City says 'no' to Mt. A trial delay

The Ashland City Council will not agree to delay the trial for a lawsuit filed against the city by the Mt. Ashland Association.

The council met behind closed doors Monday night in executive session to discuss the Mt. Ashland Association's offer to delay the trial, which is scheduled to start in late July, for up to six months.

The association made the offer last week.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said after the executive session that the council does not want to agree to a stay of the trial, but does want to continue negotiations with the Mt. Ashland Association.

"They want to be on a dual track of proceeding as if we will go to trial, but working hard not to go to trial," Bennett said.

With almost five months before the trial begins, Bennett said councilors feel there is time to negotiate with the Mt. Ashland Association.

"Also, the reality of the trial date will put pressure on us and Mt. Ashland," she said.

The City Council previously authorized spending up to $160,000 to defend the city against the lawsuit.

Bennett said last week that a delay of the trial would still cost the city money for legal expenses because the city would have to keep its lawyer on the issue during negotiations. The city has contracted with the law firm Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, which has offices in Eugene, Salem and Portland.

Kim Clark, general manager of the ski area, was giving a legal deposition on the case this morning and could not be reached by press time for comment.

In July 2007, the association filed a lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court alleging the city had interfered in a proposed Mt. Ashland Ski Snowboard Resort expansion. The Ashland City Council had instructed the U.S. Forest Service to deal only with the city regarding a timber sale needed to start logging for the expansion.

The city of Ashland holds the Special Use Permit for the ski area and leases the ski area to the Mt. Ashland Association to operate.

Also in July 2007, a slim City Council majority authorized negotiations over a possible transfer of the Special Use Permit to the association. Those talks have been ongoing but have yet to yield results.

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