"The Homestead Resort"

Starting in the mid-1990's, Victor Trygstad and a group anonymous investors began the process of accumulating a large amount of land in a community known as Butte, east of Palmer, Alaska. Trygstad convinced local politicians, Matanuska-Susitna Borough employees, and various community organizations that he would secure $15 million in financing and build a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Future economic benefits were given as reasons the Borough should provide preferential, non-competitive access to a 320-acre public parcel. Initial Borough requirements for financial documentation, plans, and even a resume were dropped. Public testimony regarding recreational use, financial concerns, and environmental problems was ignored. According to Economic Research Associates of San Francisco, a feasibility study done in the summer of 1996 did not show that the project was economically feasible, mainly because of the added cost of the Nicklaus design component. However, the Nicklaus design was the main component promoted to the Borough for the next two years.

I am unsure of the reasons why this property is coveted to such a high degree, other than the fact that it could have been had essentially on a "name your own price" basis, if all the politicians had cooperated fully. This 320-acre parcel is near another private parcel once owned by a group of current and former State of Alaska employees. Perhaps there is a connection there. Who knows - nobody wanted to talk about it back in '97. There was a Master Deed of Trust created for Homestead Resort Properties which hid the identities of the members. Why all the secrecy? Public opposition was very heavily opposed to giving up the land, especially given the withholding of documentation. Is there a reason the public should accept this? Please let me know if you can think of one.

This project has changed from a "Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and Resort" with horses, to a private, non-profit "Homestead Resort Golf and Country Club" with horses, to some sort of housing development with ball fields, a 3000' paved runway, and horses. Each incarnation has been touted as the next reason the Borough should give preferential, non-competitive, name-your-own-price access to public land, regardless of the desires of the community. It doesn't appear there was ever any actual golf course work done, but there was a lot of fluff swallowed whole by people who should know better. Once the lease was signed, that was the end of the 'golf course' story. I have posted a good portion of the documents surrounding this issue below. Sound clips too. Local government will continue to operate this way if the public maintains a short memory and allows it to continue. Documents relating to this issue will be posted right here. Forever.

These are some of the constants throughout the history of this issue:
* The 570 acres of private land is not enough to build a [insert project here]
* The 320 acre public parcel is a necessary component of [insert project here] or it won't work
* An airstrip or runway may be a component of [insert project here]
* The public trail system must be relocated off the parcel
* Horses

As always, please notify me at courtney@ieee.org if you see anything incorrect, misleading, or excessively offensive, or if you have other factual information regarding this issue. I have toned down the sarcasm and removed various items at the request of those who believed it was excessive or unfair. I have no problem with that, and I truly appreciate your input. My main goal is to record here as much factual information as possible, so that incidents like this will not be repeated.

Date Description Comment View or Hear Document
06/20/91 Application for Trail Preservation  
05/05/94 Bill Collins' application to purchase portion of the parcel  
07/15/95 State Dept. of Natural Resources phone memo about 'holdup' of parcel survey  
05/14/96 Memo: Federal BLM/State DNR Working Group: "Borough has a purchaser on hold" Who might that be?
07/26/96 State DNR memo about survey: "Borough is getting impatient" Why?
08/06/96 BLM/DNR Working Group: "Borough can live with the BLM survey"  
08/22/96 Borough encourages Trygstad to apply for the 320 acre parcel, thanks him for his patience Hey - What about Bill Collins?
09/18/96 Trygstad's application, referencing "Destination Resort" and 30-50 year-round employees
09/19/96 AK Rim Engineering to State DNR: "Borough is 'quite anxious' to final out the survey"  
11/15/96 BUTTE COUNCIL OPPOSES RESORT

11/20/96 DEVILBISS FAVORS PLAN FOR RESORT What's with the Eklutna land swap mentioned here?

11/20/96 Letter from Borough Manager to Trygstad, stating the sale will be noncompetitive because of the economic impact of a destination resort with 35-50 full-time year-round employees  
11/22/96 Letter from Butte Community Council opposing sale of 320 acre parcel  
12/06/96 AGRICULTURE BOARD OK'S HOMESTEAD RESORT

12/16/96 Planning Commission resolution recommending reclassification of parcel so it could be sold for a "well-planned destination resort"  
12/16/96 Planning Commission public comment where Trygstad references "international land planners" involved in designing the resort

12/16/96 Resolution by Ted Cox to re-classify the parcel as Recreational  
12/23/96 Letter from Borough Manager changing sale to lease with option to purchase in order to protect the Borough's interest and ensure satisfactory performance  
12/24/96 BUTTE AREA RESORT EYES LEASE OPTION

