By Jacob Wheeler
Story update, Dec. 19: Leelanau County Construction Code Authority Steve Haugen told the Glen Arbor Sun this morning that he has secured permission from a County judge to enter and inspect the Sugar Loaf property, but his busy schedule prohibits him from doing so until the first week of January.
Meanwhile, Liko Smith called Haugen this morning to say that he won’t visit Leelanau this week because he’s still working out legal matters in California. El Dorado County has issued an arrest warrant for Smith for violating terms of probation.
Eneliko “Liko” Smith has told Leelanau County Construction Code Authority Steve Haugen that he will “probably be here some time this week” to prove to Haugen that he is, in fact, the owner of Sugar Loaf resort. The enigmatic Samoan boxer with a dubious legal history has claimed since late September that he owns the long shuttered Northern Michigan ski resort. But Smith has offered no documentation to back that claim. Sugar Loaf remains listed with Glen Arbor realtor John Peppler for $8.72 million. Meanwhile, Smith is on the run from authorities in El Dorado County, California, for violating terms of his probation.
Haugen intends to inspect the ski hill lodge and chair lifts, and perhaps determine whether or not to condemn them. His deadline to hear from Sugar Loaf’s owners and be given access to tour the property expired on December 9, and last week the Construction Code Authority sought an administrative warrant from the county prosecutor’s office. Once he receives permission from a judge or magistrate — likely before Christmas — Haugen hopes to tour the property and determine what subsequent steps Leelanau County should take.
Haugen’s moves of late seem to indicate that the County is taking more aggressive steps toward resolving the Sugar Loaf problem. Once a source of hundreds of jobs and great winter sports, the resort hasn’t carried skiers up the mountain since 2000. Haugen’s moves may also be what’s coaxing Liko Smith out of the shadows. Smith’s audacious claims of ownership, his rants on social media, and his correspondence with Haugen appear to closely follow the Construction Code Authority moves. Do the Sugar Loaf’s shadowy players see doom in proactivity by Leelanau County?
“Liko called me a couple times last week,” Haugen told the Glen Arbor Sun. “He said he’d ‘probably be in sometime this week to produce and show evidence’ that he’s the owner. I told him to give me a call mid-week. If he shows up and produces the deed to show that he’s the owner, I’d let him lead me through property.”
In early October, the Sun debunked Smith’s claims of having wealthy co-investors on his side to acquire and re-open Sugar Loaf. Meanwhile, official County documents hold that Kate Wickstrom still owns Sugar Loaf. But the Sun reported in late November that Wickstrom transferred the deed in March to Remo Polselli, a previous owner and known associate of Liko Smith. Polselli never registered that deed with the County. So goes the mystery over Sugar Loaf’s ownership, and the true intentions of its owners.
About Smith’s arrest warrant on the West Coast, Haugen said, “he told me he’s ‘figuring things out in California’.”
With a hearty laugh, Haugen refused to estimate the chances of Liko Smith actually showing up at Sugar Loaf this week.