ASHLAND — The Ashland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to spend up to $50,000 to defend the city against a lawsuit filed by the Mt. Ashland Association.

ASHLAND — The Ashland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to spend up to $50,000 to defend the city against a lawsuit filed by the Mt. Ashland Association.

Before the lawsuit, the city had already spent $52,000 for outside legal advice and help with failed mediation talks between the city and MAA, according to figures provided by city Finance Director Lee Tuneberg.

That amount does not include city staff time spent on the issue.

The city of Ashland holds the special-use permit for the Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboard Resort but leases the operations of the ski area to MAA.

The association filed a lawsuit Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court claiming the city violated the terms of the lease by interfering with ski area expansion plans.

The MAA is defending itself in a suit now in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals brought by environmental groups who oppose the ski area expansion. Councilman Eric Navickas, long an opponent of the ski area and its expansion plans, is a co-plaintiff in that suit.

The City Council is seeking a detailed business plan for the expansion, assurances that the MAA has enough assets to restore the mountain if the ski area fails and formation of a quality-assurance technical team to oversee the expansion.

Despite the strained relationship between the association and city officials, ski area General Manager Kim Clark said Public Works Director Paula Brown has continued to discuss expansion project issues with the association. Clark said she has reviewed plans for tree falling and storm water and sediment control.

"We've been working with Paula Brown. She's been wonderful. She's been willing to sit down with us and talk about things. It's not all one-sided. If we have thoughts and concerns, she's willing to listen," Clark said. "The city is not willing to compromise."

City Administrator Martha Bennett said the City Council wants Brown to continue communicating with the MAA despite the court cases.

Brown recently announced she will leave her job with the city of Ashland in December to spend more time with her family and fulfill her duties as a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Vickie Aldous is a staff writer for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.