home articles books academic audio misc top 10
Big Horn Mountain Resorts up for auction Owner faces citations for sewage spill at Deer Haven

By Katie Hulet

As of June 26, Jim McCotter likely will no longer be the owner of the Big Horn Mountain Resorts.

McCotter said other financial obligations are the reason he decided to auction off the three resorts “Meadowlark Lake Resort, Deer Haven Resort and Big Horn Mountain Ski Area“ as well as a fourth property, the 840-acre Wilderness Ranch.

"We have enjoyed the resorts in many ways over the years but are now in need of extra cash at this time for our primary company, the Maverick Jets," McCotter said in a statement provided via E-mail.

The sale announcement arrived after environmental agencies and the Forest Service were investigating two of the resorts for leaking sewage into Ten Sleep Creek.

Meadowlark passed its latest inspections, while Deer Haven remained closed due to an ongoing investigation, according to officials. McCotter faces citations stemming from the investigation.

Sheldon Good and Company of Denver announced May 21 that the properties would be sold through a sealed auction bid.

Jim McDonnell, executive managing director of the real estate company in charge of the auction, said that because the owner of the Big Horn Mountain Resorts wants to get rid of the businesses, three of the properties would be sold regardless of price.

"The owner is obligated to sell even if the properties go for a mere $25,000," McDonnell said.

The Wilderness Ranch is the only property that will have a reserve, according to McDonnell. He added that the property is the only piece that is situated on private land. The ranch is 840 acres located about seven miles west of Deer Haven Resort.

"The current owners see this as a prime piece of land for development purposes," McDonnell said.

McCotter has been the owner of the three resorts that sit on Forest Service land since 1999. While he doesn't own the land, he is the owner of the buildings and improvements that have been made.
Whoever purchases the resort properties must first apply for a permit from the U.S. Forest Service. According to U.S. Forest Service Lands and Special Uses Program Manager Gayle Laurent, without a permit the new owner of the resorts would be in trespass. "The new owner would be in trespass if they did not have a permit to first operate," she said. "The Forest Service is under no obligation to issue them a permit until they first submit an application that includes a business plan."

McCotter first began working with the real estate company back in April, during the same time that Meadowlark Lake and Deer Haven resorts were shut down after employees alerted the Department of Environmental Quality that sewage from both had leaked into the Ten Sleep Creek drainage.

According to Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Bill Bass, repairs were made at Meadowlark Lake resort just in time to open up for Memorial Day weekend. Bass said there is an ongoing investigation involving the infrastructure of the sewage system at Deer Haven resort.

McCotter has been issued a number of citations due to the continued problems at Deer Haven resort, according to Big Horn Forest Service law enforcement officer Cindy Gradin.

Gradin said that McCotter has been given a mandatory court appearance for his failure to comply with his permits.

These issues, if and when the resort is sold, will not be relinquished. "This is not a cleared matter," Gradin said. "The problems will be brought forth in court and he (McCotter) would still have to answer to these charges on a federal level."

Ongoing problems at the resort would fall into the new owner's hands at the time the property is sold, according to Powder River District Ranger Mark Booth.

"It is my understanding that Jim McCotter could sell the properties to a qualified purchaser in the condition that the resorts are now," he said. "Whoever is the owner will be responsible for the problems before they can operate."

Booth was hopeful that whoever buys the property would first meet with officials from the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Environmental Quality.

"We would like to meet with the new person to make them aware of the things that need corrected," he said. "I expect them to use their due diligence in researching these issues."

The Buffalo Bulletin, May 5th, 2007