January 19, 2007

Hearing on controversial development postponed in Park County
"Reprinted courtesy of Evergreen Newspapers"

By Pamela Lawson
Correspondent, High Timber Times

A hearing planned for Wednesday in Park County regarding a “1041” water application by a water district in Pine Junction has been postponed.

The Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District was scheduled to go before the Park County commissioners Jan. 24 to get a final ruling on the application involving a 449-home development being planned in the area.

But ownership issues have surfaced over a ditch on Elk Creek where a head gate and pumping station for the development would be built, and concerns also have surfaced over impacts to the creek itself. The resulting uprising by area residents has prompted the district to ask for a continuance to “iron out” those issues.

“We don’t want to waste a lot of people’s time at this juncture,” said Will-O-Wisp attorney Richard Toussaint. “We are going to postpone it so that we can get the issues raised worked out and that information disseminated prior to the hearing.”

Toussaint also said he needed more time to meet with the county’s 1041 consultant on the matter, and that consultant is unavailable until Jan. 22. He believes the current misconceptions will vanish when the investigation of the issues has been completed.

Meanwhile, citizens of Jefferson and Park counties who are outraged by the possible impacts to Elk Creek continue to mount organized opposition.

A second meeting in less than a week drew upwards of 150 people to Zoka’s Restaurant in Pine Grove to prepare information the residents believe is pertinent to the case. Four days earlier, close to 60 concerned citizens met at the Bucksnort in Sphinx Park.

They made plans to contact legal help and considered ways to more effectively make their case to Park County about impacts to Elk Creek.

Others affected by the development include those who are fighting to keep Will-O-Wisp from condemning a portion of their properties for the pipeline that would run from Elk Creek to the water district about 3 miles away.

The citizens are forming a united front to voice their concerns to commissioners on both sides of the Park-Jefferson county line, and they are contacting pertinent government agencies and legal counsel for advice.

Tom Schuster, vice president of the Elk Falls Property Owners Association, who spoke at the Wednesday night meeting, believes the issue also has to do with “ethics.”

“Is this in the best interests of this community?” he asked.

No date has been set for the next hearing before commissioners regarding the 1041 application.

For more information about this case, see the story “11th hour uprising over water” also on this website, posted Jan. 17.

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