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July 30, 2008 2:00 pm

Supreme Court rules in favor of Copperleaf opposition

Written by Tribune Staff

The Copperleaf saga continues.
The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the group opposing the subdivision can challenge the development.
The Worthington Group is building about 155 residences on roughly 550 acres west of Wapiti.
Some landowners living near the subdivision, called the Northfork Citizens for Responsible Development, have been seeking to put a stop to it.
The Park County Commission approved the subdivision's plans back in June 2005. The Northfork Citizens believe that approval should have never been given and sued in District Court to appeal the commission's decision.
Last July, District Judge Steve Cranfill dismissed the Northfork Citizens' case — ruling they lacked the legal standing to sue.
“The court finds that the interest of this group is no different than that of the public at large,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court disagreed.
Two of the group's members — David Jamison and Robert Hoszwa — own property bordering the subdivision, and the court found that their concerns were greater than the general public's.
The landowners claim that the subdivision will interfere with their scenic views, damage wildlife habitat and migration and are concerned with the increase in housing density.
That was enough to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that they are “aggrieved or adversely affected by the County's decisions” — the qualification needed to bring a suit.
Attorney Deb Wendtland, who is representing the Northfork Citizens, said she was pleased with the decision. She said it had “energized” her clients.
Attorney Laurence Stinson, representing the Worthington Group, said the decision changes little, and that his clients will be “moving forward as they have been.”
“Nothing in the Supreme Court ruling suprises me,” Stinson said. “They decided if you live next door to a project, you have the right to complain about it.”
Stinson said the group is simply trying to harass Copperleaf's developers.
Wendtland said the case is bigger than just the Wapiti landowners. She said the decision is important for impacted landowners throughout the state who now have the opportunity to “have their day in court.”
“Wyoming is kind of ground zero for development,” she said. “That's not a bad thing, but it is something that should make us say, ‘Let's do it responsibly.'”
Stinson said that as long as the county followed its own planning and zoning rules in approving the subdivision, the court will defer to the commissioner's judgement and allow the development to stand.
Construction is already underway at the subdivision.
Wendtland said that with the case still pending, the developers are doing so “at their own peril.”