From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 41 - January 6, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County wants PDR decision

by Cat Urbigkit

Even though two of three county commissioners don't support a county-funded purchase of development rights program for Sublette County, two of three county commissioners do want a court to decide whether such a program is legal.

Commissioners John Linn and Bill Cramer are opposed to the program, but Cramer and Commission Chair Betty Fear said Tuesday that they would like to get a court answer on the legality of the program.

Fear said it's her opinion that the program itself is dead in the water, so the county won't be revisiting the issue of funding a particular project.

Five-hundred thousand dollars in funding for the PDR program remains in the current budget, which expires at the end of June. The money is in a reserve account, not in a spending account, according to Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford.

Last year, the county commission voted to participate in purchasing a conservation easement on ranch property owned by the Murdock family near Pinedale, but Fear said it's her understanding that the particular project had its own problems, so it appears county participation is now out. The county was slated to contribute $416,000 for a quarter-share in the easement and the deal was to be completed by the end of 2004, but that didn't occur.

Last summer, Bob Harrower of Pinedale, with the legal expertise of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the PDR program. After commissioner Gordon Johnston, an avid supporter of the program, lost his bid for re-election, in December the county entered into an agreement to put the lawsuit on hold until after the first of the year when Linn took office. That changed the makeup of the county commission to a majority board against the program, rather than for it.

The agreement reportedly stipulated that the county would not take any further action toward funding or closing any deal involving PDRs until Jan. 5. That gave the commission a chance to seek dismissal of the suit, should it so wish.

Tuesday, Jan. 4, was Linn's first day in office. The commission did not officially address the PDR issue, but Fear said the commission's next step would be to confer with Sublette County Attorney Van Graham about the matter.

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