But Remo never filed with County … meanwhile, Liko runs from the law … as Leelanau threatens building demolition … and citizen activists plant Peace Pole on mountaintop
By Jacob Wheeler
The Glen Arbor Sun has learned, through confidential sources, that former Sugar Loaf owner Kate Wickstrom transferred the ownership deed over the long shuttered resort to Remo Polselli in March 2013. Polselli — a hotelier who together with his wife Hanna Karcho owned Sugar Loaf from 2000-2005 — signed an Indemnification & Release Agreement on March 18, as manager of “Rock Investment Advisors”. Wickstrom, who received the transfer agreement via her Traverse City-based attorney Joe Quandt, signed on March 20. Polselli paid legal fees associated with the transfer.
The real estate transfer affidavit stipulated that, in the event Sugar Loaf was sold to a new owner within four months of the March 20 signing date, Wickstrom would get half of anything over the $5 million mark. But the resort is still on the market — over 8 months later – listed with Glen Arbor realtor John Peppler for $8.72 million.
For reasons unbeknownst to Wickstrom or the Leelanau County Register of Deeds office, Polselli never registered the deed with Leelanau County. That means, in the eyes of local authorities, Wickstrom still owns the property and could be legally liable if the County moves to condemn. On Monday, November 18, the head of Leelanau County’s Construction Code Authority, Steve Haugen, posted violation notices on the windows and doors at Sugar Loaf, warning that the lodge and other structures could be demolished for violating building and property maintenance codes.
The notices, which were addressed to Wickstrom, gave the owner of Sugar Loaf (whoever that is) 10 business days (until Monday, December 9) to comply and grant Haugen access to the premises. Wickstrom received a copy in the mail but denied to Haugen that she owned Sugar Loaf. “We still have no evidence whatsoever that anyone other than Kate Wickstrom is the owner of Sugar Loaf,” county administrator Chet Janik told the Leelanau Enterprise, the county’s paper of record.
The following day, Polselli associate Eneliko “Liko” Smith called Haugen and offered to let the County official inspect Sugar Loaf. But Liko Smith refused to offer documentation that he owned the resort or owned the property, and the offer was rescinded.
“I did get a phone call from Mr. Smith on Tuesday morning,” Haugen told the Enterprise. “He asked me if he could get an extension to the 10-day deadline … I told him that the letter I posted says the deadline is 10 days. Period.”
The Enterprise reported that Haugen’s one-and-a-half-page “violation notice 2nd letter” cites numerous provisions of the state construction code as well as national and international standards for commercial buildings that Sugar Loaf is suspected of violating. The letter also references the legal authority and circumstances under which a building official can gain access to buildings with or without permission of the owner.
Liko Smith, a convicted felon for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars by failing to pay room taxes on a hotel in Lake Tahoe, Calif., has claimed since late September that he owns Sugar Loaf resort, even though the enigmatic former Samoan boxer has shown scant evidence to back the claim. But the Glen Arbor Sun broke news on October 3 that Smith’s would-be financier, a British-born billionaire named Oscar Peters, was never going to back Smith in the acquisition, or development of, Sugar Loaf, which hasn’t seen skiers since 2000.
In subsequent, early-morning phone calls with the Sun on October 3, Smith pleaded with this reporter to retract the story, claiming that Haugen was about to bulldoze Sugar Loaf. “I’m the last shot this place has of staying open,” Smith said. “I care about Leelanau County. This is my opus.”
Liko Smith now appears to have new troubles to contend with. Both the Enterprise and the Traverse City Record-Eagle have reported this week that officials in El Dorado County, Calif., have issued an arrest warrant for Smith for violating terms of his probation. Smith, who has joked that he “Googles poorly” is apparently on the run. The Sun was unable to reach him, as he no longer uses the cell phone he had in early October.
Meanwhile, Haugen has been forced to replace all 11 violation notices he posted at Sugar Loaf on Nov. 18, because someone tore them down. According to a story in the Enterprise this week, Haugen has threatened legal action against whoever tore down. “The new notices I put up last Thursday have a couple of extra paragraphs in them, in bold face type, explaining that unauthorized tampering with the notices or removing them is a violation of the law, and could result in prosecution,” he told Leelanau County’s paper of record. The building official conducted an exterior inspection of the buildings in August and is now seeking an interior inspection.
Peace comes to Sugar Loaf?
A group of local citizens who actively post on the Friends of Sugar Loaf Facebook page believe they can purge the ski resort of any negative vibes that may have accumulated in its 13 years of dormancy. With any luck, they may also shed light on who actually owns the place.
On Saturday, November 16 — coincidentally two days before Haugen posted violation notices on the lodge — members of the “Leelanau Boat Club” installed a locally made Peace Pole at the top of the ski hill, overlooking Lake Leelanau and much of the county. Later that day, they wrote the following on Facebook:
“To all the concerned loafers. The peace pole has been installed. Three days later [the same day Liko Smith called Haugen to ask for an extension — Ed.] I was contacted by TheRok asking to coordinate installation and to add ‘TheRok 2014 to the pole/vibe’. I have reached out to the person I was instructed to coordinate with and have informed them that the pole Has been installed and that when the title documents are filed with the Leelanau County register of deeds , the Fosl, inc will be happy to add ‘TheRok2014′ based on the commitment of opening in 2014. Hope that seems reasonable.”
Some “Friends of Sugar Loaf” commented on Facebook that the Peace Pole amounted to trespassing. “Why was this a good idea?” asked Mary O’Neill. “I’d be pretty upset if someone decided to install something on my property without my permission, good intentions or not. And, here it is, on Facebook, all the evidence for an arrest. Seems like not a good idea to me.”
“Our prayer or exorcism was for renewal rebirth and success in the form of skiing,” Leelanau Boat Club responded.
Others wholeheartedly supported the move, and some expressed hope that an eventual trespassing lawsuit would help reveal the identity of the resort’s owners.
“Being that I was raised skiing at Sugar Loaf, and I made Peace Poles for a number of years, I can get behind this,” wrote one-time Leelanau County ski star Kristian Saile.
And Eric Luthardt replied, “Yes, he promised to pay her later and she had to buy her own shovel.”