Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

September 6, 2006
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the Study Session to order at 5:15 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Silbiger, Hartzell, Amarotico, Hardesty, Jackson and Chapman were present.
1. Discussion of Mt. Ashland
City Administrator Martha Bennett noted two errors on the Council Communication: 1) the ORS reference should read ORS 192.502(4), and 2) Staff Recommendation #5 should have reflected the fact that the figures need to be adjusted for inflation.

Public Works Director Paula Brown presented conceptual ideas for the Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Team. She explained this team has to be the technical advisors and have authority to tell Mt. Ashland Association what needs to be changed during construction. She commented on the issues of erosion and sediment control and stated the team must addresses these issues before and during construction. Ms. Brown clarified the purpose of the QA/QC Team is help move construction activities along in an environmentally appropriate manner so there are no soil and erosion issues from a water quality and quantity standpoint. She stated this team needs to be involved in the planning for construction activities and will help to make assessments and changes as needed. Ms. Brown recommended the City and the Mt. Ashland Association share costs for the technical services of the QA/QC Team.

Ms. Brown clarified the project manager for the construction project is different than a QA/QC team. She also commented on the formation of an Advisory Group which would assist the City Council, Mt. Ashland Association, the Forest Service, and the community to provide input. She noted this element was missing from the role of the QA/QC Team. Ms. Brown clarified the Advisory Group would consist of one City staff member (Ms. Brown), a City Council liaison, a Mt. Ashland Association staff or board member, a Forest Service staff member, and one to two community members that have a water quality background and interest.

Bill Little of Mt. Ashland Association addressed the Council and introduced project manager Michael Hogan. Mr. Little clarified Mt. Ashland Association has not formally requested that Mr. Hogan be part of the QA/QC Team and clarified Mt. Ashland Association will utilize Mr. Hogan's services throughout this process.

Mayor Morrison briefly addressed the audience and explained the meeting process that will be utilized.

Mr. Hogan addressed the Council and delivered a slide show presentation which covered:

• Models/contexts for restoration and erosion.
• Three categories of function: hydrologic, nutrient cycling, and energy capture.
• Elements of repeatable success: process, practice, monitor, and feedback.
• Implementation testing and assumptions.
• Infiltration data and sediment yield.
• Variables for site stability.
• Success criteria.
• Process outline.
• IERS activities.

Mr. Hogan recommended the QA/QC Team members have ecological expertise and noted the importance of having clear goals. He also recommended the team be made of members that have a tract record of working together and a level of trust and integrity along with expertise.

Council asked for clarification of Mr. Hogan's arrangement with Mt. Ashland Association. Mr. Hogan stated it has been on an "as we go" basis. He clarified he was hired to get ahead of some of the baseline monitoring and has been asked to assist with the planning stage and perhaps provide oversight for implementation. Mr. Hogan commented on the need to establish specifications for restoration and erosion control and stated this needs to be integrated into the engineering elements of the whole process. He recommended the QA/QC Team be brought together early on and stated this team and the planning team will need to work as an integral unit from the beginning.

Council briefly discussed the meeting process they wanted to follow and it was suggested that another meeting may be necessary to work out all the details.

Council asked for Mr. Hogan's opinion on what would happen with restoration if the ski area was no longer being utilized. Mr. Hogan stated he sees potential through this project for a general improvement of the overall water quality in the watershed. He stated most of the ski runs to be cut will only have the trees taken off and equipment is not to be placed on most of the slopes. He stated when this happens, nature does not leave a void and the overstory will open, the shrubs will respond, and it mimics a forest opening. He stated the soil will still be intact and functioning and you see a different vegetation succession. He added the areas of concern are the long traverse that goes to the bottom of the new lift and the grating near the top of one of the beginner runs. He explained the plan he will bring forward if asked will be to bring those areas to a functional state that will be as stable and as able to infiltrate water as the native areas, with the exception of the surface of the run itself.

Mr. Hogan commented on the term "capital". He stated to go forward the money will have to be capitalized correctly; however this term is also used in terms of restoration and refers to organic matter and functional elements. He stated there are ways to keep the ecological capital without spending a lot of money and involves careful, upfront planning and internal cycling of materials.

Mr. Little stated he hopes they have adequately demonstrated that Mt. Ashland Association is truly concerned about quality and are willing to make the investment to do the best job possible. He shared his concerns that this process will become more political than scientific and requested the City and Mt. Ashland Association work together to develop the guidelines.

