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Dealing with Big Mine Park avalanche danger

Town and homeowners agree to have a sit-down

By Mark Reaman

A dozen homeowners and the town of Crested Butte are trying to iron out who is liable for avalanche danger from the hill above Big Mine Park.

The 12 owners in the Heights subdivision collectively own the hill. The town attempted last December to formalize the avalanche mitigation work the town has done for more than 15 years. The owners didn’t like the terms proposed by the town, so they hired the Law of the Rockies law firm to represent them.

Attorney Jacob With discussed the situation with the town at the February 6 Town Council meeting and explained that his clients want to support the town and protect the citizens but do not want to be held liable for potential accidents that result from avalanche work on the open space hill. They also want to make sure that structures such as avalanche fences do not impede their views.

The town has some hurdles with insurance concerns from its carrier as well. Town attorney John Belkin said the two sides are far apart on the issue since any avalanche would originate on the homeowner’s property.

“Ultimately, the long-term solution is probably the town acquiring the property and building a fence there,” Belkin said.

“That might be okay with my clients if the structure can’t be seen by the residents,” said With.

“I would like to see both sides sit down for a meeting and try to communicate and bridge the gap,” said Crested Butte mayor Glenn Michel.

“We are willing to do that and I think we can narrow it down pretty quick if we can communicate effectively,” said With.

“We just don’t want this in limbo where we can’t mitigate the avalanche danger,” added councilman Roland Mason.

“As for the last 20 years, there is no intent to pursue any trespassing on that property at the moment,” said With.

The lawyers will sit down and see if an easy solution is possible.

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