Gypsum ordered to pay biomass owners’ attorneys fees after condemnation fails
February 5, 2019
GYPSUM — The town of Gypsum says it was promised the land along the Eagle River when the town expanded its boundaries to include Eagle Valley Clean Energy's biomass plant.
The biomass plant owners say that's simply not the case, that the annexation agreement includes no such promise, and that it already paid the town $237,000 to settle the matter.
Predictably, the two sides fought it out in court. Gypsum lost that round. Outgoing District Court Judge Fred Gannett ordered the town to pay attorneys fees to biomass plant owner Eagle Valley Clean Energy and landowner Clearwater — a total of $215,637.55 — $109,271.00 to Eagle Valley, $106,366.55 to Clearwater.
Eagle Valley Clean Energy owns the electricity-generating biomass plant. Eagle Valley Property LLC owns the land under it. Both are owned by a group of 16 investors, including Dean Rostrom, some family trusts related to Rostrom and Kendric Wait, Wellons — the Washington state company that built the plant — and other investors. Clearwater is owned by some of Wait's family members.
This week Gypsum paid Clearwater, but has yet to pay Eagle Valley Clean Energy, according to Clearwater's attorney Sarah Baker.
A federal court jury ruled in May 2017 that Eagle Valley Clean Energy still owes Wellons $11 million for its work in building the more-than $50 million plant. EVCE disagrees, and the two sides are fighting that out in yet more lawsuits.
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As part of that 2017 federal court verdict, money owed EVCE is supposed to be garnished on behalf of Wellons, according to Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann.
"We're asking the court for direction as to whom we need to write the check, and we'll write it," Rietmann said.
Won't be a park
Gypsum insisted that in the original annexation agreement, the town was promised land adjacent to the biomass plant. When the two sides reached an impasse, Gypsum tried to condemn the property, citing its plans to use it for the public good, probably a park with public river access.
Gannett ruled that Gypsum exceeded its authority in trying to condemn the land.
"It makes no sense to have a public park immediately next to a power generating plant with heavy industrial activities," Baker said. "These are the types of activities that go hand-in-hand with active electrical power production that occur on the site."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.