A private property sign is posted on a gate on property between the Humble Ranch and the backside of Emerald Mountain. The city of Steamboat Springs is taking its case with Humble Ranch to the state Supreme Court.

A private property sign is posted on a gate on property between the Humble Ranch and the backside of Emerald Mountain. The city of Steamboat Springs is taking its case with Humble Ranch to the state Supreme Court.

Petition filed in Humble Ranch case

City asks for state Supreme Court review of Humble Ranch dispute

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The operators of Humble Ranch, shown here with Emerald Mountain in the background, have been in an ongoing dispute with the City of Steamboat Springs about trail access. The city has petitioned the state supreme court to review an issue related to the Humble Ranch case. A separate issue, regarding whether trail closures should coincide with DOW closures of adjacent trails, has been remanded to the district court.

— The city is taking its case with Humble Ranch to the state’s highest court.

Steamboat Springs has filed a petition for review by the Colorado Supreme Court, continuing the legal proceedings in a dispute involving land conservation, wildlife preservation, private property rights and efforts that began more than a decade ago to increase public access on the south flank of Emerald Mountain.

Steamboat Springs attorney Tony Lettunich confirmed that the city has filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to review a ruling made in district court and upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Humble Ventures LLC took the city to district court in July 2007, contesting the city’s ability to build a public cabin — and by extension, open certain trail segments to the public — on private property at Humble Ranch, off Routt County Road 14 south of Steamboat Springs. In January 2009, the court ruled that Humble Ranch was not obligated to build the cabin within any certain timeframe, nor could the city build it, which by extension means Humble Ranch is not required to open the trail segments for public use. Opening the trail segments is contingent on construction of the cabin.

The trail segments in question provide access to state Division of Wildlife trails on the south side of Emerald.

On March 11, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the district court decision. Three judges concurred on the agreement.

The city, through the Denver law firm Hall & Evans, filed its petition for review by the state Supreme Court in May.

Attorneys for Humble Vent­ures responded to the petition June 7. The city responded to Humble Ventures on Monday, completing the briefing process.

“It’s in the (state) Supreme Court’s hands,” Hall & Evans associate attorney Devi Yorty said. She previously has noted that the state Supreme Court accepts less than 10 percent of the cases for which it receives petitions.

Lettunich said the state Supreme Court has no timetable for deciding whether to take up the city’s case with Humble Ranch.

“We don’t have an answer yet, and I don’t know when that would be,” Lettunich said.

Also pending is the city’s petition for a rehearing of another March 11 ruling about whether the city must close its Humble Ranch trail easements to the public when the state Division of Wildlife closes access to the Emerald Mountain wildlife area. The appeals court ruled that the city has to follow state DOW closures, reversing an earlier district court ruling, but remanded the issue for further proceedings.

Documents provided by City Clerk Julie Franklin show that the city has spent more than $104,000 on litigation involving Humble Ranch since 2007. The city is maintaining employee furloughs and other budget cuts amid continuing impacts from the economic recession.

Ed and Cheri Trousil co-own Humble Ranch.

“We have litigated this case for 2 1/2 years,” Ed Trousil wrote in an April e-mail. “During the litigation, the city had every opportunity to produce any evidence it had concerning the use of the Humble Ranch property. Not once did the city produce any evidence that we broke any promises about the use of Humble Ranch.”

Those calling for more public access on Humble Ranch say building the cabin and opening trails to the public were key components of correlated efforts a decade ago by the Yampa River System Legacy Project and the Emerald Mountain Partnership.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

This is a case where neither side is right. City has a terrible case because the contract is so poorly written and it says things happen after the cabin is built, but failed to have any requirements that the cabin be built. The Trousils can claim to be following the contract, but they made public statements when the contract was signed that are contrary to their current actions.

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mtroach 4 years, 2 months ago

...and the city continues to spend our scarce tax resources on lawyers to fight this landowner. Lame on all sides. It really pisses me off that Parks and Rec plowed trails under on the Gloria Gossard parcel and maintained they had no money to rebuild those trails or maintain the current ones while they were spending $100,000 on lawyers for this fight. We need to stop this fight now and stop spending our tax dollars on useless litigation that even if won will lead nowhere, as the BLM has no trails that connect to this easement, and all travel on BLM holdings is limited to designated trails. this is just another bad land deal we need to just limit our losses on and walk away.

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John Fielding 4 years, 2 months ago

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It is an awful shame that this impasse has been reached.

