An “unconventional” potential buyer of Sugar Loaf Resort may end up throwing a monkey wrench into the plans of two Florida land developers who are considering buying two adjacent golf courses with the hope that skiing will return.
Also hoping to become part of Sugar Loaf’s future is a woman who operates a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Battle Creek based on methods outlined by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard – the founder of the “Church of Scientology.”
Kate Wickstrom, the potential buyer of the ski resort, told an Enterprise reporter this week that she was born and raised in Leelanau County and wants to “preserve” the Sugar Loaf Resort property.
She said she was “considering a number of options for the property,” but added that she didn’t know “if it would ever work as a ski resort again.”
She said she had no plans to turn Sugar Loaf Resort into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
Wickstrom flatly refused to disclose who is offering to sell the defunct ski resort to her “because of legal reasons,” she said.
Remo Polselli, head of Pacific XIX Inc. which nominally owns the resort, remains in a federal prison on a felony tax evasion conviction in connection with one of his downstate properties. Meanwhile, a legal process to uncover the identity of who – if anyone – currently controls a mortgage on Sugar Loaf Resort remains mired in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit.
The resort has been closed for skiing since March 2000, and onditions of buildings and physical plants are reportedly deteriorating.
An attorney who, according to several sources, currently represents Pacific XIX Inc. – Leonard Zedeck of Sunrise, Fla. – did not return a reporter’s phone call.
That scenario worries the two Florida land developers who announced last week that they are considering purchasing two golf courses near the ski resort with the hope that they will eventually be united with the ski resort. The ski resort was separated from the golf courses in 1997 after Empire National Bank foreclosed on the resort’s mortgage.
“We will not buy the golf course properties if whoever owns the ski resort does not intend to use it in a way that would be complementary with the golf courses,” said Brian Sculthorp, a native of Scotland who now resides in Florida. “We’d certainly like to see skiing return to Sugar Loaf and would be willing to help make that happen, but we’re dealing with some very secretive people.”
Sculthorp recently formed a partnership with Leelanau County native and current Florida resident Ed Fleis. The partnership, known as “Sugar Loaf LLC,” is currently conducting a “due diligence” investigation of its potential purchase of the King’s Challenge Golf Club and the Sleeping Bear Golf Club. In addition, the partnership would purchase some of the undeveloped parcels of land within the Sugar Loaf property as well as the Sugar Loaf Service Company which provides sewer service to the resort and about 90 nearby homes in Cleveland and Centerville townships.
“We would have no problem working with a legitimate organization willing to open up the ski hill,” said Fleis, a former Cedar native. “But it’s just very difficult to do business when you don’t know who you’re dealing with and can’t uncover all the facts.”
In a separate interview, John Sills said he agreed. A current part-owner of the golf courses, Sills is trying to negotiate a deal with Sculthorp and Fleis.
“We’re facing some very irrational and abnormal people as we try to sort this whole thing out,” Sills said, referring to the owners of Sugar Loaf Resort and what he said were “several” potential buyers of the ski resort who have apparently surfaced in recent months.
“We have a lot of questions about what’s going on with Sugar Loaf Resort, but we’re just not getting any answers,” Sills said.
Sills was a part owner of Sugar Loaf Resort before it was sold to Polselli. In addition, he currently serves as the attorney for parties holding a mortgage on the bankrupt Sugar Loaf Service Company. He is the former secretary of the corporation.
Earlier this year, in support of its bankruptcy case, Sugar Loaf Service Company “called-in” its $900,000 lien on Sugar Loaf Resort for non-payment of its sewer and water bills through a “sheriff’s sale” at the county courthouse. On March 22, the clock started ticking on a 12-month “redemption period” for Pacific XIX Inc. to either pay off its sewer and water debt, or for somebody else to do so. Polselli is not expected to be released from prison before the end of the redemption period.
If nobody pays off the resort’s debt, it’s possible – but far from certain – that control of Sugar Loaf Resort would convey to Sugar Loaf Service Company. If Fleis and Sculthorp buy the Sugar Loaf area golf courses and the service company, they would also be buying some control of Sugar Loaf Resort.
However, Fleis and Sculthorp agreed with Sills that the legal situation is so complicated – and those with an interest in Sugar Loaf Resort have been so secretive – that it’s anybody’s guess what will happen by the end of the 12-month redemption period.
Fleis, Sculthorp and Sills alike said it might be helpful if local units of government took a more active role in applying pressure against Polselli – a convicted felon – and any others with an interest in Sugar Loaf Resort.
Sills said he told county officials that the abandoned hotel at Sugar Loaf Resort represents a health and safety hazard and could legally be demolished. In addition, Sills asserted, Cleveland Township officials have not been aggressive enough in collecting overdue taxes on the resort.