Village sues Elk Mtn.

BY LAURA LEGERE

Times-Shamrock Writer

The resort community at the base of Elk Mountain is suing to block the ski resort’s access to a crucial community-owned lake used for snowmaking after Elk locked the residents’ access gate to the mountain.

The suit filed in Susquehanna County Court on Dec. 19 is the culmination of a years-long quarrel between the resort community, the Village of Four Seasons, and the mountain over privileges outlined when the village and ski resort were divided from a single property decades ago.

The community was granted open access to the ski resort through a gate at the top of a private village road and the mountain was allowed to use water from the community’s 10-acre lake to make snow.

But in May, Elk permanently closed the residents’ access gate and, in response, the village withdrew its consent for Elk to draw water from its lake during this ski season and beyond. The resort has continued to use the lake water for snowmaking, according to the complaint.

In its suit Monday, the village accused the resort of a breach of contract, trespassing, negligence in failing to control its stormwater runoff through the community and other nuisances.

The direct access to the mountain has “substantial economic value to the members of the Village and their property interests,” according to the complaint. But, in at least four instances since 1988, “Elk has used the denial of direct access in an attempt to coerce the Village into surrendering portions of its real estate to Elk, on terms dictated by Elk, to accommodate Elk’s various claimed expansion plans.”

The village asked a judge to bar Elk from using its lake water and force the resort to unlock the access gate among other demands.

The community’s 10-acre lake is separated from Elk’s 4-acre pond by a breached earthen berm that the community now wants reconstructed to divide the waters.

Paul K. Leary, an attorney for Elk Mountain Ski Resort said Wednesday that the effort by the nearby resort community to bar access to the pond used for snowmaking would cost Elk “millions of dollars” and force the mountain to close during the busiest time of the year.

The Village of Four Seasons submitted a petition to Judge Seamans late Tuesday to halt water withdrawals from the pond immediately.

In response, Leary wrote to the judge arguing that if the court were to grant the community’s request, “Elk Mountain shuts down – plain and simple.”

Judge Seamans set a Jan. 13 hearing to consider the community’s petition.

Leary wrote Wednesday that a 1985 agreement between the two sides – which the village considers contractually invalid – provided Elk “with absolute control over the gate.”

“The Village can still access … the mountain by a very short drive to the main entrance gate,” he wrote.

In comparison, “Elk Mountain (and the local community) stand to lose millions of dollars,” he wrote.

The village has said in legal filings that property values in the community depend on the members’ direct access to the mountain.

In response to Elk’s letter Wednesday, the village’s attorney David Gromelski said he will let the judge decide the merits of the arguments.