County takes Wolf Mountain to court
As Wolf Mountain Resorts chief Kenny Griswold dukes it out in court with American Skiing Co., Griswold now faces a lawsuit from Summit County that demands he immediately turn over his share of the land for a golf course at The Canyons.
A complicated development plan at the resort requires roughly 20 landowners provide land and easements to The Canyons Resort Village Management Association (RVMA) for a new 18-hole golf course near S.R. 224.
Along with land for greens and fairways, easements were needed for roads, trails and utilities. Landowners willing to participate in construction of the golf course qualified for coveted development rights at The Canyons.
But Wolf Mountain, one of the largest landowners at the resort, still hasn’t provided the agreed upon land, claims David Gee, special counsel for Summit County.
Several years ago, after property owners began to squabble at The Canyons following adoption of the resort’s so-called "specially planned area" development agreement, the County Commission hired Gee to help sort things out.
But commissioners didn’t likely expect Gee to have to file a lawsuit to compel "specific performance" from Wolf Mountain.
A complaint filed against Wolf Mountain Monday in Third District Court claims Griswold breached his contract with Summit County when he failed this year to provide land for the golf course.
"Wolf Mountain is frustrated with the county taking a very unconventional approach to resolving this issue. They have not been responsive to our attempts to resolve the issue and I’m not sure that this lawsuit moves things forward, but I’m hopeful that it does," Wolf Mountain attorney Victoria Fitlow said. "We’re disappointed that the county decided to sue us."
Griswold wants the golf course built, she added.
"We just want to make sure it’s done right and that the open space and the trails that are part of the whole golf course package are protected," Fitlow said. "They were going to be all conveyed to a subsidiary of [American Skiing] with no protections."
Meanwhile, Griswold communicates regularly with other landowners at The Canyons, she added.
"They don’t have the resources to make sure it’s done right, that’s what they count on us for," Fitlow said. "As the biggest landowner out there, all the other landowners look to us to make sure things are done right."
The county’s lawsuit requests Third District Court Judge Bruce Lubeck require Griswold to comply with the development agreement.
Commissioners warned Wolf Mountain with a 60-day notice in May that the default was pending.
"Wolf has failed and refused to cure its breaches of the [development agreement] and continues to refuse to convey its interest in the [golf course] and to execute the other necessary documents," the complaint filed Monday by the county states.
Tim Vetter, a spokesman for The Canyons and president of the RVMA, insisted financing for the golf course was in place when Griswold scuttled the deal several months ago.
Landowners who for years have been unable to build on their property had development approved by the county, he added.
"It’s not uncommon for Wolf Mountain to use these kinds of tactics," Vetter said. "[Griswold] certainly is delaying the process and hurting a lot of people by doing that."
Griswold, however, claims he has been "overly generous" in what he has already offered to provide for construction of the course.
"It was more than enough, everything they needed to build the golf course," Fitlow said. "And the county rejected that [offer]."
But RVMA director Joanne Nadalin counters that Wolf Mountain hasn’t provided any land or easements for the course.
"It’s unfortunate that the county had to sue Wolf Mountain, but we really need to get the land for the golf course and the roads so we can move forward with development at the resort," Nadalin said.
As the master developer at The Canyons, American Skiing Co. and the RVMA were required to complete the golf course in 2002, Griswold said.
"American Skiing Company is an insolvent company with enormous debt," he said. "Not one shareholder will ever see a profit on their money."
He blames alleged mismanagement at American Skiing Co. for stalled development at The Canyons.
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