StillWaters logging still on holdPublished 11:48am Thursday, August 22, 2013
A circuit judge ruled last week that until the dispute between StillWaters Residential Association and the gated community’s largest landowner can be settled, the landowner can’t cut down any more trees on the property.
The defendant, Helena-based Riverwoods LLC, began a logging project on the property it owns at StillWaters earlier this summer, with plans to harvest the trees in most of the property it owns, including the now-dormant golf course and many of the undeveloped lots.
But the StillWaters Residential Association, which represents many of the current residents, filed for a temporary restraining order July 26 that claimed the community’s covenants forbids the cutting of trees larger than six inches without the approval of its Architectural Planning Board.
The lawsuit hinges on which covenants recorded for the property are controlling, whether its the “1987 SWRA Covenants,” which strictly limit tree removal, or the 1998 “Traditions Covenants,” which would allow Riverwoods to do with its property as it sees fit.
Circuit Judge Ray Martin, in an order filed Aug. 14, granted a preliminary injunction to forbid the further removal of trees until a final determination can be made a few months from now.
An logging expert testifying on behalf of Riverwoods said at a hearing last month that the company faces monetary damages of $250,000 for the delay, as the summer is usually the only period dry enough to move equipment in and out of the site. So the price of the timber rises during wetter periods.
To better offset the potential monetary loss the company faces from the delayed logging, Taylor granted the defendant’s request to increase the bond owed by the plaintiff from $2,000 to $10,000.
The judge also noted that issues concerning runoff and erosion “staining” Lake Martin with silt or the logging being a danger to the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, both issues raised in SWRA’s complaint, are matters “before other tribunals and this court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the same.”