Ms. Brown suggested that Mr. Hogan be a part of the QA/QC Team and recommended that candidates be identified within the next two weeks. Council was asked to forward their recommendations for the composition of the QA/QC Team and Advisory Team to Ms. Brown.

MAA Business Plan
City Administrator Martha Bennett relayed Mt. Ashland Association's concern about releasing proprietary data about their operations to competitors. Ms. Bennett proposed two ideas to deal with this issue that would provide the City the level of detail necessary to analyze the summary data provided in the business plan.

Idea 1: According to ORS 192.502(4), Mt. Ashland Association can submit documents to the City in confidence and the City can keep those documents confidential. However, there is some risk that someone would request this information from the City and the District Attorney would end up determining whether the City must release the information.

Idea 2: The City could bring in an outside expert to meet with Mt. Ashland Association in confidence, review the business plan, and issue a summary report to the City.

Mt. Ashland Association board member Joan Thorndyke addressed the Council. She stated in terms of the business plan, they are going to follow their legal counsel's advice. She stated the Association has submitted an abbreviated form of the business plan and at this time the abbreviated version is as much as they can provide. Ms. Thorndyke stated the business plan will not be provided until Judge Panner has ruled on the pending court case and their legal counsel has permitted them to release this information. Mr. Little added Mt. Ashland Association's legal counsel has strongly advised against them releasing any additional financial information to the City while there is pending litigation and appeals, and has stated the information contained in the detailed plan could be used in the current litigation and it is against their best interest to release this information to the City.

Council asked Mr. Little if the independent review option was possible and he stated he would discuss this option with their legal counsel.

Council commented on the two options presented by Ms. Bennett. Some concern was expressed with option one and the City's inability to guarantee the documents confidentiality. In regards to the second option, statement was made that the summary report from the outside expert might not respond to all of the Council's questions and the City would have to carefully articulate what they want included in the summary report. Comment was made that the City and community need assurance that they will be protected if things don't go right on the mountain. Additional comment was made requesting assurance from Mt. Ashland Association that they will not cut down trees until there is adequate funding to complete the job.

Ms. Thorndyke noted Mt. Ashland Association intends on discussing the issue of climate change with the City. Mr. Hogan made assessment that over a period of thirty years, the forest could restore itself.

It was questioned why Mt. Ashland Association would proceed with cutting down trees until all of the legal and financial questions have been resolved. Mr. Little stated their responsibility is to protect the interests of their stakeholders and to provide recreation services. He stated it would be irresponsible for them to make a commitment on how they will proceed without knowing how Judge Tanner will rule, how the Forest Service will respond, and how their legal counsel will advise. He stated they need to be prepared for all contingencies and assured the Council they would not act without first talking with the City.

Staff was asked to clarify why the City would have an interest in the timber, but not the trees. City Attorney Mike Franell explained the City has given permission to Mt. Ashland Association to use the resource on the mountain, but has retained ownership of the permit property and the equipment under the lease. Because the lease specifically names equipment separately from the permit property, he believes there is a financial interest on the part of the City in both the equipment and the timber, but we have signed away the interest in the use of the land as long as it is in accordance with the lease.

Comment was made voicing support for the independent auditor to review the Mt. Ashland Association's business plan and to report back to the Council. Additional comment was made requesting the QA/QC Team be in place before trees as cut.

Cost Estimate for Removal and Restoration
Ms. Brown stated the adjusted cost for restoration is $400,000-$500,000 and explained how she obtained this figure and determined the definition of "restoration". She noted the reclamation costs would go well beyond this figure and clarified any change in the definition of restoration would have to come from the Forest Service. Ms. Brown stated that City staff is not qualified to verify the value of the liquid assets on the mountain and the City would need to hire someone to perform this appraisal. She added cost for this service would be approximately $10,000.

Ms. Brown clarified the difference between reclamation and restoration and stated reclamation is putting the land back as if there was never any ski area.

Ms. Bennett questioned whether Council wanted staff to pursue the liquid asset appraisal. She clarified if the value of the assets are less than the $294,000 figure, staff require Mt. Ashland Association to securing the balance. If the assets are greater than 10% of $294,000, the City would be responsible for paying for the appraisal.

Mr. Little questioned if Mt. Ashland Association should submit a summary of their assets from their accountant as a preliminary document.

Administrative Services & Finance Lee Tuneberg Finance Director explained Mt. Ashland Association could submit a listing of assets, however the City is interested in liquidation value. He explained the provision for obtaining the appraisal, which is outlined in the lease agreement, and recommended the City hire an appraiser who is familiar with the ski industry.

