Gravel pit issue takes new turn |

Gravel pit issue takes new turn

Man accuses More family of backing out of agreement

Gary E. Salazar

— A Steamboat Springs man contends he had an agreement with the family that owns the More Ranch to mine a portion of the property long before Lafarge Corp. submitted an application to operate a gravel pit on the ranch.

Jarle Halsnes is suing More Family Ranch L.L.C. alleging the family backed out of an agreement that would have allowed Halsnes to operate an asphalt and concrete plant in the south Yampa Valley.

Halsnes is seeking actual and punitive damages from the More family and a court order for the family to abide by the agreement.

Judge Gaspar Perricone will preside over the civil trial, scheduled to start at 9 a.m. today in 14th Judicial District Court in Steamboat Springs.

The trial comes at a time when Lafarge officials are working on an application to submit to Routt County to mine 100 acres of land on the More Ranch, which is six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado 131.

A number of residents in the south valley oppose the gravel pit.

Lafarge notified Routt County officials earlier this fall they were interested in operating a pit on the ranch. So far, Lafarge has given a conceptual presentation to the Routt County Planning Commission and to the Board of Commissioners.

Both boards support Lafarge’s proposal, but the company’s application must meet strict guidelines set by the county.

According to court records filed March 16, Halsnes claims he had a deal with the Mores long before the family signed a contract with Lafarge earlier this year.

Neither Halsnes’ attorney, Edward Bendelow, nor the More family attorney, Ralph Cantafio, could be reached for comment.

Halsnes claims he struck a deal with the family in May 2000 and spent $70,000 preparing to submit an application to the county for a special use permit to mine gravel.

On June 2, 2000, Halsnes claims he sent a document to the family that would allow him to lease the land.

The document included an option to purchase the property, purchase price and other “essential agreements,” records state. The family did not sign the document at the time because of a concern over the impact the agreement could have on certain tax liabilities in a family estate proceeding.

Halsnes claims he moved forward with the project because he trusted the family, who had agreed to the terms of the document “in a series of written, oral statements and assurances to all the essential terms of the lease,” court records state.

On Aug. 3, 2000, Halsnes met with the Routt County Planning Commission for a pre-application hearing, said John Eastman, county planning staff member.

In October, More applied to the county for a special use permit listing Halsnes, Native Excavating and Elam Construction.

Halsnes claims Native Excavating and Elam Construction were placed on the application by mistake. Halsnes claims the More family refused to remove the two companies from the application, which hampered Halsnes from moving forward with the application, records show.

Eastman said the application was later withdrawn because Elam Construction withdrew from the project.

In February, Halsnes received a letter from the More family indicating it was terminating the agreement. On Feb. 25, Halsnes claimed the family verbally withdrew the termination and requested Halsnes to continue working on the gravel pit, records show.

Halsnes claims he spent $70,000 on the proposed pit that included gravel exploration, engineering and survey costs.

On March 12, Halsnes claims he was blindsided when he found out the family had signed an agreement for a gravel pit on the ranch with Western Mobile Northern Inc., which is a Lafarge subsidiary.

Halsnes claims the More family “breached its duties and obligations” and did not have the authority to “unilaterally terminate” the agreement, records state.

Halsnes is seeking a court order for the family to abide by the agreement and allow Halsnes to proceed with an application.

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