Keystone, county hash out flooding details |

Keystone, county hash out flooding details

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Keystone officials asked the Summit County commissioners for a way to “get closure” in the Summit Cove area flooding issues, but commissioners said they can’t yet agree to that.

Keystone Resort is agreeing to pay its share and do a large portion of the work designed to head off any future flooding problems in the area.

Resort officials sat down with the county commissioners this week to talk about the two groups’ roles in the project. Last week, when the commissioners decided to go ahead with a $1.2 million flood-prevention plan, Keystone’s decision-makers were all out of town and unable to speak about the issue.

Homeowners in the Summit Cove and KeyWest Farms area have experienced flooding – in streets, garage and lower levels of homes – for the past four years. Many homeowners believe drainage problems on Keystone’s River Course, which opened in 2000, is at fault for the problems. But a recent report by a county-hired engineering firm shows some county infrastructure also plays a role in the trouble.

Keystone is paying the cost of nearly half of the total plan and will be entirely responsible for drainage improvements on the golf course – work slated for completion this fall. Keystone Resort Chief Operations Officer John Rutter said this week that Keystone and the county “are very basically in agreement.”

“We think we need to get some closure on this,” he told the commissioners, so that “whatever issues are left are between the homeowners and the county.

“What we’re looking for is some recognition that what we have done addresses the golf-course issues, that the golf course is recognized as having done what needs to be done to solve its problems,” Rutter said. “We don’t want to be accountable for the drainage in Summit Cove or KeyWest Farms. Certainly, there are guys on our side who are saying we’re exceeding our requirements.”

Because a report shows part of the flooding issues springs from silted-in ditches for which the county is responsible, Commissioner Tom Long said he understands Rutter’s request.

“That’s very fair,” he said. “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”

But Commissioner Bill Wallace said he wants the repair work to stand a test of time.

“I am a little gun shy in signing off on this without having lived through a season,” he said.

Long agreed.

“I’d like to see the county get to that point, too,” he said. “But we kind of all came on together and I think we’re going to need to stick around together.”

Instead of Keystone simply signing off on the issue after it completes its portion of drainage work, county attorney Jeff Huntley suggested the two parties sign a memorandum of understanding that Keystone and the county keep talking about the issue.

“We’re going to have some language in the agreement that will talk about continuing to cooperate in a constructive fashion,” Huntley said, “but there wouldn’t be any firm obligation for Keystone to contribute any future monies toward the improvement or upgrade of the county drainage system. Keystone will still be responsible for their golf course, but if they see problems out there, they’ll work on them.

“Given the track record of working constructively with Keystone on the problem, certainly in recent weeks and throughout the past couple of years, our hope is that we can continue that.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

Couple files suit against county over flooding

KEYSTONE – Karl and Janet Bierbaum again are filing suit because of flooding problems in their KeyWest Farms neighborhood, but this time it’s against Summit County.

The Bierbaums, whose duplex unit backs up to the course, sued Keystone Resort and Vail Resorts after an April 2000 flood so damaged their home they couldn’t use the ground level. The two parties settled last summer, with the resort agreeing to bring the Bierbaum home back to pre-flood condition, to pay the couple’s legal fees and to improve drainage around the house.

But the couple says the problems they experienced weren’t caused by Keystone alone.

Karl Bierbaum claims the county hasn’t enforced its own drainage code. If it had, the flooding wouldn’t have occurred, he said.

“It’s kind of sad that after four years, we have to take legal action against the government to get them to enforce their own drainage code,” he said.

The Bierbaums filed suit against the county July 22, after another round of flooding. A week after that incident, the Summit County Commissioners voted to go ahead with a $1.2 million drainage improvement plan. That decision comes too late for the Bierbaums.

Karl Bierbaum said he and his wife haven’t asked for a specific amount of money but admitted “that would be part of” their reason for filing.

County Attorney Jeff Huntley said the county hasn’t yet responded to the suit but will before the Aug. 19 deadline.

The Bierbaums’ neighbors, many of whom also are impacted by the flooding, haven’t joined them in either of their suits. Karl Bierbaum said he’s talked to them about the idea.

“Some of the responses I’ve gotten is, “It’s government and a big corporation. What do you expect?'” he said.

– Jane Reuter

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