It's too soon for owners of the Hi-Ute Ranch near Kimball Junction to stop $2 million in state money from being used to build a winter sports park that would house Olympic events, a judge has ruled.
But an attorney for the ranch owners said it may be too late to stop construction once the money is transferred from the state's Permanent Community Impact Fund to the Summit County Building Authority."At this point, the horse is already out of the barn. Once the grant is made, it's too late," said Kevin N. Anderson, attorney for the Hi-Ute Investment Co.
Anderson told the court he feared construction on the $30 million winter sports park, which would include ski jumps, a bobsled and luge run and other facilities, would begin as soon as the money is turned over to the county.
"Who knows what will happen," 3rd District Judge Pat B. Brian said before he dismissed the case Monday, finding that the ranch owners had no standing to challenge the grant because it was not clear yet how the money would be spent "It could be that after study as a result of the funds and community input . . . that the proposal as it now stands may be altered dramatically," the judge said, calling Hi-Ute's suit "premature."
However, he added that his ruling was not a determination of the merits of the Hi-Ute owners' case against the state Community Impact Board and the Summit County Building Authority.
Hi-Ute sued last October after unsuccessfully trying to get the winter sports park moved, claiming development of adjacent property would damage the "pristine beauty of the area."
After negotiations for use of Hi-Ute land for the winter sports park facilities fell through, the state agreed to build an access road to adjacent property in exchange for a donation of land by the owner.
Money for the road and other development will come from the Permanent Community Impact Fund, which distributes mineral lease royalties to areas adversely affected by oil, gas or coal extraction.
The ranch owners argue that under state law, the mineral lease royalties cannot be used for the winter sports park. Anderson said the case he was building against the state was based on that claim.
Brian said in his ruling that the Community Impact Board, which administers the mineral lease royalties, could designate that it be used for a public purpose.
Anderson said the plaintiffs now must decide whether to appeal the ruling.