From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 18 - July 29, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Lawyers file for summary judgment in PDR case

by Cat Urbigkit

Friday, attorneys representing Pinedale resident Bob Harrower filed a motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit challenging the purchase of development rights program approved by the Sublette County Commission.

Joe Becker of Mountain States Legal Foundation said in an interview that his firm contends there are no issues of material fact, that the case is simply a matter of law that the judge should decide without further ado.

The brief accompanying the motion focused on three reasons why the court should strike down the PDR program. The first reason is that the county, by purchasing the development rights, would be exceeding its statutory authority, since Wyoming law limits the type of purchases to "only for use by the county." Since the county won't be using the property at issue, and public access won't be allowed, it's statutorily prohibited, according to Mountain States.

The PDR program also violates the Wyoming Constitution, according to Becker. He said that while there would be a constitutional "gift ban" on the county turning the easement over to an environmental trust, what the county gets in the exchange is an easement that doesn't go with the land. Becker said that since the county isn't getting adequate compensation in the deal, it constitutes a gift, violating the constitutional ban.

The last issue argued is that the county violated due process when it approved the PDR program and allocated $500,000 for the program. Becker noted that at an April 2003 commission meeting in Marbleton, the commission told the public at the meeting that it had suspended consideration of the issue because of the legal questions involved in the matter. Then, without public notice, the commission approved the program at its next meeting in May.

Becker said that when the commission announces a process and then fails to follow it, that's a violation of due process.

The county has 10 days to file its response to Harrower's motion.

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