Gypsum biomass plant owners filing a lawsuit against town
August 24, 2016
GYPSUM — The owners of the Gypsum biomass plant have filed a lawsuit against the town of Gypsum alleging the Town Council failed to comply with procedural mandates last month when it approved an ordinance to acquire or condemn property owned by Clearwater Ventures LLC.
In a 5-1 vote on July 26, the Gypsum Town Council passed an ordinance approving the acquisition or condemnation of property belonging to Clearwater Ventures LLC, the entity that owns the land where the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass plant is located. Town officials insisted their intention is to launch a negotiation process that will determine a fair market price for 69 acres located along the Eagle River. Once that price is determined, the town will either proceed with a purchase or walk away from a deal, Gypsum officials stated.
But the biomass plant representatives have steadfastly insisted the Town Council's action was a prelude to an eminent domain taking of property.
"It's not right to just go around and take private property when you can otherwise get it through normal channels," said Clearwater Ventures partner Dean Rostrom during the July Town Council hearing. "As you probably know, the property is currently listed for sale, so if Gypsum wants the property, we invite you to come and negotiate a purchase in good faith just like anyone else."
“It’s not right to just go around and take private property when you can otherwise get it through normal channels. ... As you probably know, the property is currently listed for sale, so if Gypsum wants the property, we invite you to come and negotiate a purchase in good faith just like anyone else.”Dean RostromClearwater Ventures partner
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In a complaint filed Friday in Eagle County District Court, Clearwater Ventures attorney Sarah Baker alleges that Gypsum did not follow is own regulations for consideration and approval of a new ordinance.
The lawsuit argues that except for emergency ordinances and ordinances making general codification of existing ordinances, Gypsum requires that ordinances shall be "read in full or in cases where copies of the ordinance are available to the public, said ordinance may be read by title only." The lawsuit maintains that copies of the ordinance were not available to the public and the text of the ordinance was not read at the meeting.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the published notice for the second public hearing, the meeting during which the ordinance was enacted, failed to specify the day, hour and place of the public hearing, saying that constitutes another violation of the town's charter. Because of the alleged procedural issues, the lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the ordinance. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks attorney fees and "such further relief as this court deems just and proper."
Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said the town council scheduled an executive session to receive legal advice regarding the lawsuit during the regular Tuesday meeting. Shroll said the town has repeatedly stated its desire to acquire the land, not condemn it, through negotiations with Clearwater Ventures.
"We are not sure we understand the context of a lawsuit in the middle of a negotiation," said Shroll.