Vail Daily letter: Editorial misses the mark

The Vail Daily editorial (Aug. 3) misses the mark by defending Gypsum’s efforts to take away 69 acres of Clearwater Venture’s property by eminent domain.

In short, it stakes out a position that parrots Gypsum’s misplaced thinking, and argues that Gypsum is somehow justified in taking Clearwater Ventures’ private property because the town hasn’t gotten along with the owners.

But that misses the mark. It’s wrong-headed to believe that retribution is good justification for taking away a citizen’s property. On the contrary, we believe a government should only condemn property for an important public purpose; whether government gets along with you or not is irrelevant.

Here, Gypsum has never explained any legitimate public purpose for taking the property. In fact, town officials have admitted that they have no present plans at all for the property.

On the other hand, Clearwater’s 69 acres is essential to the business of Eagle Valley Clean Energy, the new biomass plant in Gypsum. The property is the source of the biomass plant’s water for its operations. Without access to that water, the new biomass plant can’t continue its business.

Support Local Journalism

From the beginning, Clearwater desired to preserve the riverfront acreage and to offer it for sale to the town for open space — and it has done just that. For two years, Clearwater offered it to Gypsum for the price it paid for it, and later offered it at its appraised value. However, Gypsum never liked the price, and hasn’t been willing to concede the easements needed by the biomass plant to access the water it needs on the property, so a deal never closed.

Instead, Gypsum tried to wrangle a cheap purchase price out of Clearwater through heavy handed negotiation for a certificate of occupancy for the biomass plant. While town officials authorized commencement of plant operations in late 2013, and the plant openly operated with the town’s full knowledge until a fire shut it down in December 2014, the town and the newspaper editorial now cite the previous lack of a certificate of occupancy as grounds for condemning the 69 acres. The problem is, Gypsum’s desire to punish Clearwater shouldn’t justify condemnation.

Clearwater and the biomass plant settled all of their issues with Gypsum in January this year when the plant completed its fire repairs, paid the town $155,000 to settle the certificate of occupancy, and everyone shook hands and agreed to get along. What a surprise it was when Gypsum launched this condemnation action unannounced last month.

This issue, of course, is bigger than just Clearwater and its property. If Gypsum starts by taking our property today, where will it all end? Who’s next, and where are the boundaries to an aggressive government’s efforts to overthrow private property rights?

Dean Rostrom

Principal, Clearwater Ventures LLC and Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC

Support Local Journalism