Telluride filed an action to acquire 572 acres of SMVC's holdings by exercise of its powers of eminent domain in January, the culmination of years of failed efforts between the two parties to negotiate a plan for the property. The town hopes to see the parcel, which lies south of the Hwy. 145 Spur between the town limits and Society Turn, protected as open space. SMVC has repeatedly said it would use every legal means to prevent the acquisition of its property by the town.
The judge's order comes in the wake of several rulings that appear to favor the town in its condemnation effort. In October, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by Greenacre that the Town of Telluride did not breach its contractual obligations regarding the provision of sewer service when it commenced proceedings to condemn the Valley Floor.
Earlier that same month, Judge Greenacre ruled against SMVC's motion to dismiss the town's lawsuit, disagreeing with the landowner's contention that the so-called "Telluride Amendment" enacted by the Colorado General Assembly last year pre-empts the town's powers of condemnation. He also ruled, contrary to SMVC's arguments, that the town has a right to condemn for purposes of preserving open space. And he ruled that the town has not acted in bad faith in its efforts to condemn the property.
The mediation order was issued on Nov. 19, and allowed either party ten days to file a motion objecting to mediation. Neither party did so.
In his order, Judge Greenacre stipulated that preparation for trial may proceed even while the mediation effort is underway.
Telluride Mayor John Pryor said this week that he is hopeful that the mediation will be successful.
"I know that litigation is expensive and the outcome is unpredictable," Pryor said. "Even if you think have a strong case, things can change quickly. If the other party is as aware as we are that litigation is not in either side's interest, then I'm hopeful we can reach a settlement. But if not, we're prepared to go forward with the lawsuit."