2017-08-31 / Front Page

Loaf owner plans meeting

First view from ski hill
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

SUGAR LOAF Resort’s owner, California attorney and real estate developer Jeff Katofsky, is expected to visit the county again next month to discuss his plans for the long-shuttered resort. SUGAR LOAF Resort’s owner, California attorney and real estate developer Jeff Katofsky, is expected to visit the county again next month to discuss his plans for the long-shuttered resort. The owner of Sugar Loaf Resort — California attorney and real estate developer Jeff Katofsky — visited Leelanau County last week to tour his property and meet with county officials.

Katofsky is expected to return to Leelanau County sometime in October for further discussions with county officials. He plans to also hold a meeting open to the public during which he has promised to address questions people might have about him or his plans for Sugar Loaf, officials said.

“Mr. Katofsky understands he has a serious credibility problem here in Leelanau County and would like to rectify that,” said Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik, who was among several county officials who met with Katofsky last week.

Katofsky’s credibility issues stem from his relationship with a former longtime owner of the resort, Remo Polselli, who acquired the resort in 1997. The resort has been closed since March 2000 and has deteriorated ever since.

Decades ago Polselli was convicted of tax evasion multiple times relating to other properties he has owned in other states and elsewhere in Michigan. Most recently, in 2003, Polselli pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion and served time in a federal penitentiary.

Several supposed “buyers” of Sugar Loaf Resort since then been unable to revive the historic ski mecca, all while Polselli continued to control mortgages on the resort. In fact, Polselli is still backing Katofsky’s $6 million mortgage on the resort through a Montana-based shell corporation, according to officials.

Mortgage documents were filed at the Leelanau County Register of Deeds on the same date in Nov. 2015 that a warranty deed was filed indicating that Katofsky’s “Sweet Bread L.L.C.” acquired Sugar Loaf from Polselli’s “4500 Investments, L.L.C.” for $3 million.

“Mr. Katofsky made it clear that he will answer any questions anyone may have about Sugar Loaf’s status when he holds a meeting open to the public on a date in October that will be announced soon,” Janik said.

“In the meantime, Mr. Katofsky has asked that I speak on his behalf for now. He will also talk to the news media when he visits again in October,” Janik added.

The county administrator said District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little played a central role in inviting Katofsky to meet with county officials last Thursday. She also accompanied Katofsky to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain for a look around, Janik said.

“Apparently, it was his first visit to the top of the hill on his own property, and he was quite impressed with the view,” Janik said.

Katofsky is believed to have visited the Sugar Loaf property only once before – shortly after he acquired it in late 2015.

At the time, Katofsky explained he was acquiring Sugar Loaf as part of a legal settlement with Polselli that included Katofsky’s gaining control of two other properties Polselli owned in Michigan. One of those properties, the former Metro Hotel near Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, has since been refurbished and put back into operation.

The other property formerly owned by Polselli is the St. Clair Inn in St. Clair County. Katofsky has only begun refurbishing that property, Janik said.

When Katofsky acquired Sugar Loaf Resort almost two years ago, he said it would be at least two years before anything was likely to happen at the resort. He said he planned to work first on his hotels in Romulus and St. Clair County.

Earlier this year, as Sugar Loaf Resort continued to deteriorate and become a magnet for vandals, the head of the Leelanau County Construction Code Authority ordered Katofksy to board up the resort and fence it off in compliance with Construction Code requirements. Katofsky met the county’s deadline to secure the property with weeks to spare.

Katofsky is listed by the State Bar of California as an attorney in good standing. He has a track record of successfully redeveloping several commercial properties out West. He is also a coowner of the minor league Orem Owlz baseball team in Utah, and is a serious baseball fan – but not a skier or snowboarder.

According to Janik, Katofsky met at the county Government Center on Aug. 24 with District No. 6 Commissioner Casey Noonan who represents Cleveland Township where most of the resort property is located. Centerville Township Supervisor Jim Schwantes was also present.

Katofsky also met with District No. 3 Commissioner and County Board Chairman Will Bunek, and with the head of the county’s Planning and Community Development Department, Trudy Galla.

Galla also heads the county’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Sugar Loaf Resort is considered a “brownfield” not because of environmental contamination, but because it is considered “obsolete” and has become “blighted.”

Redevelopment of Sugar Loaf Resort as a brownfield could qualify the project for low-interest loans and tax incentives. According to Galla, Katofsky has already been working with one of the same private consultants the county relies upon for its own brownfield redevelopment programs.

County Board Chairman Bunek said he was favorably impressed with Katofsky during their first meeting last week.

“He seems like a pretty solid guy who has realistic expectations about Sugar Loaf’s future,” Bunek said. “Mr. Katofsky is clearly a businessman interested having all of this make economic sense.

“He’s also playing his cards close to the vest,” Bunek added.

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