Will Leelanau County take Remo Polselli to court over Sugar Loaf?

By Jacob Wheeler
Sun editor

Leelanau County construction code authority Steve Haugen has notified Remo Polselli — and other potential stakeholders in Sugar Loaf — this week that action must be taken on the long shuttered ski resort’s decrepit lodge within 20 business days, or Haugen will take the case to the 13th Circuit Court. Polselli now has until early January, 2016, to inform the construction code of his plan for Sugar Loaf.

Both Haugen and county prosecutor Joe Hubbell confirm that this is the first time that local county pressure on Polselli has been backed up by legal threats.

The options now facing Polselli — or Rock Investment Advisors, or Troy, MI-based Talmer Bancorp, or Sunrise, Fla.-based Transcapital Bank (whoever actually controls Sugar Loaf) — are to either bring the lodge up to code, shutter the building indefinitely, or demolish it to the ground. Haugen’s violation letter this week was sent to those and 8 other entities.

The first option may be difficult, as previous inspections of the lodge revealed significant damage from 15 years of vacancy.

The second option would require the lodge’s entrances and windows to be completely boarded up, and remain that way indefinitely; that may be the worst scenario for Michiganders who pine for the days when Sugar Loaf was this region’s most prominent ski resort and the county’s biggest employer.

The third option may be cost prohibitive for Polselli. Haugen estimates that a teardown could cost $1.3 million. Polselli recently had a local contractor demolish the nearby Sugar Barn (whose roof collapsed after heavy snow last winter), but the contractor was paid half what they were owed and has taken the matter to court. Unless they were paid upfront, it seems unlikely that other contractors in northern Michigan would agree to work for Polselli on Sugar Loaf.

Meanwhile, the nearby Sugar Loaf Townhouses association is unable to get their fire insurance renewed, ostensibly because of the shoddy state of the lodge. Members of the association have pressed Haugen and Leelanau County officials to take action and remedy the Sugar Loaf situation.

Haugen and prosecutor Hubbell presented their plan of action yesterday morning to the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners. Hubbell said that if the case goes to the 13th Circuit Court, which covers Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Antrim counties, judges Thomas Power or Philip Rodgers could legally force Polselli to act or face arrest.

Polselli currently works out of the New California Hotels in southern California. It is unclear whether or not the Circuit Court could extradite him to Michigan.

Reached today by phone, Polselli told the Glen Arbor Sun that he hadn’t yet received Haugen’s latest violation notice and stipulations. Polselli spoke of a pending foreclosure on the property, and said that he’d speak with his lawyer, Mark Sadecki, before commenting further.

Meanwhile, some local citizens and business owners want the County Commission to consider acquiring Sugar Loaf if nothing happens to the resort, whose chairlifts haven’t run since March 2000.

Aaron Ackley, who owns the Cedar Rustic Inn, just a few miles from Sugar Loaf, considers himself an advocate for small government. But he’s tired of nothing happening at the resort — once the county’s biggest employer — and he knows that his restaurant and brew pub would stand to gain if Sugar Loaf reopened some day.

Ackley wants the Commission to place a millage on a ballot that would ask county voters whether they favored paying a few dollars more in taxes that would enable the county to take over Sugar Loaf.

But first, Polselli has another 20 days to make a move.