01/06/97 Planning Commission Public Comment Overwhelming public opposition. Those who were there, and at many other meetings, will never forget it. Especially the one with the armed State Trooper with the bullet-proof vest.
01/08/97 TRYGSTAD RESORT IS PUT ON HOLD

01/14/97 Letter of support for resort from Bob King of Mat-Su Convention & Visitor's Bureau  
01/15/97 Trygstad's one-page "Site Plan", done by Bob King Design of Palmer Hmmm.....
Why are those houses in the water??? How do you drive up that cliff???
01/15/97 Trygstad's narrative for the Planning Commission about the "World-Class Destination Resort" Big document, but A MUST READ!
01/16/97 Letter of support for the "destination resort" from RC&D  
01/16/97 Letter from Planning Director John Duffy to Planning Commission reminding them of their responsibility to use their brains. Good advice from a man with integrity.
01/20/97 Letter of support for resort and Jack Nicklaus Golf Course from the Palmer Economic Development Authority  
01/20/97 More Planning Commission public comment More overwhelming opposition. More Jack Nicklaus golf videos. But look who the handful of people are who finally showed up in support of the "Jack Nicklaus Golf Course"...
01/20/97 Resolution in support of "Destination Resort" by Palmer Chamber of Commerce  
01/20/97 Darcie Salmon introduces resolution for RC&D supporting development of the Resort  

01/20/97 A real estate salesman (lower-right of document) testifies to the Planning Commission that there isn't enough land available for sale in the valley to provide sales commissions for all 250 salesmen in the valley, because so many people with no other means of support become real estate salesmen.

01/21/97 Letter from Planning Director John Duffy requesting more substantive information from Trygstad

01/22/97 BUTTE RESORT PUT ON HOLD

01/24/97 Letter from Planning Director John Duffy to a resident about the missing site plan It depends on what the meaning of the word "plan" is.
01/28/97 Letters from Planning Director John Duffy concerning Trygstad's continued refusal to provide a Site Plan and Economic Impact Analysis  
01/31/97 Letter from Kevin Van Nortwick supporting resort development, siting info from Tina Lindgren of the Alaska Convention and Visitor's Bureau  
01/97 CARTOON - "Possible reason for delay on site plans"

01/31/97 TRYGSTAD MISSES DEADLINE - DUFFY: NO RESORT

01/31/97 BOROUGH PATIENCE MISPLACED

01/97 SPECTRUM: LARRY WHITE

02/03/97 Planning Commission REJECTS reclassification of parcel due to continued failure of Trygstad to submit requested information.  
02/03/97 BUTTE RESORT FAILS

02/06/97 SPECTRUM: ED BRITTINGHAM, WASILLA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

02/11/97 BUTTE RESORT PLAN, RIVAL PROPOSAL ON AGENDA

02/11/97 Trygstad submits his "Economic Impact Summary"

02/13/97 Letter from Trygstad to Borough Manager inquiring as the the status of his application "World-class destination resort bringing tens of thousands of new tourists....", "Highest and best use", etc.
02/14/97 Letter from Planning Director John Duffy requesting resume, references, and list or prior real-estate experience, which Trygstad had said he would provide.

02/16/97 RESORT BRINGS UP LAND DISPOSAL WOES

02/18/97 Borough Manager Report - sends issue back to planning commission, because one-page site plan is deemed acceptable

02/19/97 Marcy Martin comments on the "Site Plan",quoting the Susitna Area Plan ......"managed in accordance with the wishes of local government"
02/20/97 Linda Kelly's comment about the "Site Plan" ...
02/21/97 Letter to Planning Commission directing them to take up the issue of reclassification again, considering submission of the "Site Plan" cartoon. ...until you get it right.
02/21/97 BUTTE RESORT GETS NEW LIFE

03/03/97 Planning Commission reopens resolution recommending reclassification and conveyance of the 320 acre parcel  
03/13/97 Letter from John Duffy to Planning Commission about impacts of a development of this size  
03/17/97 Planning Commission meeting with testimony from soil scientists, showing hydric map overlaid on "Site Plan" cartoon  
03/17/97 Trygstad "Resort Narrative", "Values Statement", Hart architect sales letter  
03/17/97 Planning Commission resolution supporting conveyance, with lease conditions  
03/19/97 RESORT EARNS PLANNING NOD

04/15/97 Borough Action Memo concurring with Planning Commission recommendation  
05/02/97 ASSEMBLY TO REVIEW TRYGSTAD PLAN

05/23/97 HOMESTEAD RESORT REMAINS QUESTION MARK

06/09/97 "Homestead National" Fact Sheet Guess what! It's now a "Private Members-Owned Golf Course"!!
06/11/97 Character reference of Trygstad by Ron Lindgren  
06/12/97 Letter from Trygstad to Mayor Barb Lacher about Channel 2 News report announcing the project is now a private non-profit members-only Jack Nicklaus golf course Tens of thousands of new tourists??? Highest and best use???