Council reached consensus to have staff move forward with the liquid assets appraisal.

Councilor Hartzell left the meeting at 7:40 p.m.

Paul Copeland/462 Jennifer Street/Disagreed with the statement made that cutting timber would not cause disturbance. Mr. Copeland stated in order to have usable ski runs there will be need to be some blasting after the timber falling is complete. He stated Mt. Ashland Association has grossly minimized what the ground disturbance will be and noted local experts have indicated the timber would never grow back due to the type of soil and because it is an alpine area.

Bryan Holley/324 Liberty Street/Stated the City is being "zoomed" by Mt. Ashland Association. He voiced his objections to the reasons Mt. Ashland Association gave for not releasing their business plan and stated if they won't provide this information, this City should pull their permit. Ms. Holley stated 100% of the community needs good quality drinking water, however only a small portion skis. He stated most of the people in town are opposed to the expansion and stated they are being held hostage by a small minority. He questioned who Mr. Little was referring to by "stakeholders" and stated former mayor Alan DeBoer should have recused himself from the previous decisions that were made.

Chris Uhtoff/78 Fourth Street/Stated he is a skier who loves skiing at Mt. Ashland and does not feel Mt. Ashland Association is representing the skiing community very well. He stated they have double the price of ski passes and it is now one of the most unaffordable ski areas on the west coast. Mr. Uhtoff stated Mt. Ashland has the greatest potential by being a small, affordable ski area that services the community and claimed the Association does not want to share their business plan because they do not want the City to know how much they spend on administration.

Mat Marr/31 Union Street/Commented on Ms. Thorndyke's statement that they need to talk about climate change and stated he completely agrees. Mr. Marr submitted a study done by Oregon State University titled "Mapping At-Risk Snow in the Pacific Northwest" into the public record. He stated the ski industry in the northwest is doomed and within the next 35 years the number of warm snow winters at Mt. Ashland will increase from 7% to 42%. He stated these types of winters are what forced the previous ski area out of business and commented on the City's need for water. Mr. Marr requested the City not give their written consent until Mt. Ashland Association has met the terms of the agreement and stated the trees on the expansion site are second generation spruce trees and will not be the first trees to sprout when the site begins to re-grow.

Nick Frost/224 Third Street/Voiced his distress by the Council's unwillingness to acknowledge that they are in a bind. He stated the City is liable if the plan fails, and stated they are unable to make an informed decision without the Association's business plan. Mr. Frost commented on the combative attitude being displayed and requested Mt. Ashland Association cooperate with the Council and work to find a solution that will bring unity to Ashland.

Eric Navickas/363 ½ Iowa Street/Stated the majority of this community is clearly opposed to this development proposal. He noted the City's Comprehensive Plan clearly states the City should oppose developments in the municipal watershed or any project that would have adverse affects on the watershed. Mr. Navickas noted he hiked the expansion area today and ran into Mr. Hogan and his crew who were performing a rain water study. They told him they were seeing a lot of sediment coming off of areas that had been impacted by the current development. He stated this is work that should have been done ten years ago and commented on the poor condition of this area. As one of the litigants in the current court case, Mr. Navickas stated there is no way they the financial plan could be used in court against Mt. Ashland Association.

Linda Richards/245 East Nevada Street/Commented on her work with one of the previous appeals and the Forest Service's response. She stated there have been extensive predictions made on what will happen with climate change and stated recreation needs must be challenged in order to protect the City's water. She asked the Council to think of the future and how much our children will need that watershed.

Jim Steitz/357 Vista Street #5/Stated the ski resort operators have a very acute skill for picking very bad places to expand. He stated they claim to be good stewards, but have picked some very vulnerable and rich areas to go into. Mr. Steitz stated the Association is suppose to be operating this resort for the public, but are doing things that are not in the City's best interest, like withholding information. He stated they are not suppose to be working on their own behalf, and believes the "stakeholders" they refer to are the members of the board.

Councilors Silbiger and Amarotico left the meeting at 8:05 p.m.

Tom Dimitre/901 Beach Street/Asked the Council to make sure Mt. Ashland Association complies with agreement and ensure they have raised the adequate amount of money before they are allowed to proceed with the expansion. As a taxpayer of the City of Ashland, he requested the Council protect the citizens from this liability.

Tom Rose/430 Wiley Street/Statement detailing how MAA has failed to meet the goals of Resolution 2005-35 was read into the public record.

Meeting adjourned at 8:11 p.m.

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor

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