City of Steamboat Springs files lawsuit against developer, property owner over neglect of historic barn
Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Springs is suing a developer and a property owner to try and save a historic barn that the defendants have been neglecting for years near the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
The city’s lawsuit claims the developer, RP Steamboat Springs, and the property owner, RCS-Wildhorse Land, LLC, should be maintaining the 88-year-old Arnold Barn per the conditions of a development agreement, which was signed in 2006.
The city plans to seek a preliminary injunction that could compel the defendants to temporarily stabilize the barn this winter while the case makes its way through the court system in the coming months.
“We’d like it not to fall down while we are in court,” City Attorney Dan Foote said Monday.
He said litigation appears to be the only way the city is going to be able to get the barn stabilized.
An engineer who recently inspected the barn told Foote he was surprised the barn was still standing.
RP Steamboat and RCS-Wildhorse Land have continued to deny they are responsible for maintaining the barn. The property owners say the barn maintenance conditions were struck from the development agreement by a previous City Council and are no longer valid.
The property has also changed hands since the development agreement was made.
The developer and current property owner last month did offer to pitch in $10,000 of the $15,000 cost to stabilize the barn for the winter, but only if the city would make a concession and accept responsibility for moving the barn off the property.
The Steamboat Springs City Council wasn’t ready to decide whether to agree to a barn relocation proposal that is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Instead, at a closed-door meeting on Nov. 15, the council directed Foote to attempt to negotiate with the property owner over the barn maintenance.
The council also told Foote privately that if the negotiations failed, he should take legal action.
Foote filed the suit Nov. 22 after he couldn’t come to terms with the property owner.
“We were hoping for the (property owner and developer) to do what they were committed to doing,” Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said Monday. “Litigation is always the last resort.”
At that Nov. 15 meeting, some community members urged the council not to take legal action as it could derail plans to relocate the barn.
Today, as more snow starts to pile up on the roof of the fragile structure, a community group dedicated to saving the Arnold Barn is continuing to call on the developer and property owner to preserve the structure.
The group is also hopeful the City Council and the defendants in the lawsuit can agree on a relocation proposal that will preserve the barn.
“We would like to see money spent on the barn and not on lawyers,” historic preservationist Arianthe Stettner said. “Really, this is the best possible outcome, and it has the best possible outcome for the owners and their place and the community and for City Council.
“I want them to work it out,” Stettner continued. “I want the owners to give us a Christmas present in the form of the stabilized barn.”
The Save Arnold Barn group is now accepting donations through Historic Routt County.
While the maintenance of the barn is subject to litigation, city staff is recommending that council shouldn’t move forward with a plan to spend $195,000 of taxpayer money to move the structure to the knoll near the Steamboat Grand and stabilize it.
There would be additional costs to provide access to the barn site.
Council President Walter Magill said he thinks the city’s Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee, which is recommending the project, has priorities that are more important than moving the barn.
Magill also noted that the developer at the barn site previously had plans to invest in the barn’s maintenance and install interpretive signage and trails around the structure at its current location.
Foote has told the council that agreeing to move the barn at taxpayers’ expense would be a “substantial concession.”
Brian Wilson, of RCS-Wildhorse Land, said Monday his company is still proposing possible solutions to the city even after being served with the lawsuit.
“We were certainly disappointed that’s the direction the City Council wanted to go,” Wilson said of the lawsuit. “I would like to get resolution for the barn.”
He said he recently floated the idea of conveying the small piece of property around the barn and the structure itself to the city.
The Arnold Barn was constructed in 1928 and housed dairy cows, livestock and hay.
At one time, it was owned by Steamboat Ski Area and served as a rustic backdrop for photo shoots.
But today, it has started to sag, and community members worry that it’s one big snowstorm away from collapsing.
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