Midvalley group refiles lawsuit to try to revoke approval for Tree Farm project
The Aspen Times
A midvalley group has refiled a lawsuit against the Eagle County commissioners over their approval of the Tree Farm project in El Jebel.
Save Mid Valley alleges in the complaint that the Eagle County commissioners exceeded their jurisdiction by approving the Tree Farm, a proposal for 340 residences and nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space. The project was approved, 2-1, in June.
Save Mid Valley, headed by Ken Ransford, is asking an Eagle County district judge to revoke the approval and send the application back to the county commissioners for review.
The group’s original complaint was dismissed by a judge for being premature. Judge Russell Granger ruled in August that the lawsuit jumped the gun because Eagle County had not issued a final, written decision on the project. That decision was finalized in September. Save Mid Valley had 28 days to file its complaint.
Granger didn’t comment on the substance of the original complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that Eagle County committed a procedural error by granting too many extensions of the approvals to landowner Ace Lane and his firm, Woody Ventures LLC. Lane received initial sketch plan approval for the project in 2009. He was unable to proceed with the project during the Great Recession.
The lawsuit contends that Lane’s approval expired in 2013 and that Eagle County shouldn’t have advanced to the second round of review.
In addition, the lawsuit claimed that Lane’s proposal changed so drastically between the first and second rounds of review that it should have gone back to square one. County Attorney Beth Oliver said in numerous hearings that the applicant was allowed to alter the proposal to answer public feedback and commissioners’ concerns.
County officials said earlier it is against policy to comment on pending litigation.
The new lawsuit was assigned to Eagle County District Judge Fred Gannett, but he has asked the chief judge to reassign it.
“Judge Gannett has lived next to the property subject to this litigation for 27 years and has had hundreds of conversations with other neighbors and family about the subject matter of this litigation; these circumstances make it inappropriate to preside over the proceedings and to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and recusal is necessary to avoid the appearance of bias,” Gannett’s request said.