Mediation talks over

Mediation between the City of Ashland and the Mt. Ashland Ski Area ended without a resolution as the Mt. Ashland Association called off talks that were planned for today.

"Early on in the process we were optimistic of a successful outcome, but, unfortunately, we are now at an impasse," said MAA president Bill Little today.

MAA said in a press release this morning that it is considering "all legal options" in response to what Little called "repeated attempts by city officials to stop a much anticipated and much needed" expansion.

Ashland City Councilor Cate Hartzell, a member of the city's mediation team, said she was "surprised and disappointed" to learn Mt. Ashland called off the session planned for today.

"I believed we were moving in the right direction of resolving our issues," she said. "I continue to hope we can resolve the issues within the community instead of in court."

Mayor John Morrison, also a member of the city's mediation team said he, too, was surprised by the news.

"I thought things were going well," he said.

The Ashland City Council and the Mt. Ashland Association, the non-profit group that controls the ski area above Ashland, are in disagreement about the ski area's plans for expansion. The city wants the ski area to present a business plan for the expansion project and appoint a quality assurance/quality control team before it will allow MAA to move forward with its plans. The city controls the lease with the Forest Service. MAA says it complied with these requests, but the city was not satisfied, saying the business plan was too vague and the QA/QC team did not represent a cross-section of the community.

MAA has said it might sue the city if it does not allow it to move forward.

"Over $2 million has been spent already in an effort to improve our facility by adding more lifts and intermediate level runs. We need to move forward and we intend to," Little said in a prepared statement this morning.

Plans for expansion of the ski and snowboard resort have been ongoing since 1991. The Forest Service issued a "record of decision," or approval, of a final expansion plan in 2004.

The approval process was challenged in federal court, but in February of this year, a judge in Medford denied the challenges raised by the environmental parties. The judge's decision has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .

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