Gypsum biomass owners send $186,000 bill to town: Firms seek compensation for failed condemnation action
GYPSUM — Clearwater Ventures and Eagle Valley Clean Energy have submitted a bill for $186,000 to the town of Gypsum for costs associated with a condemnation action that was struck down by a district court judge.
In an order issued earlier this month, Eagle County District Court Judge Frederick Gannett ruled that the town of Gypsum failed to follow its own regulations when it launched a condemnation action against Clearwater Ventures LLC, the owner of the property where the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass plant is located.
Gannett’s order voided the town’s condemnation action stating, Gypsum “failed to meet the procedural requisites of public notice required … and acted arbitrarily and took action beyond their authority.”
The order also awarded court costs to Clearwater Ventures and this week the company sent its bill to the town.
Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll confirmed the town has received the bill and said he could not comment further on the issue on the advice of the town attorney.
Clearwater Ventures’ lawsuit against the town stemmed from actions by the Gypsum Town Council in July 2016 when members passed an ordinance approving the acquisition or condemnation of 69 acres located along the Eagle River. Town officials insisted their intention was to launch a negotiation process to determine a fair market price for the property. Once that price was determined, town officials said they would either proceed with a purchase or walk away from a deal.
But the biomass plant representatives steadfastly insisted the council’s action was a prelude to an eminent domain taking of the property. They also argued that by passing the ordinance, the town had negatively impacted their property’s market value because of the threat of condemnation.
“The court has clearly stated that Gypsum’s attempt to take away Clearwater Ventures’ property was misguided and illegal,” said Dean Rostrom of Clearwater Ventures. “The law requires Gypsum to pay the costs for its illegal action, and Clearwater Ventures and Eagle Valley Clean Energy are asking Gypsum to repay $186,000 in legal fees and costs that we were forced to spend defending ourselves.
“Undoubtedly, the town also spent a lot on their own lawyers,” said Rostrom. “We believe this entire dispute was ill advised, unnecessary and a terrible waste of time and taxpayers’ money. We’re only grateful that we had the resources to defend ourselves, since most people may not have the means to fight off a government determined to have its way, right or wrong.”