Ashland, City Council still working on ski permit deal

The Ashland City Council and the Mt. Ashland Association have reached agreement on some conditions for the city to give up its ski area permit, but the two parties must still negotiate over unresolved terms.

The Ashland City Council voted in August to give up the permit under certain conditions, and reconsidered the issue on Tuesday night after the Mt. Ashland Association made counteroffers on some terms.

Both sides agreed that the city of Ashland can have a city inspector on site to monitor a planned expansion if it moves forward.

If environmental problems are identified, the city and the Mt. Ashland Association will confer with the U.S. Forest Service and regulatory agencies such as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The City Council wanted to be able to appoint a councilor as a voting member to the association's board of directors, but the association didn't want that person to have a vote and wanted to be able to reject the chosen councilor.

The City Council voted on Tuesday to make the council liaison a non-voting member of the board, but to keep its condition that the council be able to appoint the liaison without an association veto.

The City Council upheld its condition that the Mt. Ashland Association keep $700,000 in assets available to restore the mountain if the ski area fails.

The association had wanted the Forest Service to set the restoration figure.

The City Council kept its condition that the association have enough funding on hand to complete the first and most significant phase of the expansion before beginning any logging or earth-disturbing activity.

The City Council also strengthened the requirement on Tuesday night by specifying that the funding must be in the form of cash contributions, binding financial commitments and performance bonding.

Some councilors worried that the Mt. Ashland Association could proceed with logging to clear areas for ski runs and a chairlift with only hazy pledges.

The first phase will cost an estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million and includes ski runs, a chairlift, parking spaces and environmental projects.

The Mt. Ashland Association had wanted the Forest Service to determine the amount of money the association must have on hand before moving forward.

"The Forest Service is going to require a financial commitment up front," said Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark. "They're going to require us to show we have the ability to complete the project."

Some councilors have expressed concerns that the association could log on Mount Ashland, but then not have the money to finish ski runs, lifts and other improvements.

Clark said the association's board of directors will discuss the council's conditions from Tuesday night.

"The Mt. Ashland Association looks at this as being similar to buying a house. You have an offer and a counteroffer," he said.

If the city of Ashland gives up the ski area permit, the association can apply to the Forest Service to become the new permit holder.

Some association members have said gaining control of the permit could strengthen their fundraising efforts for the expansion, since some donors may be reluctant to give if the city of Ashland holds the ski area permit.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved the expansion, which is on land under its jurisdiction. The agency plans to ask a U.S. District Court judge to lift an injunction on the expansion that was previously put in place in response to a lawsuit.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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