06/17/97 Trygstad complains about losing the '97 construction season because of the controversy - claims it's holding up $40 million to $50 million worth of investments Well? What happened to the golf course in '98? What's going to happen in '99? NOTHING! And I think we'll need a doctor with a flashlight to show us where those numbers come from...

06/18/97 NICKLAUS TO DESIGN BUTTE COURSE

07/09/97 ASSEMBLY FINAL STEP FOR RESORT

07/11/97 NOISE, GOLF COURSE ON AGENDA

07/13/97 Fancy binder Trygstad gave to each assembly member when requesting the assembly disregard the past and just sell him the parcel outright. Long download, but another must-see.

07/14/97 Trygstad states that he assisted the State of Alaska with resolution of the parcel survey Now THAT's interesting!

07/14/97 Assembly meeting. Trygstad says he has a contract with Nicklaus Design to design a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course  

07/14/97 Tim Kenney of Nicklaus Design states the contract is dependent on Corps of Engineering and Fish & Game permit approval  

07/14/97 Trygstad talks about values and commitment

07/14/97 Trygstad pledges to start a Nature Conservancy trust fund with $100,000, and to put in 1% of all sales and future resales

07/14/97 Public testimony - Norm Kroening is concerned because there is so little information in the files  

07/14/97 Public testimony - Norm Kroening explains the financing for $15 million  

07/14/97 Public testimony - Deborah Lien protests giving away all this public land  

07/14/97 Public testimony - Deborah Lien relates a disturbing incident  

07/14/97 Public testimony - Jim Courtney quotes the Planning Commission's reasons for initial rejection of the project Do I really sound like that?

07/14/97 Public testimony - Jim Courtney objects to secret investors aquiring public land  

07/14/97 Public testimony - Ted Cox talks about the feasibility study that was supposedly done for the Golf Course by Economic Research Associates  

07/16/97 BUTTE RESORT GETS ASSENT IN 7-0 VOTE

07/17/97 Original ordinance 97-039 with 13 lease conditions  

07/21/97 Letter from Borough to Trygstad requesting investment and development schedules

07/22/97 Mayor Lacher vetoes reclassification, siting "intense political pressure opportunistically applied in private meetings, without the benefit of proper public discourse" Someone finally verbalizes what's been going on. Thanks Barb!

07/25/97 LACHER VETOS BUTTE LAND DEAL

07/29/97 Letter from Assemblyman Larry DeVilbiss explaining his support for Trygstad Thanks Larry!

08/05/97 Jim Courtney's sarcastic, frustrated response to Larry Sorry Larry...

08/08/97 ASSEMBLY OVERRIDES GOLF RESORT VETO

08/08/97 SPECTRUM: JIM COURTNEY - "TIME TO RECALL DEVILBISS"

08/19/97 Letter from Steve Cypra in Planning to Trygstad about Assembly override of veto, and again requesting development and investment information schedules  

08/29/97
thru
11/11/97
Letters between Borough and Trygstad. More stonewalling and stalling.  

11/19/97 REVISED LEASE GOES TO TRYGSTAD

11/28/97 Frontiersman article by Jim Courtney - "Hold Trygstad to Lease"  

12/10/97 ASSEMBLY MAY SELL BUTTE LAND

12/16/97 Trygstad speech to Assembly requesting outright sale - accuses opponents of intimidation and death threats. ....just in case you were wondering why we're so pissed...

12/16/97 Audio clip of Trygstad making death threat accusations

Hear it yourself! A "mark of ugliness". 500K, but worth the wait!

12/16/97 Ordinance 97-171 introduced by Doyle Holmes to sell parcel outright to Trygstad, close trail system, and require Borough to build new trails - Failed. Thanks Larry!

12/17/97 BOROUGH REJECTS LAND SALE

01/06/98 Borough memo stating that Trygstad wants lease conditions eliminated because he is no longer planning on developing a 'destination resort'

01/14/98 Assemblyman Larry Devilbiss assures the council that there will a Jack Nicklaus Golf Course, and not just wall-to-wall housing.

01/14/98 Assemblyman Larry Devilbiss says he will move to amend the lease to require a Jack Nicklaus Golf Course.

