Court date set for Mt. A dispute

A tentative date of July 29 has been set for the Mount Ashland ski area and the city of Ashland to meet in court over their dispute about who will control the proposed expansion of the ski area.

The ski area sued the city in July 2007 for breach of contract, alleging that the city has illegally meddled in the ski area's expansion plan and blocked construction of 16 new ski trails and two chairlifts on the 7,500-foot mountain.

City officials claim the special use permit they hold with the U.S. Forest Service to operate the ski area requires them to work directly with the Forest Service on any expansion proposal. The ski area contends that the lease it signed with the city gives it complete responsibility for planning and building any improvements.

The issue has grown increasingly contentious because the ski area lies at the head of the city's 14,000-acre municipal watershed. The City Council, with a new member who has been a longtime vocal opponent of the ski area &

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has in recent years cooled to the ski area's plans.

In preparation for the trial, both sides can request documents from the other to build their case. The city requested the ski area's detailed business plan, but ski area managers turned down the request, saying the document contained proprietary information.

The city's attorneys filed a "motion to compel discovery," and Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schively has directed the ski area to give city officials the document on the condition that it be kept confidential.

Terms of the confidentiality agreement, including which city officials will get to see the document, have yet to be prepared, said Kim Clark, the ski area's general manager.

Clark said the ski area offered the city the document a year ago if city officials would agree to sign a confidentiality agreement, but they declined. He said the court turned down requests from the city to see the names of people who have donated money to the ski area during a fundraising campaign.

The relationship between the ski area and the city and the dispute over the business plan raises issues of access to information.

Under Oregon law, government agencies are required to open most documents to public scrutiny, but nonprofit agencies such as the ski area are not bound by the same public information disclosure laws.

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