Mt. Ashland expansion negotiations continue

Negotiations continue between the Mt. Ashland Association and the Ashland City Council as both parties argued over an agreement that would relinquish the city’s special-use permit over the mountain during the council meeting Tuesday.

The MAA has been planning an expansion to its commercial ski area since 1998, and by giving up the special-use permit the city would allow the MAA to petition the U.S. Forest Service and become the new permit holder, allowing it to begin construction.

The city council agreed in August to give up the permit only if certain conditions were met, such as requiring that the MAA can’t log until it has sufficient funds to finish the expansion and allowing a council member to sit on the MAA’s board of directors. The MAA’s amendments to the city’s conditions were the topic of discussion Tuesday night.

Chief among the MAA’s objections was the city’s requirement that the association have $700,000 on hand for restoration projects if the expansion fell through and the city had to clean up the mess, arguing that the U.S. Forest Service should come up with the amount.

“The USFS, as landlord, has both the expertise and experience in the field to determine an appropriate sum to be held for restoration activities,” read the letter the MAA sent to the council.

Some council members were worried that the MAA would clear-cut the mountain in preparation for the expansion, and then not have adequate funding to complete the ski lifts and other improvements.

“We need to have the $700,000 in case we end up having to do the restoration,” said Council Member Carol Voisin. “There’s a document that shows us it would cost $921,000 to do removal.”

“Even the $700,000 doesn’t cover us, and that concerns me,” she added, saying that the council should consult with the Forest Service before voting on the issue.

Not all council members were as adamant as Voisin about the $700,000 though.

“It really is an arbitrary number,” said Greg Lemhouse, a council member. “It’s more reasonable to say ‘Let the Forest Service come up with the number.’”

Another point of contention was the council’s requirement that the MAA raise enough money to see the project through before they started logging, with the MAA once again arguing that the Forest Service should define how much money the association has to have before proceeding.

The council stood by their previous decision however, adding that the funding had to be in the form of performance bonds, cash contributions, and binding financial commitments.

While most council members appeared content with the agreement, Voisin called for more accountability, claiming that there was no way to guarantee the MAA would follow through on its commitments.

“Where are the teeth in this agreement?” she asked.

The proposal must be sent to the MAA for review before any official plans can be made. The Mt. Ashland Association has yet to announce their official position on the council’s amendments.

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