Approval evaporates for golf project
December 22, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoGARFIELD COUNTY A proposed downvalley golf community, already on the ropes, recently suffered a knockout blow financially.According to Garfield County Planner Fred Jarman, an important approval for the Bair Chase project expired, leaving the status of the project uncertain. The 280-acre site has a long, troubled history. Developer George Hanlon bought the property in 1997 and proposed a massive development, sparking widespread community opposition. Garfield County rejected that plan.Bair Chase Property LLC acquired the site in 2002 and proposed a scaled-back project, featuring an 18-hole golf course. However, the company angered many people, bulldozing a historic barn and moving earth with massive scrapers while an elk herd was still on the land.Bair Chase received one extension on its preliminary approval, but buying time wasn’t enough; it couldn’t find the investors necessary to progress.Jarman said a Planned Unit Development, or special zoning for the project, still exists. “The zoning out there allows a golf course to happen,” he said.However, the PUD is now “out of synch” with the preliminary plan approvals, which require certain phases of construction to be under way by specific times, according to Jarman. Garfield County commissioners will hold a hearing in March to determine how to treat the approval. While zoning for a golf course remains in place, the county commissioners have the option of revoking that zoning, Jarman said.Right now it is uncertain who, if anyone, will be negotiating with the county in March. Bair Chase Property LLC suffered a total riches-to-rags collapse. It lost the property in foreclosure earlier this year.A lender, PlainsCapital Bank of Dallas, bid on the property at a foreclosure auction in April. Bair Chase Property was unable to cure its loan during a six-month redemption period that ended in October, according to the Glenwood Post Independent.The bank bid $16.1 million on one mortgage and about $500,000 on a second, according to the Post Independent. Bair-Chase Property walked away from millions of dollars in debts.PlainsCapital Bank transferred title to the land to a subsidiary, Plains ARC Inc., according to documents filed with the Garfield County planning office.A source familiar with the property, who requested anonymity, said PlainsCapital accepted bids from buyers for the 280 acres recently. A company headed by Pat Smith, who purchased the Base Village project in Snowmass Village earlier this year, was among the interested buyers, the source said.Officials with Smith’s organization have ignored repeated requests for comment.George McCloskey, an official with PlainsCapital Bank, also declined comment on a possible sale of the Bair Chase land. “I really can’t say until the smoke clears a bit,” he said.Bair Chase is located between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The site is south of Highway 82, across from where Cattle Creek spills onto the valley floor.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.