Long-empty inn goes to public trustee's sale

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— The long-vacant Ski Town Inn could come one step closer to reopening its doors when County Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon hosts a public trustee's sale at 10 a.m. today outside her office in the Routt County Courthouse.

The sale is being held to satisfy foreclosure proceedings brought by one of the lien holders on the hotel, Phoenix Leasing. But a likely scenario is that another lien holder, Vectra Bank, will attempt to acquire the hotel by satisfying Phoenix' claim, then turn around and sell the property to a hotel operator.

The Ski Town Inn operated under the ownership of Richcam Adventures from Dec. 24, 1997, until April 15, 1998. Court records show Richcam defaulted on the initial payment of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan. A receiver, Property and Hotel Management, operated the inn for about eight months, from April 15, 1998, until Sept. 10 that year. PHM was relieved of receivership on Oct. 6, 1998, when Moser and Associates, assumed that role. A court decision dictated that Moser maintain, but not operate the hotel. Court documents also show that Vectra Bank began the process of providing a permanent loan to Richcam after telling the partners in August 1997 they were prequalified for a $5 million USDA-guaranteed loan. According to the court, the original construction financing of $4.3 million was provided by Mountain Parks State Bank. That money was used up before the hotel was completed. Even as Vectra was processing the permanent loan, Richcam approached Vectra in September 1997 for an additional construction loan of $1 million.

Dave Pellegrino, special assets manager with Vectra Bank in Denver, confirmed Monday that his bank has already listed the hotel for sale with Sanborn & Co., an Englewood real estate company that specializes in restaurant and hotel properties. The listing was made in anticipation that Vectra Bank would end up owning the 68-suite hotel.

"We're confident that Vectra will emerge as the owner of the hotel, but you don't know that for certain," Pellegrino said. "We think it's in everyone's best interest that the hotel be open and viable."

The Vectra Bank officials involved in providing financing for Ski Town Inn are based in Denver and were not connected with the local Vectra Bank or its predecessor, First National Bank.

Ed Cheney of Sanborn & Co., said the hotel is listed for $4.6 million. He said he has received many phone calls from potential buyers doing homework on the project and one offer. Cheney said Vectra Bank is open to an arrangement that would allow a new owner to get the hotel ready for the ski season, before the 75 days are up and the hotel is officially unencumbered.

Ski Town Inn closed in 1998, less than a year after it opened, and has been sitting virtually empty for two years. The developers, Stephen Campbell, Patricia Strandberg and Richard Porreco of Richcam Adventures LLC, defaulted on a $6.3 million construction loan from Vectra Bank. They also owed Phoenix Leasing $1.4 million for fixtures, furnishings and equipment. There are also five holders of mechanics liens totaling $1.8 million. The lien holders include Commercial Design Engineering, which has a claim for $312,000 against Richcam, as well as local companies Steamboat Lumber ($48,606) and Connell Resources ($6,000).

District Judge Richard Doucette ruled in late May that the principle in Richcam must pay Vectra Bank at least $6.3 million on the loan. But he also ruled that the mechanics liens must be paid before Phoenix and then Vectra Bank get their money.

The ruling by the judge cleared lien holders on the hotel to file for foreclosure proceedings.

Phoenix initiated a foreclosure and as of Monday afternoon, it was the only entity to submit a bid for the public trustees sale, Whiddon confirmed. She said the bid amount is just under $1.5 million. If Phoenix is the successful bidder Tuesday morning, interested parties, including the principles in Richcam and other secured lenders, will have 75 days to get in line to "redeem" the property by purchasing the hotel and apply what is owed them to the purchase price.

Vectra Bank, with the greatest cash stake in the hotel property, is a likely candidate. Gary Appel, an attorney representing Phoenix, predicted in May that ultimately Vectra would pay Phoenix so that the bank wound up owning the hotel. In the event of a sale to a hotel operator, the various creditors could stake their claims to the proceeds.

Bill Moser, a local man who has been acting as a court-appointed receiver for the hotel, said he's looking forward to 75 days from now, when the hotel is out of receivership.

"I'll be very pleased to have this go away," Moser said. "It's been a good job, but it is coming to its natural conclusion."

Moser is the principle of Moser & Associates.

Moser recently applied to the city of Steamboat Springs for a 12-month extension to a development permit that would allow future owners of the hotel to build a second phase of the hotel, adding 40 more units. Earlier this month, Planning Commission recommended approval of the minor development permit that would grant the extension. City Council is scheduled to consider the extension on Oct. 10.

Cheney said preserving the option to build the second phase of the hotel would definitely be important to a new owner. However, he feels the hotel as it stands has ample room and facilities to generate positive cash flow.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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