking and a judgment declaring the easement agreement was illegal. They also sought compensation of an unspecified amount.The condominium association sought a "directed verdict" after presenting its case Tuesday on the second day of the trial. Judge Thomas Moorhead denied that motion.Smith successfully sought a dismissal of the lawsuit.Neither Paul Taddune, the Aspen attorney for the condominium association, nor Ted Koutsoubos, president of the commercial building's condominium association, could be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon after the lawsuit was dismissed.Scott Condon's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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