Lawsuit names American Skiing, Wolf Mountain
Broken promises from the operators of Wolf Mountain Resorts and The Canyons allowed the companies to "plunder" other landowners with their lackluster efforts to build a four-season destination resort in western Summit County, one of the latest barbs filed in the legal saga states.
Wolf Mountain and The Canyons’ parent, American Skiing Co., "had the goal and purpose of cajoling and persuading certain landowners," when the companies cooperatively formed The Canyons during the 1990s, states a 43-page complaint filed in Third District Court against Wolf and American Skiing Co Utah.
American Skiing brass, however, insist the lawsuit stems from Wolf Mountain’s refusal to fulfill commitments made to the resort. But a Wolf Mountain attorney countered that American Skiing had become too cozy with another landowner at The Canyons.
The Canyons operates on roughly 3,100 acres of land leased to American Skiing Company by Wolf Mountain Resorts.
"Yet, once Wolf Mountain and the other defendants succeeded, by their false promises, misrepresentations and/or omissions, to gain contractual commitments and property rights from adjacent property owners, Wolf, ASC and others used their position of control [to] systematically plunder these adjacent landowners," the lawsuit filed Sept. 11 by Park West Associates, L.C., states.
The defendants, Wolf Mountain Resorts and American Skiing Company, have attempted to steal property rights from property owners, who, when compared to Wolf and ASC — the area’s behemoths — control a fraction of the land at the resort, states the lawsuit filed by Park West, a property owner at The Canyons.
As operator of the former Wolf Mountain ski resort, Wolf managing partner Kenny Griswold, in the mid-’90s, made agreements with other landowners near the resort to form a master plan for development of Wolf Mountain.
But American Skiing Company, which operates several North American ski resorts, became interested in running a resort in Park City when Salt Lake City was named host for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, claims Mark R. Gaylord, an attorney for Park West Associates.
Among what Griswold and Wolf partner Michael Baker sold American Skiing Co. in 1997 for $7.7 million were rights to improve the resort with buildings, lifts and snowmaking equipment, license and permits, intellectual property and water rights, the lawsuit states.
But Gaylord claims Wolf Mountain retained control of much of the development property and ski terrain, which was leased to American Skiing Co. July 3, 1997.
Full speed ahead
"Armed with their newly formed long-term contractual partnership, Wolf Mountain, ASC, Griswold and Baker undertook efforts to jointly transform the Wolf Mountain ski resort into a world premiere vacation destination," states Park West’s lawsuit.
Part of the plans for ASC and Wolf to redevelop The Canyons required roughly 20 landowners with property near the resort to participate with Summit County in The Canyons Specially Planned Area development agreement adopted in the late 1990s.
"A central component of the redevelopment plan was the construction of high density hotels/condominiums as well as the construction of a golf course," states Park West’s complaint.
Golf course and development stalled
Having realized American Skiing Co. wouldn’t fulfill its commitments to build the golf course on time, Park West officials claim the resort operator conspired with Wolf Mountain to misrepresent critical information about the relationship to other landowners at The Canyons.
"[ASC and Wolf Mountain] failed to disclose this material information because they knew that [landowners] had relied on ASC’s representations that it could construct the golf course as set forth in the various agreements," Park West’s lawsuit states.
Meanwhile, the Summit County Commission would not have approved several million square feet of development at The Canyons without participation from landowners deceived by Wolf Mountain and ASC, according to Gaylord.
The lawsuit, which requests a jury trial, blames Wolf Mountain and American Skiing Company’s alleged breach of contract for the development troubles that currently mire The Canyons.
"By their fraudulent conduct, ASC and Wolf Mountain have retained certain rights belonging to [Park West] for the sole purpose of depriving them of their lawful property rights," states the lawsuit, which seeks damages for Park West.
However, Tim Vetter, a vice president at The Canyons, says the golf course is not complete because Wolf Mountain has refused to cooperate with other landowners at the resort.
"This is essentially a re-filing and modification of a previous lawsuit & that was released as a sign of good faith because the parties had agreed to move all this forward," Vetter said. "I spent two years resolving all of these issues and the litigation was released. Had we moved forward with the plan & this is not an issue."
But Wolf Mountain attorney Paul Peters insisted the lawsuit is a result of a "side deal" between American Skiing Company and Park West and is a "minor" property-rights dispute.
"[Park West] promised to give [ASC] some property and land that they didn’t own," Peters said. "They’ve re-filed [the lawsuit] to keep the statute of limitations from expiring & We got caught up in it because we own the land."
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