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Civil suit filed in breakdown of Marshall Mountain sale in Missoula

(KPAX) A Missouri couple is asking a Missoula District Court judge to clear the way for the sale of the former Marshall Mountain Ski Area, complaining the current owners added a “last-minute demand” for broad public access at the popular recreation destination.

MTN News has learned that Spencer and Colette Melby filed the breach of contract suit late last week against Bruce and Kim Doering, who were finally moving to sell the 156-acre property at the head of Marshall Canyon.

The pending deal had concerned many local backcountry skiers and mountain bike groups accustomed to having permitted access to trails and additional public lands beyond the ski resort, which had closed in the early 2000s.

In the complaint, the Melby’s said they had agreed to buy the property for just over $2.1 million this spring. They say their initial inspection of the agreement made no mention of continuing public access, although concerns by local user groups had made it difficult to secure traditional financing.

The Melbys complain the Doerings’ added an additional exemption for public easements and events after agreeing to finance the sale privately. Their attorneys said the easement provisions, which would have also allowed events similar to what’s been held in the past, were “problematic and unacceptable.”

The Melbys claim the Doerings’ inclusion of the easements was a “pre-textual attempt to kill the deal” in favor of a local investor who had submitted a backup offer in a “cash only” purchase. The suit claims the Doerings’ terminated the agreement to sell Marshall Mountain on May 22, promising to cover legal fees and reimbursements.

However, the Melbys tell the court that’s left them in a jam because they were already selling their home and planning to move to Marshall Mountain to start work in Missoula in early June. In addition to seeking damages in trial, the couple is asking a judge to close the sale as previously agreed on June 4.

Broker Dawn Maddux of Engel & Völkers Western Frontier, who had been handling the sale and is also named in the suit, sent MTN News a written statement.

“Yes, I am aware that Dr. And Mrs. Melby have filed suit and that’s unfortunate for everyone involved. I understand their disappointment, but it’s always been my client’s goal to work with the community and allow access through the property. The current offer, which is a backup offer, is now in place which is a stronger offer and ultimately benefits our community. I am in support of this as is my client. I have chosen to donate a sizable amount of the commission to the organizations involved to help maintain this beautiful piece of Missoula.”