Plans for pit uncertain |

Plans for pit uncertain

Gary E. Salazar

— A judge ruled Friday the More family illegally backed out of a lease agreement with a Steamboat Springs man, who is proposing to put a gravel pit on the property.

Judge Gaspar Perricone ruled Jarle Halsnes did in fact have an agreement with the Mores to lease 100 acres of the family’s ranch for a gravel pit operation.

The judge determined the family did not have the authority to terminate their relationship with Halsnes in February or negotiate a lease agreement with Lafarge Corp. in March.

“This was all about greed,” said Edward Bendelow, Halsnes’ attorney. “The family wanted more money.

“My client dealt in good faith. This was greed.”

Because of Perricone’s ruling, Halsnes has a two-year agreement with the family to lease the property once a permit is secured from Routt County to operate a gravel pit.

Once the two-year lease expires, Halsnes will have six months to buy the 100 acres from the family.

Currently, Lafarge is working on an application for the special use permit. The company is planning to submit the application to the county in January.

Because of the ruling, Lafarge is unsure how it will proceed with the application.

“We aren’t exactly sure what the situation is,” said Gary Tuttle, a Lafarge official. “Until we see something in writing, we are not sure what we will do.”

The ruling means Lafarge will have to deal with Halsnes to mine the ranch, which is six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado 131.

“Lafarge has a big problem,” Bendelow said. “My client has the ability to buy the land.”

Ralph Cantafio, the Mores’ attorney, said he wasn’t too disappointed with the ruling.

“At first, we were a little somber,” Cantafio said. “But, after reading through the ruling, we feel pretty good.”

The ruling orders the family to pay Halsnes about $35,000, which includes $25,000 for work on the permit application, and $9,100 for attorney fees.

Cantafio said he would be researching how the judge’s ruling affects the family’s agreement with Lafarge.

“Right now, everything is up in the air,” Cantafio said.

Cantafio argued his clients did not have an agreement with Halsnes because the family never formally signed a lease agreement with him.

However, Perricone, from the evidence, determined the family entered into a lease agreement with Halsnes in a June 2, 2000, document.

Perricone said the document the family signed in June was essentially the same as the agreement the family did not sign.

The June 2 “letter was a contract between the two parties,” Perricone said. “The defendants did breach its contract with Halsnes.”

The family terminated its relationship with Halsnes in February after Halsnes was unable to work out a deal with Elam Construction.

Halsnes had been working with Elam Construction on the gravel permit, but the two parties served their ties in January.

During this time, Halsnes spent about $25,000 that included gravel exploration, engineering and survey costs.

After Halsnes’ deal with Elam fell through, Halsnes approached Lafarge officials to find out if the corporation would be willing to work with him regarding the operation of the pit.

Halsnes and Lafarge officials met with the Mores in February.

After the meeting, Lafarge officials suggested to the family “they were being ripped off by Halsnes.”

The family decided to terminate its relationship with Halsnes and then negotiated a lease agreement with Lafarge, which was signed March 12.

In the contract, Lafarge and the family agreed to pay Halsnes a $100,000 “finder’s fee.” For Halsnes to collect the money, he would have to give up his right to file a lawsuit and the permit would have to be approved by the county.

On March 16, Halsnes filed a lawsuit against the family.

If an application for the gravel pit is submitted to the county, it is expected to be a controversial issue. Numerous residents, especially in the south valley, oppose of the gravel pit.

Officials from the city of Steamboat Springs has also made Routt County officials aware it does not support the gravel pit.

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