Eye On Boise

Two Tamarack lifts targeted for removal, neither was used this season

Two ski lifts that weren't used this past season at Tamarack Resort are targeted for removal by Bank of America's leasing division after the bankrupt ski resort near Donnelly defaulted on payments; the bank is filing paperwork with the state to remove the two lifts, the AP reports; they're partly on state land that was leased for the resort. The two are a transport lift for homeowners, and a high-speed chairlift accessing intermediate and advanced terrain on the resort's northern boundary; their removal could hurt chances of reviving the resort. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.


Bank of America wants to remove Tamarack ski lifts

JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The nation's biggest bank is planning to tear out two Tamarack Resort ski lifts, creating a troubling scenario for resort homeowners who hope the failed Idaho vacation development will be preserved intact for a potential buyer.

Bank of America's leasing division is filing paperwork with the state to remove the transports after the resort defaulted on payments.

The lifts, located partly on state land, weren't used during last winter's ski season. One is largely a transport lift for homeowners, while the second provides high-speed access to intermediate and advanced terrain on the resort's northern boundary.

Their removal would be a blow to any potential Tamarack buyer, adding to the expense of resurrecting the resort following its financial collapse in 2008.

The Idaho State Department of Lands is processing documentation from bankers and must sign off on the removal because a portion of the lifts are on state endowment land, said Kurt Houston, operations chief for the agency's southern offices.

"It should not take long, once we receive all required documents from them," Houston said.

"They want to try to finish things as soon as possible."

According to the proposal by the bank, the bolts securing the lift towers to their foundations would be protected, so new lifts could be installed, Houston said.

But homeowners in the Tamarack Municipal Association are fighting to keep the lifts.

Last month, they helped scuttle a plan by a Canadian ski resort company to buy the lifts from Bank of America and remove them. And the group has secured an appeal on July 14 in Valley County as they try to force a public hearing on Bank of America's latest plans.

Steve Lord, the homeowners' lawyer, says he'll be vigilant to make sure Bank of America doesn't remove the transports without proper local and federal permits.

"Anybody who otherwise has an ownership interest in property at Tamarack would have to go through an extensive permitting process to engage in any other construction or demolition of this scale," Lord said. "It offends the homeowners to think that they would have to undertake an extensive permitting process for a project like this, but that someone who has no other ownership stake in the resort is allowed to avoid those permitting processes."

The lifts are among the most contentious elements of Tamarack, which defaulted on a separate $250 million loan from lenders led by Credit Suisse Group in 2008, putting its future into uncertainty.

Resort majority owner Jean-Pierre Boespflug is on the run from justice and racking up court fines of $5,000 a day after failing to appear last month before an Idaho judge to answer questions about his responsibility to pay for the lifts. That's after Bank of America won a multi-million dollar judgment against Boespflug.

Boespflug's whereabouts weren't immediately available and he didn't return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

A potential removal project also would face a potential delay from nature.

Idaho still must inspect the ground and roads beneath the lifts, to make sure they are suitably dry and stable to allow heavy machinery to use them. That's as Valley County is coming off a near-record winter of snow.

"A lot of this is weather dependent, because we wouldn't want them in there when things are really soft," Houston said.

Brad Goergen, an attorney for Bank of America in Seattle, didn't return phone messages seeking comment on the case.

An Idaho man who has been working since last year to purchase Tamarack Resort and reviving its fortunes said he would prefer the lifts remain in place, but that he's committed to replacing them if they're torn out.

Matthew Hutcheson of Eagle, who made a $40 million offer for the resort last year while it was before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, says he recently attempted to negotiate a deal on the lifts with Bank of America, to no avail.

"The negotiation did not result in an agreement," Hutcheson told the AP. "We would prefer the lifts not be removed, and we would be open to negotiate with Bank of America Leasing if they were to approach us again."


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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