Berlaimont Estates asks to join lawsuit that seeks to deny federal approval of a road to the project
Request is to join on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service
- 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
The court battle over the recent approval of a road through public land to a private inholding in Eagle County may gain a new participant.
The owners and developers of Berlaimont Estates, a 680-acre parcel just north and west of Edwards, have filed a request to join a lawsuit against the road approval on the side of the defendants, the U.S. Forest Service.
The 23-page motion was filed Wednesday, March 29, in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.
The original suit was filed March 13 by two environmental groups: Wilderness Workshop, which is based in Carbondale, and Rocky Mountain Wild, which is based in Denver. That suit was filed in response to a March 10 Forest Service decision to approve a year-round road to the parcel that runs through a piece of federal property.
In a statement accompanying word of the filing, Berlaimont spokeswoman Kristin Kenney Williams wrote that the Forest Service decision followed “nearly 15 years of thorough environmental analysis and extensive public input.”
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The statement goes on to challenge the lawsuit’s assertion that challenges the validity of the Alaska National Interest and Lands Conservation Act. The lawsuit maintains that the act shouldn’t be valid outside of Alaska. The motion states that courts have upheld the validity of the act on federal lands outside of Alaska.
Kenney Williams’ statement calls the opposition to the decision a “completely ill-informed and frankly reckless interpretation of federal law.”
Federal law guarantees “adequate access” to private land surrounded by federal property. Opponents have cited the existence of an unimproved road to the property as providing that access.
The motion to intervene notes that the road is unusable during the winter, and unusable by anything other than off-road vehicles when the road is open. The motion claims that the 19 proposed homes in the development would be primary residences, requiring 12-month access.
The statement from Berlaimont notes that a “great majority” of the property won’t be physically developed and that the modified alternative for an access road “significantly reduces the use of Forest Service land.”
The statement also claims that the open nature of the proposal will still provide “high-quality elk and wildlife habitat, as it does today.”
The statement also notes that Berlaimont complies with current Eagle County zoning. The plan also complies with state law, which allows parcels of 35 acres or more to be built without county approval. County approval is still required for road access and building permit compliance.
The motion’s language cites federal law that allows entities to join legal actions on behalf of either plaintiffs or defendants.
If approved, the motion states that Berlaimont will participate on the same schedule as the defendants. Berlaimont would also communicate “as appropriate” to minimize repetitive actions, and would not plead new claims in the current action.
Wilderness Workshop Communications Director Grant Stevens in an email gave an initial reply to the Berlaimont filing, writing, “We are reviewing the motion, which addresses several legal and practical issues that we cannot address quite yet. The Forest Service has favored Berlaimont at every turn in this process. We look forward to getting issues raised by the community in front of an impartial judge.”