Town erred by classifying Lowe’s as a hardware store, lawsuit claims
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Silverthorne is facing a lawsuit over its decision to classify Lowe’s as a hardware store even though only about five percent of the company’s sales come from the hardware category. The complaint was filed in district court Thursday, said attorney Rob Waterman, who is representing four Silverthorne-area residents who believe the development will affect use and enjoyment of their property.
Waterman said the town abused its discretion by randomly choosing the hardware category, which confers a use-by-right in the town’s light industrial zone. Under a different category — lumber and building supplies, for example, the development rights are conditional, meaning the town can require more concessions from a developer, which would have given the town a stronger bargaining position in its negotiations with Lowe’s.
Waterman said town officials were not happy about the lawsuit, but probably knew it was coming. Waterman, who resigned his position as president of the Summit Chamber of Commerce before filing the suit, spoke at the Sept. 8 hearing on the development application and outlined the same legal points that are raised in the formal legal complaint.
The lawsuit argues that the initial failure by Silverthorne to make an accurate classification nullifies the town’s subsequent decisions on the application.
“The lawsuit is basically asking the judge to tell Silverthorne, ‘Hey, you have to go back and do a classification based on facts,’” Waterman said.
As evidence, Waterman submitted the company’s SEC filings, in which Lowe’s classifies itself as a lumber and building supply retailer – not as a hardware store.
Along with the lawsuit, there are also questions about the geology of the site. A late-August comment letter from the Colorado Geological Survey recommends against approval of the store pending resolution of some of the questions about the stability of the hillside and the engineering and design for a planned retaining wall.
This story will be updated.