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New owners assume Dyer Mountain responsibilities

Sam Williams
News Editor
12/23/2009

Supervisors want to collect more than $1.1 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.

    The development of Dyer Mountain, the proposed 6,700-acre, four-season resort near Westwood, has entered yet another phase.
    By a 4-1 vote, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement to allow the new owners of the property to assume the developer agreement and all the rights, responsibilities and obligations enjoyed by the previous owners, Dyer Mountain Associates.

    District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle, District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer, District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson voted to approve the assumption agreement. District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman, who said he was the only member of the board who opposed the original developer agreement, voted no.
    Michael Chew, representing the new equity owners, Dyer Management LLC, appeared before the board and asked it to approve the agreement so the investment group could move forward with the project.
    “I’m just here today to answer any questions that the board might have with regard to the assumption of the development agreement and on the project,” Chew said.
    According to his presentation, Chew said the new owners were investors in Dyer Mountain Associates, the project’s original development group, and they had taken control of the project following the recent conclusion of DMA’s bankruptcy proceedings.
    “We’ve been moving forward to assume the responsibilities as the new equity owners,” Chew said, “and in doing so want to protect the county from any other potential litigation that has followed the project from the previous owners.”
    Chew had barely finished his comments when Chapman took the bait.
    First Chapman railed about the money owed the county regarding the legal fees surrounding the project—an issue Chapman said the board was “keenly interested in.”
    Then he laid into Chew about more than $1 million in back taxes, penalties and interest the project owes the county.
    “One issue that continues to remain and plague the project, in my opinion—and I know a lot of folks here in Lassen County feel the same way, and I know it’s a sentiment the board has some strong feelings about as well—and that is the fact the prior organizations have not lived up to their civic and government responsibilities in terms of taking care of the property tax responsibilities.”
    The supervisor acknowledged the property’s value is based upon the land’s proposed use as a resort and not as timberland. Chapman said according to the county tax collector the current tax bill is $1,165,614.
    He said it’s important for the new investors to show their credibility to the board and to the taxpayers of Lassen County by presenting a plan as to how they plan to retire this tax debt.
    “In my opinion, as one board member, and I’ve expressed this numerous times over the last several years, if we are going to have a project of credibility and viability within the community, a business entity needs to take care of its taxes first.
    “If you’re not able to take care of your taxes as a basis of doing business, it really raises the question as to your ability to actually conduct business in terms of a project of this magnitude…From a responsible perspective, it kind of brings to question whether or not we’ve been dealing with responsible parties.
    “Hopefully, your party, being new and fresh, can break that circuit of distrust that exists there.”
    Pyle said he also wanted the new owners to create a payment plan to bring the taxes current.
    Keefer said the back taxes and the developer agreement are two separate but related issues. Then he added, “There’s not much sympathy in Lassen County for people who don’t pay their taxes.”
    Chew told the supervisors that by January, the new investment group would have deposited $200,000 in an escrow account for the legal fees associated with defending the project.
    The supervisors also added a paragraph to the agreement, subject to approval by the new investors, that the group would submit a written repayment plan to the county for its back tax debt within six months.
    Almost 63 percent of the county’s voters approved a November 2000 ballot initiative that amended the county’s General Plan, zoning ordinance and Westwood Area Plan to provide for development of Dyer Mountain and the surrounding area.

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