Golf course developer bails
By MARY SPEARS-For the Frontiersman
MAT-SU -- Valley visions of a Jack Nicklaus golf course at the
Butte finally evaporated with a Feb. 12 letter to the borough from
E. G. Judd Walker of Pioneer Mountain Properties, LLC and Homestead
In his letter, Walker relinquished the two companys' rights to
the lease of 320 acres of borough-owned public land in the Butte
area, citing lack of interest by investors, lack of a feasibility
study, and Alaska's short growing season as major problems
contributing to the decision.
Walker, in his letter, said he intends to apply for the southern
240 acres of the tract immediately upon relinquishing the lease,
expressing a belief that there are more feasible ways to use the
property that would benefit the public more directly.
Borough manager John Duffy provided Walker's letter to the
borough assembly at its Feb. 19 meeting.
Duffy said Thursday the letter was a disappointment, but he
realized the challenge involved with financing the type and caliber
of golf course proposed by the developer.
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Course saga began in 1966 when, according
to an April 2001 Spectrum article by Butte resident Jim Courtney,
Victor Trygstad of Homestead Resort Properties applied to buy 320
acres of public land in the Butte after obtaining options on about
500 acres of adjacent private land. Courtney said he became involved
in the issue after hearing Trygstad speak to the borough assembly
and Butte Community Council. In addition to getting involved in the
community council, serving as secretary, treasurer and now board
member, Courtney said he has collected a range of information about
Trygstad's proposed plan. Trygstad, he said, claimed to have an
agreement with Jack Nicklaus to build a $15 million golf course and
resort, and said Nicklaus himself required the borough land to make
the project successful.
Courtney's column recounted that area residents overwhelmingly
protested, preferring to maintain the character of the area and to
keep the popular parcel for recreational use. Trygstad apparently
gave elaborate presentations and played Jack Nicklaus golf videos,
but never produced his often-promised plan.
Pioneer Mountain Properties eventually took over the lease.
Although according to information in a Feb. 17, 1999 article about
the plan, Homestead owned a 40-percent interest in Pioneer Mountain
Properties, Homestead president Victor Trygstad would make no
decisions concerning management of the land in the borough.
Ron Swanson, borough community development director, said now
that the golf course option is off the table, the borough plans to
set aside a portion of the land in question.
"The thing we have to do immediately is to reserve the
right-of-way for the Plumley/Maude trail that extends throughout the
property and make sure that trail remains open for public use,"
Then, Swanson said, the borough will take some time to review the
area and the various current uses of the land and come up with a use
for the property.
That concept would be taken to the public for comment and input
before any applications are accepted for development. The Butte
community, Swanson said, would be especially involved in the public
Once there is agreement upon the concept and the conditions for
any development, the borough would put together a request for
proposals containing those conditions along with possible additional
provisions for developers. Such provisions might include a
requirement that the developer provide ballparks, open spaces,
trails and similar community amenities that give something back to
the people of the borough.
Swanson said the public should not expect that Pioneer Mountain
Properties or any other developer will automatically be able to buy
the land. The borough now has an ordinance requiring competitive
procedures for purchase of borough land, he said. Pioneer will be
able to submit a competitive proposal in response to the request for
proposals along with other developers or individuals wishing to
purchase land in the area.
"I am glad to hear that the community is getting their land back
after four years," Courtney said after hearing the news. "But I'm
still skeptical that we'll be able to keep it."
Courtney said the closed door gives the borough a chance to
repair the damage done and move forward.
"I hope this is the conclusion of this matter and that trust can
be rebuilt between area residents and the borough," Courtney said.
He paused for a moment before concluding, "The borough needs to
continue to be on the lookout for those who would relieve them of
our assets under questionable pretenses. The borough possesses
extremely valuable properties which serve as a magnet for these
kinds of interests."