Town Council: Town of Silverthorne has a duty to complete trail
An open letter to the Silverthorne community re. Ballot Question 1
We, the elected members of the Silverthorne Town Council, have asked for the opportunity to comment on our strong opposition to Ballot Question 1.
At its core, the ballot issue is nothing more than eight property owners attempting to stop the town from expanding a long-standing easement to allow the Blue River Trail to traverse their property. The town has owned this easement since 1967. The easement runs along the river, and we have attempted numerous times to engage the landowners in discussions as to where the placement of the trail would least impact them. The town has a 1992 signed agreement from Laura Lyddy stating that she would work with the town to find an agreeable alignment that would leave the large trees along the river intact. We are working to complete a trail along the Blue River that is safe and accessible to everyone, not a trail that involves a street detour forcing trail users to an unsafe route that includes 10 vehicle intersections and over 50 driveway crossings.
The landowners contend that the town is attempting to take away property rights through eminent domain. In fact, just the opposite is true. The town has tried to negotiate with these landowners for years to defend our own property rights, which is the exercise of the easement. Although we have negotiated numerous, mutually acceptable agreements both in this section of the Blue River Trail, as well as the four completed sections, these few landowners absolutely refuse to negotiate. Eminent domain gives the town the right to go to court to protect the town’s interests and rights. Eminent domain is not the automatic taking of property by the town – it is a last-ditch recourse after negotiations have failed to allow a court to decide if the town has the right to purchase the property under eminent domain and how much the town would have to pay for the property under current market values.
The landowners have stated that they would be responsible for any liability if someone were hurt along the trail. The liability related to a public easement across private property lies with the town, not the landowner. Homeowners have their insurance and the town has ours. A homeowner would not be liable for our negligence in constructing and maintaining the trail and we would not be liable for their negligence. If there was a claim and the town was negligent, there is no cap on the amount that the injured party could request from our policy. If someone was hurt and it was determined that the town was not negligent, then a $600,000 cap applies from our policy, and they would be free to sue the town for additional restitution.
As the elected representatives of our community, we have the duty to implement the long-standing community vision of completing the Blue River Trail. The town’s commitment is to deliver a quality trail, both sensitive to the environment and addressing the concerns of adjacent neighbors. This has been clearly demonstrated through the design and construction of the first four segments of the Blue River Trail. The only reason eminent domain is at issue now is that a handful of Blue River Trail opponents have refused negotiation, court-ordered mediation and generous cash offers to complete the Blue River Trail and have left the town with no other options.
Please understand that Ballot Question 1 is a diversionary attempt to distract voters from the real issue – completion of the Blue River Trail. The truth is the Town of Silverthorne is 45 years old and has never exercised its power of eminent domain – not for the Recreation Center, not for Town Hall, not for the Pavilion, not for Rainbow Park – never!
If you support the trail as an asset for current and future citizens for generations to come, reject the motives of the supporters of Ballot Question 1. On Aug. 14, vote “no” on Ballot Question 1 and save the Blue River Trail.
Member of the Silverthorne Town Council are Dave Koop, Bruce Butler, David Preaus, Derrick Fowler, Dave Anderson, Ann-Marie Sandquist and Stuart Richardson.
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