01/20/98 Assembly meeting to remove more lease conditions - Jay Nolfi introduces a lease amendment to ensure the Jack Nicklaus golf course, which was removed from the original lease. Larry DeVilbiss states that it might be an Arnold Palmer course. Nolfi complains about the continual downgrading of the lease. Hear it!

01/20/98 Mrs. Nolfi again talks about all the changes, and that she still hasn't seen "Plan 1". Hear it!

01/20/98 Assemblyman DeVilbiss explains why he thinks a Jack Nicklaus Golf Course should not be stipulated


Dead Colonel. Same Chicken.

01/20/98 The vote on Mrs. Nolfi's amendment to reinsert the Jack Nicklaus golf course requirement in the lease Hear the vote!

02/04/98 SPECTRUM: JIM COURTNEY - "INCREMENTALISM"

03/25/98 Final stripped-down lease, signed WITHOUT review by Borough attorney. No Jack Nicklaus Golf Course stipulation.  

05/07/98 Four lease amendments made during 1998  

11/13/98 HOMESTEAD TAXES BEHIND

12/21/98 Default notice to Trygstad from Borough  

01/21/99 Judd Walker of Pioneer Properties, merging with Trygstad's Homestead Resort Properties - "Formation and Purpose" of incorporation documents. Says "golf course, if economically feasible, or any other business purpose".

Who would have thought this could happen?

01/21/99 Letter to Borough from Walker and Trygstad's lawyer concerning transferring the lease to Pioneer Mountain Properties. Says "fully capable of funding and financing this project and that future performance under the Lease shall be timely and as agreed. Mr. Walker looks forward to working with you as his engineers begin the design phase this spring."  

02/10/99 At the Butte Community Council meeting, Trygstad partner Judd Walker explains that there is no master plan - no plans at all Where have we heard that before?

02/10/99 Walker says Trygstad's $30 million project would not be sustainable

02/10/99 Walker says the golf course does not appear feasible now, or in the near future THREE WEEKS LATER - 13 WORKING DAYS AFTER HE WAS "FULLY CAPABLE OF FUNDING THE PROJECT" - WALKER DECLARES THE GOLF COURSE UNFEASIBLE!!!

02/10/99 Walker says the 'resort' component of the project is not feasible, but they are holding out 40 acres around the lake.... The 'f' word again.....

02/10/99 Walker says all he has to do is put one hole on the Borough land in order to comply with the golf course provision of the lease ...and then, it depends on what the definition of the word 'hole' is...

02/10/99 Judd Walker at Butte Community Council meeting - Side 1 of tape, unedited 8 Megabytes

02/10/99 Judd Walker at Butte Community Council meeting - Side 2 of tape, unedited 13 Megabytes

02/16/99 NEW BUTTE PLAN RAISES EYEBROWS

03/01/99 Letter to Borough about Jack Nicklaus Golf Course requirement for noncompetitive sale  

04/99 SPECTRUM: JIM COURTNEY - I wrote this on Feb 14, 1999, but I believe it showed up in the paper in April

06/02/99 The Lease Assignment by the Borough to Judd Walker & Pioneer Mountain Properties ...stated purpose is "golf course (if economically feasible)"

02/14/00 Letter from Comm. Dev. Director to Butte resident applying to buy Borough land, stating that all land application processing in the area is suspended pending resolution of the 'golf course' lease, and after an asset management plan for the area is complete. Hmmm..

08/09/00 Letter from Comm. Dev. Director to Planning Commission - "A covenant that the property will be developed as a golf course with compatible residential development is to be recorded at the time of conveyance." Holding his feet to the fire.

04/03/01 SPECTRUM: JIM COURTNEY - "Whatever Happened to the Homestead Resort?"

 

02/12/02 Walker relinquishes golf course lease one month before expiration, citing a short growing season, says feasibility study was never done.

02/12/02 Walker submits application to buy southern 240 acres of the same parcel.  

02/12/02 Walker's letter requesting the borough sell him the 240 acres, wants to relocate the trail system and promises to build ball fields on it within the next 15 years, to 'give something back' to the community.  

02/12/02 Walker submits application to buy southern 80 acres south of his 570.  

02/12/02 Walker's letter requesting the borough sell him the 80 acres, wants to build a 3000' paved lighted runway by 2012, because its alignment is perfect with the summer winds from the Knik Glacier. This parcel is classified for agricultural use.

03/06/02 GOLF COURSE DEVELOPER BAILS
Community Development Director says any future developer may be required to build 'ball fields'.
Where did this "ball fields" thing come from?

04/16/02 DEVELOPER EXPLAINS PROPOSED BUTTE SUBDIVISION PROJECT
Judd Walker defends his position.
Thanks Judd!

Jim Courtney
courtney@ieee.org