Frontiersman
  April 03, 2001
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Whatever happened to Homestead Resort?

Spectrum

04/03/01
By Jim Courtney
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It has been more than two years since I last wrote about “Homestead Resort.” Before continuing, it is necessary to provide background on the issue.

In 1996, a charismatic man named Victor Trygstad applied to buy 320 acres of public land in the Butte after obtaining options on about 500 acres of adjacent private land. Trygstad claimed to have an agreement with Jack Nicklaus to build a $15-million golf course and resort, and that Jack himself required the borough land to make the project successful.

Area residents overwhelmingly protested, preferring to maintain the character of the area and keep the popular parcel for recreational use. Trygstad gave elaborate presentations and played Jack Nicklaus golf videos, but never produced his often-promised “plan.” Ever. That was in the hands of an “international land planner,” where it presumably remains to this day.

There was a relatively small amount of supporting testimony at the hearings. As it turns out, many of the individuals testifying in support had already profited financially from Trygstad, either from real estate fees or by producing the very materials Trygstad used as supporting documentation.

Regardless, the assembly and planning commission overruled the public, due to the potential economic impact of such a development.

During this time, it became questionable whether a golf course was planned at all. Someone else had submitted an application to buy part of the parcel before Trygstad, causing concern about methods the borough uses to determine what land to sell, and to whom.

Borough demands for Trygstad’s résumé and background information were dropped. Trygstad frequently missed meetings and deadlines, but was given a pass every time.

Testimony about soil conditions, and concerns about the ability to obtain Corps of Engineers permits were dismissed. Yet the assembly continually reassured the public that it would “hold his feet to the fire” regarding development of the golf course, for which public land was essentially being donated.

Fortunately, former borough manager Don Moore replaced the plan to sell the land outright, with a lease with an option to purchase, incorporating milestones for the development. Trygstad embraced this plan, but after a change in administrations he complained it was “onerous.”

The 55-page lease agreement was thrown out by the new administration and replaced with a 13-page version in early 1998, after another attempt to buy it outright failed. The assembly removed the stipulation for a “Jack Nicklaus” golf course.

References to “Jack Nicklaus” were replaced with “notable designer,” in case Jack died. Trygstad’s appraisal, which will be used to determine the purchase price after the lease expires, came in at $650 per acre.

In early 1999, developer Judd Walker formed a company called Pioneer Mountain Properties. He announced at a Butte Community Council meeting that the original golf course plan did not appear feasible. He said Trygstad’s company was 40 percent owner of PMP, and that Trygstad had no control over decisions.

Walker said Trygstad’s original plans no longer applied, and he had no firm plans for the borough parcel. He mentioned that a development with horse trails, geared toward cargo pilots, would be one idea.

The last piece of information I have is an August 2000 letter written by Ron Swanson of the borough to the planning commission. It says, “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.”

That means the borough will transfer title to the land without the required golf course in place. Is that what “holding his feet to the fire” means?

Neither party believes the $15 million Jack Nicklaus golf course is real. That just happened to be bothersome wording in the lease, necessary to get support for noncompetitive “name your own price” access to prime borough land. Additionally, someone named Gary Roeder has signed borough documents as managing member of Trygstad’s company.

Little else has surfaced in the last two years. Early in this fiasco, as part of the procedure to enter into a contract with Trygstad, the borough conducted a background check.

Within the last two years, an assembly member told me that not all the information regarding Trygstad’s previous real estate dealings was made public, and this nonpublic information had a bearing on the borough’s actions. Sounds pretty mysterious.

Borough Mayor Tim Anderson recently wrote an article urging citizens to seek out facts rather than rely upon rumors. I’ve asked before, and I’m still waiting, for those who supported and voted for this in the face of such blatant stonewalling, and incremental whittling away of previous lease conditions, to provide a rational explanation.

Perceived lack of honesty causes rumors. If we can’t have the truth, many more things are unearthed as people dig for it.

There are reasons the borough is perceived as dishonest, and why so many people think the port and Hatcher Pass are self-serving scams. Coming clean about Homestead Resort will go a long way toward establishing some credibility.

While you’re at it, tell us who Victor Trygstad is, who his “anonymous investors” are, and why they deserve priority access to borough assets. I wouldn’t want any rumors to get started.

Between 1997 and 1999, there were more than 30 articles in the Frontiersman about the “Homestead Resort.” Since then, there have been exactly zero.

That’s too bad, because there may be an interesting story at the bottom of this. I have extensive documentation posted at http://golf.99645.com.

This issue was my introduction to how the borough operates, and if you examine the Web site, you can just about hear the cynicism oozing from my pores.

I suspect the situation at the borough is much better today, but I’ll reserve judgment until I hear some truthful answers.

Jim Courtney is a Butte resident.

 
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