By Marcy Stamper
Three Devils Road will remain open to the public while the citizens’ group seeking to keep it open and the property owner that wants to close it prepare for a September court date.
At a hearing on June 30, Douglas County Superior Court Judge John Hotchkiss agreed to a request by the Chiliwist Residents & Friends to keep the road open but required they post a $10,000 bond. The bond is required by state law because they are halting the decision by the Okanogan County commissioners to close the road, according to Barnett Kalikow, the attorney for the Chiliwist group.
Hotchkiss reduced the bond amount from the $25,000 requested by Gamble Land and Timber, which owns the land adjacent to the road. Gamble Land asked the county to vacate 3 miles of the road to protect their private property from trespassing and vandalism. The bond is intended to safeguard the property from those risks while the road remains open, said Kalikow.
Three Devils Road is a steep, primitive road that leads from the Chiliwist toward the Loup Loup summit and the Methow Valley. Gamble Land uses the adjacent property primarily for grazing and logging.
The Chiliwist group says the county commissioners violated the law when they voted in June to close the road. The group has argued that the road is an important escape route and a way to access public lands. The county’s hearing examiner recommended it remain open.
The judge also defined the documents filed in the case as the legal equivalent of an appeal of the county commissioners’ decision to vacate the road, said Kalikow.
The judge will review the record assembled by Okanogan County’s hearing examiner, which includes testimony from the public and from Gamble Land. It also includes documentation from the Chiliwist group that they say proves that the commissioners, the hearing examiner and the county engineer had a conflict of interest.
The Chiliwist residents are currently working to secure the bond, which needs to be posted by Friday (July 10), said Kalikow.
Hotchkiss also set a schedule for the parties to submit the record to the court and to follow up with briefing. A hearing has been set for Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. in Okanogan County Superior Court.
Hotchkiss is presiding over the case because both Okanogan County Superior Court judges recused themselves.