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MAA: Council violated lease

A letter from the Mt. Ashland Association could spell a lawsuit against the City of Ashland.

The Mt. Ashland Association claims the City of Ashland violated a lease agreement earlier this month by changing its practices Oct. — and asking the U.S. Forest Service to deal directly with the city on matters surrounding a proposed ski area expansion.

An Oct. 12 letter from the Mt. Ashland Association to Ashland City Administrator Martha Bennett claims the city violated the Mt. Ashland Ski Area's lease. The City of Ashland holds a special-use permit through the U.S. Forest Service to operate the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. The city leases the permit to the non-profit Mt. Ashland Association for $1 a year.

Communication between the city and Mt. Ashland Association are strained since the Ashland City Council requested MAA provide a detailed business plan before initiating expansion activity. City officials worry the ski area's failure could leave the city to foot the bill.

The struggle follows a Sept. 20 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner in favor of the U.S. Forest Service in a lawsuit against the organization for approving the ski area expansion. Panner has not yet released an opinion explaining his ruling. Although plaintiffs in the lawsuit &

one being the Rogue Group Sierra Club &

plan to file an appeal, logging in the expansion area could begin before that happens, environmental groups say.

The Oct. 12 letter, signed by Mt. Ashland Association President Bill Little, states the city's bypassing of the group to deal directly with the Forest Service violates the lease.

"The terms of the lease do not allow for the city to exclude MAA from some or all of its performance obligations under the permit," the letter reads.

Its request to deal directly with the Forest Service on expansion issues, may violate some legal aspects of the lease, Little's letter reads.

"The city's actions further violate the lease by interfering with MAA's planned expansion of the ski area as expressly authorized by sections — and 6 of the lease," it reads.

Section three of the city's lease states the ski area has the exclusive right to work on the ski area. Section six states the Mt. Ashland Association has the right to make changes to the area as it deems necessary.

The Mt. Ashland Association's letter could mean a lawsuit against the city for breaking the lease, Bennett said.

"We recognize that it laid out the grounds for possible litigation," she said.

Bennett would not say what specific actions the city is taking to respond to the letter other than consulting with another attorney to determine its standing regarding the lease with the Mt. Ashland Association.

Ashland City Attorney Mike Franell would not comment on the matter. Little was also not available for comment Wednesday.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or .