Bank stuck with Bair Chase | PostIndependent.com

Bank stuck with Bair Chase

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff
Post Independent/Kelley Cox Garfield County Chief Deputy Public Trustee Robert Slade, foreground, reads from his foreclosure sale bid sheet at the Bair Chase forclosure auction Wednesday morning at the court house.
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The beleaguered Bair Chase property is still in limbo. A foreclosure sale at the Garfield County Treasurer’s office Wednesday morning drew a handful of people but only two bids, both from PlainsCapital Bank of Austin, Texas, which holds mortgages on the 280-acre property on Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs.The bank bid on two separate sales for two mortgages conveyed to Bair Chase Property Co. LLC. It bid $501,859 on the second mortgage and $16.1 million on the first at Wednesday’s auction. No other bids were tendered.”This is the largest (auction), in dollar amount, we’ve ever had,” said deputy public trustee Bob Slade.Bair Chase, which began as a large commercial-residential development on the former Union 76 Ranch in the mid-1990s, now has county approvals for 62 single family lots, 168 multi-family units and an 18-hole golf course.Gould Construction Inc. and the engineering firm of Schmueser Gordon Meyer, both of Glenwood Springs, have filed a joint lawsuit seeking money they say is owed to them by Bair Chase Property for earth-moving and engineering work on the development before it went into foreclosure.

The suit is asking $1.12 million for Gould and $127,000 for Schmueser Gordon Meyer, plus interest.Weitz Golf International, of West Palm Beach, Fla., has also filed a suit against Bair Chase seeking $1.83 million. The developer also owes three other lenders besides PlainsCapital a total of more than $6.5 million.Garfield County has assessed the value of the property at $7 million.Bair Chase project director John Young said a group of investors has come forward to buy the property and the sale should take place before the end of this month. But no action can take place for six months, a redemption period set by the treasurer’s office, during which Bair Chase can make good on its current debts. If it fails to do so PlainsCapital Bank can take over the property.”The new purchasers fully intend to pay the full debt … and all the money owed on the property,” Young said.Young would not comment on whether the new buyers will stick with the current plan for the property.

“They’ll need to take a good hard look at everything,” he said.What will carry over is a conservation easement granted by a previous owner and developer of the land, George Hanlon, to the Roaring Fork Conservancy to protect riverbank along the Roaring Fork River and Cattle Creek, which flow through the property.In addition, the January sale of the Sopris Restaurant to Sopris Properties LLC, a local group of investors who have said they are considering opening another restaurant there, will not affect the development, Young said.Besides the commercial value of the one-acre that surrounds the restaurant, it also holds the only other access point to the Bair Chase development besides the main entrance about one mile south on Highway 82. Bair Chase originally contracted with Sopris owner Kurt Wigger to buy the restaurant and acquire the access, but their financial difficulties scotched the deal.Wigger eventually sold the property to Sopris Properties LLC. Aspen architect Charles Cunniffe, one of the partners in Sopris Properties, told the Post Independent in January that the corporation hopes to have another restaurant replace the old Sopris Restaurant. “I think (the Sopris owners) would know it’s in their best interest” to allow the access to Bair Chase to go through, Young said.

Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) director Martha Cochran was also present at the sale Wednesday. AVLT has been pursuing possible purchase of the land to place at least some of the acreage under a conservation easement to protect it from further development.She said the nonprofit would like to “partner with a developer” to accomplish that goal. “We’ve always said a part (of the land) would have to be developed.”Cochran also worries that the six-month redemption period will mean the land, which was denuded of vegetation during excavation of the golf course last year, will “go through another growing season” when weeds could take over the property and dust continue to blow off the bare soil unabated.”I’m hoping the county will do something about it … It would be good to get some grass seed on it,” she said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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