Gypsum residents hope for resolution
GYPSUM, Colorado ” Cotton Ranch Golf Course bested the weather and opened for play last weekend, cementing its reputation as the first course in the valley to open come springtime in Gypsum, Colorado.
But storm clouds still loom over the 12-year-old development, centered around a four-year-old lawsuit between Cotton Ranch’s principal partners, Tim Garton and Vince Cook. The case, which will be decided by Judge Frederick Gannett, will go to trial beginning Tuesday and is expected to span nine days.
“I don’t know exactly what will happen with this trial,” says Cotton Ranch resident Scott Gordon. “I don’t think this lawsuit will affect the membership at Cotton Ranch too much, but hopefully it will help resolve some things.”
Those “things” that Gordon refers to involve a troubled financial situation for the golf club that climaxed early this year when Judge Gannett appointed a receiver to oversee the day-to-day operation.
“That was actually a positive step for the membership,” says Gordon. “It’s probably a good thing for the Gartons and the Cooks to not be involved in the course anymore because of how they were losing money and they weren’t able to continue that way.”
Homeowner Joan Harned says she’s sad that the Cotton Ranch situation has come to this point. “We are friends with both the Gartons and the Cooks and we wish them both the best,” she says. “But the best is to have this resolved.”
The case file for 2005 CV335 ” Vincent Cook v. Timothy Garton ” stands two inches thick. The proceedings listing ” a tally of all the various court actions related to the case ” numbers 52 pages. The lawsuit is obviously complex with both Cook and Garton lobbing charges and counter-filing. Neither Cook or Garton returned phone calls to the Daily.
The original lawsuit filed by Cook claims that Garton, in his capacity as manager of the Cotton Ranch Golf Club, was “grossly negligent.” The suit claims that both parties agreed to lend money to Cotton Ranch Golf Club to keep the operation open, but Garton failed to meet his financial obligation.
Garton, in his cross filings, claims he was never paid for legitimate management expenses connected with running the club.
Financial reports, audits and expert testimony will dominate court proceedings over the coming two weeks.
Meanwhile, the course is now operating under the guidance of receiver M. Neal Eckard, of Indiana-based Summit Asset Management. Eckard was appointed by the court in February when PMC Commercial Trust, the lender for the golf club, asked Gannett to name a receiver to protect the company’s assets as it proceeded with foreclosure actions.
Garton has conceded that his management company ” MTG Development LLC ” is in default to its lender. According to PMC Commercial Trust, MTG failed to make its October, November and December 2008 payments as well at its January and February 2009 payments. Additionally the company says that insurance and utility payments had not been made and that money has not be escrowed for taxes.
At the time of the receivership hearing, PMC representatives said they were concerned the property was not being run and maintained, and that was the motivation to name a receiver.
The future of the Cotton Ranch won’t be decided during the Cook/Garton trial, but having the litigation resolved will doubtless impact what happens at the development.
One possible resolution is the town of Gypsum purchases the golf course and it becomes a municipal operation rather than a semi-private course.
“We are on the bubble with the lawsuit,” says Gypsum Town Manger Jeff Shroll. “The outcome of it will determine who we can even negotiate with.”
Shroll said the town has submitted a purchase offer. The specifics of the offer are not yet public, but it would be unlikely that the town would offer more than the approximately $2 million owed to the bank.
There are several issues tied to private memberships at the club that would have to be resolved if the town were to buy the facility.
“We are not going to buy a course and not have it be fully public,” says Shroll.
But even knowing that, Shroll says several members of the Cotton Ranch community have expressed the desire that the town take over the course rather than have it sit dormant. If that were to happen, Shroll notes the course could fall into a state of disrepair that would require spending millions to bring it back to playable condition.
“We don’t want to end up with the county’s biggest Frisbee golf and dog park out there,” he says. “That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests and the town is very interested in keeping that course open and protecting citizens’ assets.”