Plowing agreement approved amid threat of litigation

by Carolina King

In a morning filled with two executive sessions, threats of litigation and public comment, the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a twice-revised Winter Maintenance Agreement with owners of property on the upper stretch of County Road 5.
None of the property owners had signed the agreement as of press time.
Despite objections from winter recreational users of the road, the board will allow landowners to plow one lane, leaving at least four inches of snow, up to 0.9 mile from the intersection with CR 5A. In an emergency, owners may plow up to their respective properties beyond 0.9 mile.
Owners must post a bond for damages and obtain liability insurance. The agreement terminates in June 2020 or earlier, at the county’s election.
Later on Tuesday evening, when asked if changes the board made to the agreement were enough to stop any legal action, Kelly Ryan of San Juan Huts System told the Plaindealer via email, “Legal action seems to be one of the few remaining options.”
San Juan Huts is a guide service that takes clients on backcountry adventures, with two of their huts in the national forest being accessed via CR 5.
After a letter from Paul Kosnik, attorney representing the Ridgway Ouray Community Council and now, San Juan Huts System, was brought to commissioners’ attention at Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted to go into executive session to consult with the county attorney regarding threat of a lawsuit if the board was to approve the WMA.
The letter from Kosnik requested that the board “reconsider the proposed agreement or else San Juan Huts (possibly with other parties) will have no other option but to immediately file for a preliminary injunction.”
Historically, the county has not plowed CR 5 past its intersection with CR 5A and has placed a chain across the road but given landowners a key for access. Recreationists have used the unplowed road for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and access to the national forest trailhead.
In recent years, the board has...

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