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Gravel trial nears end

Jarle Halsnes claims More Ranch broke deal with him

Gary E. Salazar

— Attorneys are expected to call their final witnesses today in a civil trial in which a Steamboat Springs man claims the More family illegally terminated an agreement with him to operate a gravel pit on the family’s ranch.

Judge Gaspar Perricone could rule by the end of today on the lawsuit Jarle Halsnes filed against More Family Ranch L.L.C.

Halsnes’ attorney, Edward Bendelow, is expected to call an expert witness. The family’s lawyer, Ralph Cantafio, is expected to call members of the More family to testify.

Halsnes alleges the More family illegally backed out of an agreement he executed with the family last year to operate a gravel pit on 100 acres of the ranch, which is six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado 131.

The Mores claim they never formally signed a lease agreement with the real estate developer and were free to sign an agreement with Lafarge Corp. last March.

On Thursday, the family’s personal attorney, Vance Halverson, testified why the Mores did not sign the lease agreement with Halsnes.

Halsnes claims in a series of documents, oral statements and assurances he had a deal with the family to operate a gravel pit on the ranch. He is seeking actual and punitive damages.

Halverson admits the family did agree to certain aspects of the deal in a June 2, 2000 letter, but it did not mean a deal had been achieved.

“The letter wasn’t intended to be a binding offer,” Halverson said. “The family was open to further discussions and ideas.”

The family allowed Halsnes to apply for a permit from Routt County to operate the pit even though it did not sign a lease agreement that was given to Halverson in fall 2000.

“The document was not workable,” Halverson said. “The agreement included terms that needed to be discussed.”

Halverson testified Halsnes’ proposed agreement was inconsistent with the terms the family had agreed to in the June letter.

“There were several problems,” he said. “The transaction never happened.”

Halverson said the layout of the proposed pit was a point of contention along with water right issues.

Later in the year, the family also found out that Halsnes was partnering with Elam Construction to operate the pit.

The family was surprised Halsnes was negotiating with a third party, Halverson said.

“We all assumed Jarle would be the operator of the pit,” he said. “That is how it was presented to the family.”

Halverson also testified the family grew frustrated with Halsnes as the application process with the county proceeded.

Because Halsnes could not negotiate a deal with Elam Construction the application process with the county was delayed.

In January, Halsnes and Elam severed ties.

Halsnes then started to negotiate with Lafarge Corp. and set up a meeting for Lafarge officials to meet with the family Feb. 13.

“The family was feeling a great deal of frustration because the application was not going anywhere,” Halverson said of the meeting.

A day after the meeting, the family terminated its relationship with Halsnes.

“The family did not believe Jarle could accomplish what he set out to do,” he said.

The family later agreed to sign a lease agreement with Lafarge March 12, which included a $100,000 finder’s fee for Halsnes.

To get the money, Halsnes would have to agree not to file any lawsuits against the family. Four days later Halsnes filed the lawsuit.

The money was also contingent on Lafarge’s application being approved by the county. Currently, Lafarge has given the county a conceptual presentation of the gravel pit.

The company plans to file an application with the county in January.

The issue is expected to be controversial because numerous residents oppose a pit in the south valley.

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205

or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com


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