Montrose County, landowners must solve differences on property access, judge says

Gunnison Judge Steven Patrick determined Friday that attorneys representing both the Montrose County Commission and landowners on the West End need to work out a solution in the coming weeks to allow county-hired engineers and surveyors access to private properties.

The county is actively pursuing engineering and geological plans on a number of possible reservoirs in the West End of Montrose County as part of a large infrastructure project to capture water for growth.

Attorneys representing the county filed a motion Sept. 30 for access, stating a crew needed to be on the private property on Monday before winter weather sets in.

The reservoir would feature a large dam and diversions, which landowners say would take up a significant amount of their private property.

Ouray attorney Andrew Mueller, who represents several landowners, said the county failed to give them 30 days notice and said the surveying operation would damage commercial elk, deer and bear hunting in the area.

He told Patrick the county had all summer to contact the landowners to set up visitations and were waiting until the last minute without considering their needs.

“Apparently, Applicant just realized that the reservoir site at 9,000 feet in elevation will be covered in snow shortly,” Mueller argued. “Applicant’s lack of planning and Applicant’s lack of pre and post filing diligence does not constitute good cause for expedited proceedings in this case.”

Boulder attorney David Haynes, one of two attorneys representing Montrose County on the project, said the work is driven by the seasons and it would be best to complete before the weather closes access.

“We like to think we can do this without any disruption,” Haynes told Patrick, adding the work would take one to two days.

Haynes said other inspections nearby were scheduled for mid-October.

Patrick and the two attorneys said a solution should be worked out in the coming weeks, before the deadline for discovery in a Oct. 2012 trial, which will determine the fate of the county’s water filings.

Additionally, the Montrose County Commission voted Monday to increase legal and engineering expenses by $200,000 in 2012.


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