Trails on Oprah Land Purchase at Heart of Legal Dispute
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The Town of Mountain Village recently filed a motion to dismiss a charge brought against the municipality by Telluride Ski Ranches homeowner Charles Goodman.
Goodman filed a complaint on March 31 with the San Miguel County District Court against the Town of Mountain Village, Oprah Winfrey’s Yellow Brick Road CO LLC, and the prior owners of a 60-acre property acquired by Yellow Brick Road. The motion filed by Mountain Village requests the court’s dismissal of Goodman’s complaint since his allegations are matters of local or municipal concern. Goodman must file with the municipal court, not the state district court.
Goodman alleges that Town of Mountain Village officials made substantive changes to private trail rights when the town amended a legal document to correct a previously recorded subdivision plat.
At the time the legal document was amended, according to the town’s legal counsel, David Reed, the undeveloped property was owned by Hoyt and Carol Barnett. Yellow Brick Road purchased the Barnett’s property, which is located along the southwest boundary of the town and adjacent to the Telluride Ski Ranches where Goodman’s home is located.
Back in 1989, the Telluride Ski Ranches Association, with Goodman as a member, acquired specified rights to use select private trails on a portion of the Yellow Brick Road property. These usage rights are outlined in a document known as the “Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement.”
Goodman claims that the legal document, referred to as the Correction Plat, closes off access to some trails named in the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement, and that Mountain Village exceeded its jurisdiction in granting approval of the Correction Plat. Moreover, Goodman alleges that Mountain Village failed to give the public and the affected parties proper notice of the plat changes prior to town approval, and that the approval of the Correction Plat and subsequent purchase of the land was made in a “backroom deal.”
According to Reed, the town-approved Correction Plat did not change any legally existing trail rights, nor did it close access to any trails established by the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement. The town also confirms that Yellow Brick Road has not closed access to any legally established trails covered by the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement.
“Mountain Village’s land use code allows the town to review and approve correction plats without requiring any formal notice to the public, which is what the town did, upon application from the prior property owners,” Reed said. “Furthermore, the Correction Plat does not make any changes with respect to any existing private trail rights granted under the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement. The town, in an attempt to make clear that the Correction Plat does not affect any rights or claims established by the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement, includes such a notice on the face of the plat.”
According to information obtained by Mountain Village, prior to closing the sale of the land, Yellow Brick Road representatives met with representatives of Telluride Ski Ranches Board of Directors to discuss various issues relating to the Goodman/Ski Ranches Easement Agreement. Among these issues were possible differences of opinion regarding the nature and extent of the allowable uses and the location of easements granted to Telluride Ski Ranches residents, including Goodman. While the parties agreed that these issues would be addressed and good faith efforts would be made to resolve open issues after closing, Goodman filed his complaint before discussions resumed, without first talking with the town or Yellow Brick Road.
“It is the town’s understanding that Telluride Ski Ranches has chosen not to join the litigation and will continue to talk with Yellow Brick Road CO LLC to discuss the easement issues,” Reed said.
In terms of development plans, according to a Mountain Village press release, Yellow Brick Road drafted an updated forest management plan that focuses on the removal of diseased trees and dead trees – standing and fallen – scattered throughout the 60 acres of land that comprise the property, with some kept in place for wildlife habitat. The plan also recommends some selective thinning of trees, which will help improve the overall health and sustainability of the forest and improve defensible wildfire spacing and safety for the benefit of residents in the Town of Mountain Village and the adjoining Telluride Ski Ranches subdivision. The Forest Management Plan does not contemplate clear cutting trees and has been submitted to the town for courtesy review. Although the town has not officially approved the plan, in its initial review it found the plan to be appropriate and in accordance with town regulations.
Apart from the Forest Management Plan, the town has yet to receive any development or builder permit requests other than the construction of a bridge over a ski run. This bridge was contemplated since the original subdivision approval in 1993, and is similar to other bridges spanning ski runs in Mountain Village.