Oral arguments in higher courts

Morningstar appeal at Supreme Court

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Two very different civil lawsuits concerning Sublette County are on higher courts’ agendas.

The first set, over a petition to remand Sublette County commissioners’ majority decision to allow resort rezoning on billionaire Joe Ricketts’ Jackson Fork Ranch, LLC, took place Nov. 10 in a Casper courtroom.

The second appeal is Morningstar vs. Robison, concerning a failed real estate deal, and will be heard before the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Resort rezone

The petition was filed by Bondurant citizens protesting the formerly agricultural zoning change to allow Ricketts to build a destination resort on the very rural Upper Hoback Road, where he has bought up much of the Hoback River frontage.

Other residents with ag or rural properties living along that road, as well as throughout the Hoback Basin and beyond, opposed the zoning change – speaking at public meetings and submitting comments against development at the north end of Sublette County.

On Nov. 10, 7th District Court Judge Joshua Eames heard oral arguments from three attorneys representing each party.

Kevin Gregory opened for the appealing citizens, arguing that approval from commissioners Joel Bousman, Sam White and Tom Noble should have included their reasoning as part of their duty to “shall consider” 10 rezoning criteria.

Paula Fleck, hired to represent the Sublette County Board of Commissioners, argued that the county’s thousand-page administrative record did mention the “considering” the criteria.

Jackson Fork Ranch attorney John Graham pointed out that Bousman told commenting citizens they had to refer to the 10 criteria when voicing their opinions.

However, Gregory argued in closing, the three did not do so themselves and their decision should be remanded to the county.

Judge Eames took the arguments under advisement, saying he would release his decision as soon as he could.

‘Specific performance’

After Rachel and Christopher Robison advertised their Glacier Drive home for sale in 2021, Virgil and Vicki Morningstar submitted a bid and accepted their counteroffer. But the Aug. 27, 202, closing did not take place because the Robisons changed their minds about selling when their bid for new vacant land to build on was unsuccessful.

The Morningstars filed a civil complaint on Sept. 3, 2021 in 9th District Court, asking 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler to order “specific performance” and award them the Robisons’ home and property as contracted. In a bench trial he ruled the Robisons breached the contract and after considering, ruled the Robisons would keep their home.

Both parties outlined their failures to find suitable property that fit their personal preferences and budgets. The Morningstars own property in Green River Ranches and the Robisons still own theirs on Glacier Drive, according to Sublette GIS.

The Morningstars have appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court, arguing that specific performance of selling them the property was due to them. The Robisons charged that their realtor failed to include a contingency clause about the sale being dependent on purchasing another property.

Oral arguments are scheduled in the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. All hearings are broadcast live. Go to https://www.courts.state.wy.us/supreme-court/live-broadcast/.