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Much ado about nothing

Heidi Rice

Should they stay or should they go?That’s the question facing the development of the proposed Stillwater Ranch subdivision south of Silt.A hearing in response to a lawsuit filed against Stillwater developers by Valley Farms Inc., owner of the property, took place Thursday morning in Garfield County District Court with Judge T. Peter Craven. The hearing was to decide whether the lawsuit should now go to litigation and a jury trial as requested by Valley Farms or heard in arbitration that SWD maintains is in compliance with the contract.”We now have to submit a decision to (Craven) to consider and decide which way to go,” said Lee Leavenworth of Leavenworth & Karp P.C. of Glenwood Springs, who is representing Valley Farms.The lawsuit arose in November 2004, when Valley Farms filed a notice of default to SWD stating that the agreement between the two parties was terminated due to SWD’s failure to meet deadlines set to ensure that the Stillwater development would come to fruition in a timely, efficient manner. The notice also demanded that “all payments and things of value” associated with the Stillwater development be forfeited by SWD and transferred back to Valley Farms.Voters approved the development in a special election in 1997.Citing numerous missed deadlines and breach of an amended agreement made in March 2003, the owners of the Valley Farms property – Roger Dixon of Texas and Roy McPherson of Silt – said in their complaint that they wanted SWD off their property.Craven’s decision will now decide whether or not to allow an arbitration clause in the agreement for both parties to choose an arbitrator and pick a third one jointly or to have the whole matter settled in litigation by a jury trial.John Watson, an attorney from the law firm of Moye Giles LLP in Denver, who is representing SWD, said his clients want to move forward with the project and settle the matter out of court.”We want to get this thing settled and move forward and do the development,” Watson said. “One of the primary reasons you put arbitration in the contract is so that problems can be solved more quickly. We’d much rather have people building homes than hiring lawyers.”The Stillwater Ranch subdivision is slated for 36 acres south of the Colorado Rier, with 1,200 single- and multi-family homes, two 18-hole golf courses, a community center, swimming pool, hiking and equestrian trails and some commercial development.The Stillwater Ranch subdivision is slated for 36 acres south of the Colorado Rier, with 1,200 single- and multi-family homes, two 18-hole golf courses, a community center, swimming pool, hiking and equestrian trails and some commercial development.


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