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Paoli Peaks wins big in battle with landlord over logging

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The owners of the Paoli Peaks ski resort have prevailed in a battle with their landlord, who had sought to squeeze additional revenue out of the 68-acre property by launching a logging operation.

The ski resort, which controls the southern Indiana property under a 100-year lease from the late 1970s, argued in court filings that cutting trees would violate its lease and jeopardize its business.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young in a ruling Thursday ordered a trust that owns the land to pay Missouri-based Paoli Peaks Inc. $85,222.50 for attorney's fees. The judgment follows a ruling in April that blocked the landlords from logging on the property.

Co-trustees Philip D. Weeks, Sally P. Stouse and Vann A. Weeks—heirs to Charles Weeks, who signed the original lease—showed up at the property in June 2011 and informed the general manager that they intended to begin a logging operation, court filings show.

Paoli Peaks filed suit in July 2011. The company called three witnesses including a snowmaking expert who testified that the facility's trees are vital for protecting the snow from sun and wind and to "satisfy the customers' expectation of skiing in a natural environment."

Only one witness, Philip Weeks, testified for the defendant. Under cross examination, Weeks admitted that the family intended to log the property despite the fact the lease did not grant them the right to do so, Judge Young noted in his decision.

"The court finds that Defendants asserted both before and after the litigation commenced, frivolous, unreasonable, and groundless claims and defenses, despite ample opportunities to withdraw them," Young wrote. "Defendants’ actions resulted in the unnecessary expenditure of the time and resources of the court and of Plaintiff.

The judgment amount represents more than one year's rent, which is based on operating revenue and averages about $50,000 per year.

Paoli Peaks is about 90 miles south of Indianapolis.

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