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Judge rules commissioners can make no final decision on Prehm Ranch for now

Carrie Click

The Garfield County Board of Commissioners were served with a temporary restraining order Wednesday at the request of the developers of Prehm Ranch.

Marlin Colorado Ltd., which is developing a fishing resort subdivision between Westbank and the Glenwood Springs Airport, obtained the order from Judge Thomas Ossola.

The order limits what action the commissioners can take following a public hearing set for 10:15 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19, regarding road access between Prehm Ranch and Westbank.

In an ongoing dispute, the developers of Prehm Ranch and the commissioners have repeatedly found themselves on opposite sides of the courtroom. In September 2001, Marlin constructed the road to Westbank without receiving required county approvals.

The road allows Prehm Ranch residents access to Highway 82 through Westbank, a move that angers some Westbank residents because of the possibility of increased traffic.

At an April 8 court hearing, commissioners approved by a 2-1 vote a settlement to give Marlin limited use access. A locked gate would restrict use of the private road to a total of 27 cars per day. Only authorized drivers would receive key codes for the gate.

However, that settlement has yet to be signed, and opponents to the settlement are now urging the commissioners to reconsider their decision.

In addition, a new issue – the designation of a public hiking and biking access ultimately linking Carbondale to Glenwood Springs – is hotly contested.

The commissioners earlier indicated to Marlin that the county would vacate the public easement.

Commissioners scheduled a public hearing on Aug. 19 to continue these discussions in an open forum and possibly make a final vote on the easement.

But less than a week before the hearing, Marlin attorney Rick Neilly asked Ossola to prevent the hearing from taking place.

According to Ossola’s written order following the court hearing on Wednesday, Neiley argued that the commissioners “breached an agreement among the parties to settle the issues in this lawsuit by failing to sign the resolution vacating the easements.”

However, the commissioners countered that the resolution was not final, and that they were “free to open up the hearing on Aug. 19 and take further evidence on the matter,” stated Ossola’s order.

On Wednesday, both parties were able to agree to maintain the status quo on the public hearing, albeit with special stipulations.

“This court allow(s) the public hearing to proceed as scheduled but … no decision taken at the hearing would be final until this Court ha(s) the opportunity to conduct a full and complete hearing on the issues raised by (Marlin’s) motion to enforce the settlement,” Ossola’s order stated.

This means that the Garfield County Board of Commissioners will be able to hold a hearing Aug. 19, but no final action on the issues in question can be taken at that time. Commissioners will have to wait until the temporary restraining order has been lifted regarding the Prehm Ranch easement on Aug. 24, or a hearing is held by Ossola.

There is one catch. Ossola’s ruling states that if the commissioners vote to sign the resolution vacating the easements, as Marlin Colorado is requesting, its motion to enforce settlement and the restraining order would be moot.


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