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Mayhem continues at Granby Ranch as new owner takes over Grand County ski and golf community

Granby Prentice Granby Holdings sent a letter early Wednesday to the roughly 800 owners of property at the 5,000-acre Grand County ski and golf resort explaining it is terminating a 15-year deal with them

A lender sought a court-ordered foreclosure on the owner of Grand County's Granby Ranch, a 5,000-acre resort she has owned since 1995. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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A new owner is taking the reins at Granby Ranch, but the mayhem continues for the beleaguered ski and golf community.

Following a complicated foreclosure sale, the new owner of Granby Ranch — Granby Prentice Granby Holdings — sent a letter early Wednesday to the roughly 800 owners of property at the 5,000-acre Grand County resort explaining that the company was terminating a 2005 deal that had the owners paying $10,000 each to eventually take control of the ski area and golf course.

The Granby Prentice group, which shares the same address and registered agent as California real estate investment firm Pacific Coast Capital Partners, acquired about 340 parcels in Granby Ranch, including all the ski and golf resort assets in what it described in the letter as “the complex foreclosure of five deeds of trust.” Those five deeds involve promissory notes between lenders and former Granby Ranch owner Marise Cipriani. Cipriani borrowed more than $62 million since 2005 to fund her failed 25-year dream of more than 4,000 homes in a year-round destination resort. 

Cipriani for two years tried to sell the resort, but walked away earlier this year after Granby Prentice concluded she owed more than it was worth, telling a Grand County District Court in January that “the property is inadequate security for repayment of the loan.” The lender pursued a judicial foreclosure of the property, which was completed this week.

Many emails sent over the past several months to Phil Russick, the authorized agent listed in Granby Prentice’s federal filings and a partner in the Pacific Coast Capital group, were not returned. 

In the nameless, unsigned letter to homeowners, Granby Prentice Granby Holdings said the success of the property depends on its ability to make Granby Ranch attractive to a new buyer. 

Part of that process involves canceling a lease-purchase agreement that had the owners of all properties in Granby Ranch paying a $10,000 “amenity fee” toward a deal that would make them owners of the ski and golf assets, including the base area lodge and golf clubhouse. 

It’s estimated the owners have paid more than $8 million into the agreement. Documents outlining the $10,000 amenity fees — called the “amenity agreement” — include a clause that the “covenants run with the land,” meaning the terms and conditions remain intact, regardless of ownership.

“The recorded amenity agreement runs with the property and clearly conveys certain property rights,” said Natascha O’Flaherty, a Granby Ranch resident, local attorney and Town of Granby Trustee. “The attempt to interfere with title and these property rights is brazen and without legal basis.”

Ski Granby Ranch’s Quickdraw Express, seen here in December 2018. A malfunction in the lift’s electrical driver contributed to an accident that killed a Texas mother when she was thrown from the lift. (Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun)

That 49-year lease purchase agreement is part of a byzantine network of taxing districts and management plans for Granby Ranch, which has 10 separate metro districts that impose additional taxes beyond property taxes for the management of the property. The lease agreement was formed in 2005 and amended in 2012. 

Granby Prentice Granby Holdings told homeowners in Wednesday’s letter that the lease-purchase agreement was “a major hurdle to both the financial well-being of the community and the attractiveness of the project to prospective purchasers.”

The new owner said “numerous interested parties over the past few years” have cited the lease-purchase agreement as “a primary reason” they did not pursue the purchase of the resort, which Cipriani put up for sale in late 2017. 

It was unclear late Wednesday if the termination of the lease purchase agreement would require the new owner to pay property taxes on the ski resort and golf course, which has been excluded from taxation because it was owned by a metro district representing the homeowners.

In addition to terminating the lease-purchase agreement, Granby Prentice Granby Holdings announced Wednesday it had recruited Austin, Texas-based Touchstone Golf to manage the resort community’s golf course. Ski industry veteran Andy Wirth and his son Jace will manage the Granby Ranch ski area through their Ridgeline Executive Group. The Wirths plan to open the ski area for the 2020-21 ski season.

Granby Prentice Granby Holdings said it was investing “significant financial resources” into the golf course and ski area and would be consolidating and simplifying the homeowners associations in Granby Ranch. 

The new owner also said it planned to work with the Town of Granby “to clarify and attempt to resolve” concerns over improvements needed on Granby Ranch roads. The town has demanded the resort pay for $3 million in road and infrastructure repairs and has suspended building permits or certificates of occupancy for the owner’s lots until funding for the road repairs is paid. 

The whole Granby Ranch property includes more than 5,000 acres with this 400-acre ski area, three miles of private fly fishing along the Fraser River, an 18-hole golf course, and 40 miles of hiking and bike trails. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Town of Granby Board of Trustees could consider the new owner’s request to adjust improvement agreements on Tuesday, O’Flaherty said.

Granby Town Manager Ted Cherry said the town is committed to seeing that the roads in Granby Ranch are completed and fixed and is working with bond companies over bonds backing the road repair. 

Another storm cloud on the horizon for Granby Ranch is a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Kelly Huber, the Texas woman who was thrown from a chairlift at the ski area in December 2016. Huber died in the fall and her children were seriously injured. A state investigation revealed recent work on the chairlift caused rapid speed changes that flung the chair into a tower. That case is ongoing in Grand County District Court.

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