Friday, April 29, 2011

Elkhorn trails proposal prompts lawsuit

Express Staff Writer

Proposed public trails on Sun Valley Elkhorn Association land have prompted a lawsuit from a group of homeowners who oppose the idea.

The owners of nine lots in Elkhorn filed the suit against the association in 5th District Court on April 20, contending that the plan is contrary to the Elkhorn master plan.

Plaintiffs' attorney Gary Slette said the idea of new public trails "seems to be contrary to the master declaration and the articles of incorporation of the association."

Sun Valley Co., the city of Sun Valley and Big Wood Backcountry Trails—none of which are named as defendants in the lawsuit—created a plan to connect and expand existing trails in the area. Association staff and several Elkhorn property owners favoring the concept were included in the process, Jim Fletcher, president of the association's board of directors, said in an e-mail to an association member. The e-mail was attached to the complaint as an exhibit.

When the association board queried members about the trails, 74 percent of the 1,074 owners who responded said they were in favor of the idea. In the e-mail, Fletcher said trails are an allowed use based on the master declaration.

However, the complaint contends that the plaintiffs bought their property and built their homes based on the seclusion of those properties as depicted on the Elkhorn master plan, which includes privately owned open-space areas. The complaint quotes the master declaration as stating that Elkhorn "shall be substantially preserved and, for the enjoyment and convenience of the persons living in such community .... "

It states that the proposed trails' locations are not within any of the areas originally contemplated in the master plan. It states that "[t]he placement of proposed trails for use by the public, including north valley residents, adjacent to or in proximity to the plaintiffs' property and homes will be offensive to the plaintiffs due to the introduction of noise created by people, animals, equipment and/or machinery."

The complaint states that if the association is prevented from building the public trails, the plaintiffs won't seek damages, only attorney fees.

Messages left with the association's lawyer, Ed Lawson, were not returned by press time. Jim Fletcher did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Rebecca Meany:

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