The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 17 - 12/23/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Commissioners Bend in Stuart Thompson Case
In a special meeting Monday, the Sublette County Commissioners agreed to ask District Court Judge Nicholas Kalokathis to amend his recent court order in the county's legal fight with White Pine owner Stuart Thompson. The commission, through County Attorney Dale Aronson, will ask Judge Kalokathis to allow Mr. Thompson to use his property on James Lane above Pinedale for snowplow and sand truck storage this winter so Mr. Thompson can plow Skyline Drive up to the ski area.
Last fall, the commissioners sued Mr. Thompson over the use of his ranch property on James Lane for White Pine-related and other commercial activities. Mr. Thompson's neighbors had complained to the county that the commercial activity at the Thompson's property was decreasing their property values and was in violation of the county zoning regulations. The commissioners agreed, and won the case in Judge Kalokathis' court.
Mr. Thompson appealed the ruling to the Wyoming Supreme Court, and earlier this month Judge Kalokathis issued an order suspending the injunction pending Mr. Thompson's appeal. As part of the terms of his injunction, the Judge ordered that Mr. Thompson may store a plow and sand truck at his James Lane property, but the vehicles cannot be used for any White Pine-related activities, including plowing Skyline Drive.
However, the county and the Forest Service have agreed to contract with Mr. Thompson and White Pine to plow Skyline Drive this winter. Mr. Thompson had intended to store the vehicles needed at his James Lane property for this purpose.
On Monday, Pinedale District Ranger Bob Reese asked the commissioners to work with Mr. Thompson so he could plow the road to White Pine. "We've been working on trying to get that ski area up and running for eleven years - ever since I got here," Mr. Reese began. He continued that White Pine promised many advantages for Pinedale's wintertime economy and recreation opportunities.
"Normally, the Forest Service wouldn't get involved, but this planning and zoning issue is getting in the way of opening the ski area," continued Mr. Reese. "I would hope that we could come to some agreement so we could get off dead center and move ahead."
Attorney Gerald Mason, representing Mr. Thompson at the meeting, told the commissioners that Mr. Thompson was interested in settling the dispute and dismissing his appeal. Mr. Thompson told the commissioners that he eventually planned to build a shop at the ski area, but finances wouldn't support construction now. He said the ski area would need to draw 40,000 skiers a year before a shop could be built. He hopes it will draw 20,000 to 30,000 skiers its first year.
Commissioner Gordon Johnston said he sincerely hopes White Pine is successful, but he was reluctant to allow use of the James Lane property "when it wouldn't solve the neighbors' problems."
To this Mr. Thompson responded the same truck that would plow Skyline Drive also plows James Lane - for his neighbors. "I think it's disingenuous to complain about the truck that plows the road to their house," he replied.
Commissioner Betty Fear told Mr. Thompson she could compromise on the plow and sand truck, but wasn't sure she wanted to allow use of the James Lane property for maintenance of snow cats and other equipment operating at White Pine.
In the end, the commissioners agreed to ask Judge Kalokathis to rescind the part of his order preventing the use of Thompson's James Lane property to store the trucks that will plow Skyline Drive this winter. Mr. Thompson agreed to immediately go to Planning & Zoning and request a conditional use permit for all the White Pine-related activity at his James Lane property.
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