County approves Prehm Ranch access |

County approves Prehm Ranch access

The Prehm Ranch to Westbank road, blazed last September without a county permit, will be allowed to stay open as a private access.Despite strong opposition Monday from some Westbank homeowners and Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, the county commissioners agreed to give Prehm Ranch developer Marlin Colorado Ltd. an access easement through the Westbank subdivision.The road runs from the vacant Lot 23 at the end of Oak Lane in Westbank to Lot 8 in Prehm Ranch. The private, one-lane road will remain unpaved and will not be open to the public.After two and a half hours of testimony from 15 Westbank residents and a Marlin employee, the county commissioners approved a series of four measures that legalize the road:-The commissioners approved amendments to the Prehm Ranch and Westbank plats to add the private access easement.-They endorsed an open space buffer between the two properties.-They approved a driveway access permit for the road through the Westbank lot.-They agreed to vacate public rights-of-way through both Prehm Ranch and Westbank.Locations of those rights-of-way could not be verified except through anecdotal evidence from people who used the roads 50 or more years ago.The four measures mark the county’s approval of a settlement agreement proposed by Marlin Colorado and the Westbank Home Owners Association resulting from a lawsuit over the controversial road initially filed by Garfield County against Marlin. Westbank entered the case to protect homeowners’ interests.The settlement agreement, approved by the county as a condition of the plat amendments, allows 27 vehicle trips per day through the locked gate on the road.Trips will be averaged over a two-month period, and the commissioners strengthened the condition by adding that the gate must automatically lock if the allowable number of cars is exceeded in 60 days. It wouldn’t reopen until enough days pass to equalize car trips back to the 27-per-day limit.Although the majority of Westbank homeowners voted in favor of the settlement in December, most of the 40 who attended the public hearing Monday voiced strong opposition.”If the settlement gets approved, it’s a slap in the face to the law,” said Suzy Duroux.Some who spoke at the public hearing Monday supported a court agreement reached after months of litigation between the county, Westbank and Prehm Ranch.”We spent between $40,000 and $50,000 on (litigation). We think it’s a pretty fair settlement. I’d rather have the county stand up and throw the bastards out, but if not, then accept the settlement,” said John Haines, a director of the Westbank Home Owners Association.Critics castigated Marlin for breaking the law by constructing the road in the first place, and getting what they saw as special treatment from the county. The critics also fretted that the developer would not keep its end of the agreement.But Marlin attorney Rick Neiley said, “We believe rules are rules. It’s incorrect to say we flaunted what Garfield County said we could or could not do.”We have asserted what we believe are our legal rights.”We’re not asking for special treatment. We’re asking for equal treatment,” he said.In opposing approval of the settlement, Martin argued that the county did have a public road right-of-way dating from 1920 that crosses Prehm Ranch as well as Westbank.He opposed giving up that right-of-way, although the commissioners agreed to let it go in a 2-1 vote.”We are gravely mistaken if we give this away,” Martin said.

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