Foreclosures of Massive Tupper ski space challenged in court docket

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The slopes of the Big Tupper Ski Area on Mount Morris are seen from across Raquette Pond in Tupper Lake in 2018. (Photo -- Aaron Cerbone, Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

The slopes of the Big Tupper ski area on Mount Morris can be seen from the other Raquette Pond in Tupper Lake in 2018. (Photo – Aaron Cerbone, Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

An attempt by Franklin County to foreclose the Big Tupper Ski Area has stalled in court as owners and pledges attempt to break the foreclosure.

Tupper Lake Business Group asked the city if they could lease the property from its current owners so that people can relax there again. Tupper Lake Town supervisor Patti Littlefield, who also sits on the Big Tupper Task Force of the Leisure Development Group, said she would look into this, but added that there are no guarantees that it will work out.

“There are more what-ifs than anything,” she said.

Tupper Lakers have been waiting for the mountain to reopen for 22 years, with the exception of a few winters that were volunteer-run. Some had hoped the city could buy it at a reduced price if the county closed the property off.

The city built the ski area in the 1960s and operated it for two decades until it sold the property in 1987. Local businessmen Peter Day and LeRoy Pickering kept it going until they closed it in 1999 and it fell into disrepair.

In 2003, developers Michael Foxman and Tom Lawson planned to revitalize the ski area and build a resort and luxury home, the Adirondack Club and Resort, on it and the surrounding land. But after deadlocks from government agencies and lengthy legal disputes with environmentalists and creditors, the project ran out of momentum.

These litigation resulted in Foxman and Lawson owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid tax debt with Franklin County – the reason the county attempted foreclosure. In 2019, that debt totaled $ 393,198. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were also not paid to the law firms hired for these court battles – the reason for the liens that give law firms the right to own property instead of debt.

For several winters, volunteers have revived some parts of Big Tupper, but when the donated money ran out the mountain went dark.

The city has expressed an interest in buying the property from a possible foreclosure sale and has the first right to buy it from the county.

“That has been suppressed,” Littlefield said at a board meeting last week.

At least for now.

Real estate owners and law firms holding liens on the property have filed several service of answers with Franklin County Court contesting foreclosures on four properties – including the Mount Morris ski area and the location of a proposed marina on Big Tupper Lake. A reply service is a response to the foreclosure, and when this is the case, applicants try to dismiss the foreclosure.

Franklin County’s Treasurer Fran Perry said her office is working on a response in defense of the foreclosure proceedings and is confident it will be confirmed.

“Indeed, we obeyed all laws,” said Perry. “We’ll go and refute your point.”

The properties were removed from the immediate foreclosure list for a district auction in May, but not completely removed from the foreclosure list.

“It’s just a little delayed,” said Perry.

The lawsuits were filed by a number of real estate owners and law firms.

Foxman and Lawson companies own the four properties through Big Tupper LLC, Preserve Associates LLC, and Tupper Lake Boat Club LLC. ”

Perry said the LLCs received a tax certificate dating back to 2013 in January each year telling them they had delinquent taxes to pay, but the taxes were not paid.

“It’s a pretty normal occurrence,” Perry said of the response service. “I think it’s a delaying tactic.”

She said the answering service makes sure the county has dotted all “i” and “t” crossed.

The law firms Shanley, Sweeney, Reilly and Allen and Whiteman Osterman and Hanna, who provided services to the owners, also submitted responses. This also applies to Bleeker St. LLC, the estate of James Robert Treadwell and James Robert Treadwell, the Baxter Group, Raymond L. Struble and Brian R. McNaught, who have mortgage liens.

The response service alleges that the county did not provide a reason for the measure, did not start foreclosure within the correct timeframe, did not disclose the amount of unpaid property taxes in 2013 and 2014, and did not report payments from other sources for those taxes.

Perry said the county would file its response with Franklin County Judge Robert Main Jr. in May.

Meanwhile, Tupper Lake Business Group’s PR manager Dan McClelland, who also owns and publishes the Tupper Lake Free Press newspaper, is hoping the town can work out a lease agreement with the owners so it can be used for skiing. Hiking, biking and snowshoeing.

He said at the time that the town was running the ski center it leased the property from the Oval Wood Dish Corporation. This would be a return to that system, he said.

“At the moment, people are using the property anyway. You are entering the house, ”said McClelland. “We just want to see it in the hands of the city so that the city can pay for the insurance needed to bring it to the public’s attention.”

The group’s long-term goal is still to find a public or private body to develop and operate the ski area. By the time the ski lifts can be rebuilt, McClelland wants people to be able to go up and down the mountain.

“It seems a shame to have such a place in the community and not open it to the public,” said McClelland. “We just want the city to be in control of it in some way.”