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Judge: Washington RV Park’s Lease is Flawed

April 5, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Members of an RV park in Manson, Wash., who’ve been fighting for years to stay on part of a tribal allotment that’s on Lake Chelan waterfront property suffered another legal blow on March 22.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in U.S. District Court from two years ago determining that the lease given to Mill Bay RV Resort was flawed, The Wenatchee World reported.

The leaseholder, William Wapato Evans Jr., did not properly notify all of the landowners of its intention to extend his lease for another 25 years, both courts have ruled. Evans has since died, and his grandsons are now the sole owners of Wapato Heritage LLC, which held the allotment lease.

Michael Finley, chairman of the Colville Tribes, said the RV owners remain on the land without a legal lease or sublease.

“The RV park owners probably believe they have a case to stay. But the federal government said they don’t,” Finley said.

But a spokesman for the RV park said a separate lawsuit that he filed in U.S. District Court gives them the right to remain on the property until it’s settled.

“They can’t force us out,” said Paul Grondal, who filed his own lawsuit seeking the right to stay in the park. “The judge has a stay on this whole thing until it’s resolved. It could take years.”

Grondal and the RV park also crossed swords with the Colville Tribes last month over a sewage spill at the park. Finley said the holding tank’s pump appeared to be vandalized, and added, “I can’t say this problem is connected. I’ll leave it to the outside observer to decide for themselves.”

Grondal said RV members are simply frustrated by the leaked sewage and lack of a swift response, and just want assurances that no more sewage will spill out of the tank used by both the casino and the RV park.

The RV park is part of the 145-acre Moses Allotment No. 8, given to Wapato John in an agreement between the federal government and the Moses Band in 1907. It is held in trust for his heirs, one of whom was Evans.

According to the appeals court ruling, Evans owned an interest in the allotment in 1982, when he successfully negotiated a 25-year lease with the other heirs, approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He then sold 25- and 50-year memberships that weren’t supposed to expire until the 2030s.

Evans’ lease included an option to renew for another 25 years — until Feb. 2, 2034 — if the BIA and all owners of the land were notified by certified mail. They were not, the U.S. District Court in Spokane ruled in November 2008. The appeals court upheld that ruling, and the lease then expired in February 2009.

Finley said even if Wapato Heritage decides to appeal, it’s doubtful that the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear the matter.

Wapato Heritage still had about two months to properly notify all of the landowners when the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation questioned whether Evans had properly renewed his lease in November 2007, according to the written opinion by Appeals Court Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. Instead, Wapato Heritage’s lawyers sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs contending that the lease had been properly extended.

The allotment also includes land leased by Mill Bay Casino, land where Wapato Heritage had proposed a 75-home waterfront development, and the MA-8 Golf Course, also known as the Wapato Heritage Golf Course in Manson.

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