Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Battle looming over Warm Springs Ranch?

Onetime contract holder Tischer eyes ownership

Express Staff Writer

A businessman who once held a contract to purchase Warm Springs Ranch north of Ketchum is actively asserting that litigation over ownership of the property is not over and will ultimately be decided in court.

George W. Tischer, who in July 2002 negotiated a contract to buy the approximately 77-acre site, issued a press release this week that claims the development group that currently holds title to the property, Sun Valley Ventures, has issued ?false statements? about the status of ongoing litigation.

?Litigation over all issues including ownership of Warm Springs Ranch is ongoing and has never been settled and will be decided by jury trial based on the facts,? the Tischer release states.

Tischer this week told the Idaho Mountain Express that ?there is litigation pending? but declined to offer details on where the litigation will occur and what the exact subject matter will be.

Reed Martineau, a Salt Lake City attorney representing Tischer, also declined to elaborate on any litigation in which Tischer might be able to establish a right of ownership in Warm Springs Ranch.

?I don?t believe in trying these matters in the papers,? he said. ?Let?s have our day in court.?

In response to earlier claims by Tischer that he and his interests ?will be declared the rightful and legal owners of Warm Springs Ranch,? Sun Valley Ventures representatives have stated that litigation over title to the property has been settled.

Project director Henry Dean said this month that ?neither George Tischer nor any of his fictitious entities holds any right, title or interest in (the) property.?

Dean said last week that there is pending litigation between Sun Valley Ventures and Tischer but stressed that it pertains strictly to claims for monetary damages brought forth by Tischer.

Sun Valley Ventures acquired title to Warms Springs Ranch in March 2003, amid a complicated legal battle over who should ultimately be allowed to claim the property from the former owners, the Simpson family.

The development group last week filed an application with the Ketchum Planning Department to proceed with an estimated $180 million redevelopment project at Warm Springs Ranch.

The plans call for developing the site with approximately 75 condominiums, a boutique hotel, a new building for the Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant, a spa, public open space and several private estates.

Harold Moniz, Ketchum planning director, said he wants to ensure the developers ?prove that they are the legal owners? of the property before proceeding with processing the application.

The city is tentatively planning to commence public review of the plans on Nov. 8.

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