Berlaimont developers join federal lawsuit on the side of Forest Service
There's also a motion to move the case to Denver
- The issue: Approval of a year-round road through U.S. Forest Service property to private land
- Location: Just north and west of Edwards
- Parcel size: 680 acres, surrounded by U.S. Forest Service property
- The proposal: 19 homes on lots of at least 35 acres
A federal judge has granted a motion from the developers of Berlaimont Estates to join the defendants in a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for its March approval of a road to the developers’ property near Edwards.
In a brief ruling, U.S. District Judge Jia M. Cobb granted the motion with conditions including:
- That the Berlaimont Estates developers participate in the action on the same schedule as the federal defendants.
- The Berlaimont Estates developers must communicate “as appropriate” with the federal defendants.
- The Berlaimont Estates developers shall not plead new claims in the action.
According to an email from Berlaimont Estates spokeswoman Kristin Kenney Williams, one of the first offshoots of joining the U.S. Forest Service and other federal defendants is filing a response to the federal defendants’ request to move the case from Washington, D.C. to federal District Court in Denver.
That request was filed April 26 by federal attorneys.
The defendants’ change of venue request runs more than 25 pages, and is based, in part, on the location of the dispute.
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“Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint is focused entirely on a decision issued in Colorado by the Forest Supervisor of the White River National Forest in Colorado … after years of public outreach and participation … like the public interest in deciding local controversies at home, this factor weighs in favor of transfer.”
In an email, Wilderness Workshop Legal Director Peter Hart wrote that the claims in its suit against the Forest Service have national implications.
The plaintiffs’ claims “involve nationwide application of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.” That law is the basis for approving access to private property across federal land.
The Forest Service’s request to change the location of the case seems as if the defendants “would prefer to avoid the nationwide effect a D.C. decision can have on the National Forest System management.”
The filing opposing the request to move the case states that “All Forest Service authority involved in the decisions and actions in this Complaint was delegated, overseen, directed, reviewed and approved by Defendants located in Washington D.C.”
The filing also states that “Defendants include high-ranking federal land management personnel and agencies (in) Washington D.C. (who) were involved in authorizing, directing and carrying out the underlying agency actions involving requests for private use of the National Forest System…”
Both filings cite court cases supporting their cases.
Kenney Williams’ email notes that Berlaimont complies with Eagle County zoning and that the road alignment approved in the March Forest Service decision “significantly reduces the use of Forest Service land.”
Both sides are waiting for a decision on the transfer motion.