I don't know enough to say for sure but it seems each side has some part of this problem, the ranch for being reluctant to meet their promises in a reasonable manner, and the city for trying to assume control in a manner that leaves the ranch threatened.

Most of the documents have been assembled and well presented by George Krazoff at

Humbleranch.info

I would like to know how much this final appeal is costing, anyone?

It does seem that this is the type of case that is worth pursuing in the hope that a high court will order that a technicality in the contract not be allowed to obstruct its intent.

Nice job on the website George.

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sledneck 4 years, 2 months ago

This is the kind of trade-off I'm talking about. Wouldn't this $$$ be better spent on our schools so we don't have to raise taxes for our schools?

Whenever a city (or any government) official decides to persue this what they are really saying is... "I think it is better to take this $$$ from the taxpayers who earned it and spend it this way rather than to leave it in the hands of its rightful owner to spend on his family's needs."

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, to think it will succeed on appeal requires hoping that the court rules that the contract is not what was intended and that is real tough. There was a case in which a downtown Denver property was to be sold for $44M and somehow the final contract said $440,000 and was signed by everyone. And then the title company only transferred $440K saying that was what the contract said. There was no doubt that the agreed upon amount was $44M, but especially for real estate, the court said the contract determines what was the agreement.

There is nothing in any of the decisions suggesting that the trail access issue is anything but obvious to a judge. The DOW closure issue is more interesting because it wasn't clearly stated in the contract. It is plausible to suggest City could hire experts to observe the wildlife on this property that could safely open the property prior to the DOW dates.

Note how there is no analysis on how the contract got screwed up or concerns expressed that it could happen again? Making a beneficial action dependent upon something that the other side does not have to do is bad legal work. Should have said something like "within 10 years or cabin is built, whichever is sooner,", or required that cabin be built within 10 years.

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stillinsteamboat 4 years, 2 months ago

Did Tony Lettunich review and then approve of the original contract?

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blue_spruce 4 years, 2 months ago

an awful shame indeed. these humble ranch people stink.

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John Fielding 4 years, 2 months ago

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I would expect that a precedent can be found for requiring the completion time-frame to be within a reasonable period if it is not specified.

The question that remains is why the ranch is reluctant to fully comply with its commitment.

Do they they fear the city will not protect them from the harm the bike traffic might inflict?

What has been the nature of the discussions in this regard?

Is it too late to address the concerns in a manner that will satisfy?

George, can you give us some insight here?

Or Ed and Cheri Trousil, will you please make your concerns more widely understood?

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blue_spruce 4 years, 2 months ago

"...the harm the bike traffic might inflict?"

like what?!? people having fun, enjoying a community resource?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

John, That portion of the contract would seem to mean what it says. The benefit to the owners of having a cabin will be balanced by a public benefit of access to trails. The central flaw of the contract is that it failed to specify that the cabin had to be built. Since the City has gone to court and appeals and lost both times then it might be reasonable to suggest that the City has a bad case.

I would observe that since the trails portion of the contract is dependent on something that might never happen that the best the City can do is go back to the statements made at the time by the Trousils and put public pressure on them to do what they said they would do.

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John Fielding 4 years, 2 months ago

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I thought that building the cabin was in the contract, only a time-frame was absent.

And public pressure is an excellent suggestion, but it should be on both parties.

I wonder why we have not heard more details about the Trousils side of the story.

I expect they are advised to keep silent, but others must know. Did some public official say something that makes them expect to have their interests pushed aside, to lose control?

Why else would they avoid their commitments and endure the legal battle and social stigma?

Who can give us the rest of the story?

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mtroach 4 years, 2 months ago

John has some good points, and questions, I'll add by asking why during this time of layoff and budget problems at the city we are continueing to pay lawyers to persue this issue? I spoke to the BLM and they maintain that even if this easement was accepted and trail opened, because the trails do not connect to their trail system, access to the BLM's parcel would not be allowed. In fact the BLM maintains that no access to it's 4000acre parcel from the Humble ranch is allowed at this time. Without anywhere to go off the back of the Humble ranch, why do we need a trail opened to bikes at all? and Who at the city can we talk to about ending this litigation? Who is the contact person at the city for this action?

Pilot, PLEASE, do your job and get these answers for the citizens of Steamboat!! Why are all of these questions unanswered. I would like to see a interview with the Trousils, the city, and a rep from the potential users of this trail (RCRiders) to get to the bottom of the issues each has with opening these trails(or not), instead of another story that does not explain the positions of the city, the potential users or the Humble ranch.

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