Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rotarun Ski Club sues neighbors

Collection effort is for fees allegedly in arrears

Express Staff Writer

Under relatively new leadership, the Rotarun Ski Club filed a lawsuit against homeowners in the Sage Springs subdivision Tuesday seeking payment of quarterly assessments indicated on the original covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) established in 1991. The club is seeking some $88,000 in unpaid assessments from a total of about 10 homeowners over the past five years.

"It is very clear in the CC&Rs," said Ron Moore, current president of the ski club and five-year volunteer, who explained that the ski hill relies on funding solely through lift-ticket sales and donations.

The ski club, a nonprofit corporation, is the operator of the Rotarun Ski Area, a public ski area on 30 acres in Croy Canyon west of Hailey. Skiing on the property started in the mid-1960s. The ski club currently leases the property from the county for $1 per year.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the ski club claimed that it is filing the lawsuit reluctantly because the association "demanded control over operations and programs ... in exchange for paying past due assessments."

Most of the neighbors have never paid an assessment. Last year was the first time they were ever sent a bill, both Moore and Walsh said.

"We're having a hard time staying afloat. The money that they owe us, it would certainly come in handy," Moore said. "We sent bills to all of them a year ago last December. Past management (of Rotarun) didn't want to go through the hassle of the lawsuit. Being custodians of the hill, we thought we would be derelict in our duties if we didn't get the money that was owed us."

Sage Springs Homeowners Association President Mike Walsh said he was surprised by the lawsuit.

"I thought we were negotiating in good faith," he said. From the standpoint of the homeowners association, he noted, its members have always been in support of Rotarun and have thought that for the past 10 years there would be a mutual agreement about operations at the ski area.

Walsh cited a 1993 agreement signed by the original subdivision developer, Robert Glenn, former prosecuting attorney Fritz Haemmerle on behalf of the Blaine County Commission, and Donald Board, the former ski club president, which says that "Rotarun Ski Club will enter into an agreement with the Sage Springs Subdivision Association regarding the use and maintenance of the new warming hut which will serve as the formal agreement referenced (in the original CC&Rs)."

Moore denied the value of this agreement.

"They felt that there is a document that relieves them of all other responsibility of owing Rotarun any money and we haven't seen that document that indicates that to us," he said.

According to the 1993 document, however, the "agreement will resolve issues of homeowner assessments, expenditures, operation of the warming hut, parking facilities, periods of operation, night skiing, etc."

Moore said negotiations have been ongoing, but that the last meeting between the club, the county and the association was in June 2004.

"Our last offer indicated to them that we wanted them to start paying the first of April," he said. "Every time we negotiate they keep asking for more from us ... that we up some authority to them. For example, they want to limit the hours and days of operation. That is unacceptable."

Walsh said the neighbors are concerned about the impact of proposed snowmaking operations, for example, but he countered that they have always supported the ski hill.

"We're very nervous about snowmaking," he said, explaining that he has concerns about the impact on the shared well. "We have always been concerned about greater numbers. It is like a mom and pop grocery store with no oversight and input from the neighbors being allowed to become a Wal-Mart. We have always offered money ... that we should be a partnership."

Walsh said despite the expense, having a judge decide the case in court could be beneficial. He said he wants Rotarun to recognize that if the neighbors are going to pay, they need to share some accountability.

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