Golf Course Closed, Furniture Carted Off
RIDGWAY – Members of the Cornerstone Golf Club and the Cornerstone Homeowners Association filed suit on Friday, March 15 against the development’s new majority owners, Bobby Wayne (aka Lew) Thompson, of Huntsville, Ark., Cobalt Workout Partners LLC, a Utah entity, and various subsidiaries.
The suit charges that Thompson, a trucking company magnate who also purchased The Bridges golf-course development in Montrose (and another distressed residential golf-course in Michigan) has engaged in “willful and wanton” breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and civil conspiracy, among other charges.
The Cobalt and Thompson entities effectively closed and stopped maintaining the golf course and clubhouse last summer and, according to the complaint, have “indicated they plan to put to private use” both the clubhouse and “the 3,100 acres of open space purchased to the preclusion of the owners of the Homesteads.”
According to Ridgway resident John Kuijvenhoven, one of Cornerstone’s original developers, the new majority owners are “dismantling” the place.
“We feel completely justified in making every allegation,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Gregory, of Gregory, Golden and Landeryou, LLC, in Durango.
It is the HOA’s desire, Gregory added, “to insure that Cornerstone remains the quality project envisioned, promoted and approved by Ouray and Montrose counties, including the open space and innovative wildlife mitigation plan.”
The massive, 6,000-acre development on the north shoulder of Horsefly Peak, with its Greg Norman-designed 18-hole course, straddles the Ouray/Montrose County line. In planning stages a decade ago, Kuijvenhoven said, “We participated in a community effort, all the stakeholders – neighbors, the Uncompahgre Valley Association, the Ridgway-Ouray Community Council, the county commissioners of both counties. Everybody pitched in, it was very well thought out, and the system worked.” Now, Kuijvenhoven believes, the particulars of those agreements as ratified by the two counties, including the large open-space designations and the wildlife-management plan, are threatened by the new owners’ actions.
The complaint, filed last week in Ouray County District Court, maintains that after Thompson took control in June 2012, the Cobalt and Thompson entities “terminated the lease with the Club,” and “started dividing [clubhouse] assets between themselves: furniture, fixtures, equipment,” etc.
Cobalt and Thompson, the complaint continues, “have failed and refused to maintain the golf course, clubhouse and related facilities and to make them available for use of members.”
They have “failed to pay real estate taxes, metro district fees and operating costs of the Club.”
According to one source close to the case, the new majority owners have treated open space as an asset, and “certain open-space parcels have changed hands.”
This conflicts with the original Development Agreement, according to Ouray County Attorney Marti Whitmore. “Parcels that have been platted as Open Space must remain as Open Space,” she wrote in a letter to the defendants’ attorneys on Jan. 18, and “unless and until there is an amendment to the existing Development Agreement or a new development plan is approved, the current Development Agreement remains binding as to its obligations, as well as to its development rights.”
Saying they continue to “suffer negative impacts to the value of their Homesteads,” the plaintiffs ask for relief in various forms. In addition to seeking damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, they ask that the Club be put into receivership, so as “to assume control of all assets.”
To that end, they are seeking everything from injunctions “to pay all past, present and future operating costs for the Club, its assets and facilities” to requiring “the Defendants to maintain and operate the Club” to preventing or restricting “any conveyance or selling of open space areas approved by Ouray County and Montrose County.”
“We want to keep Cornerstone Cornerstone,” said Gregory, summing up the plaintiffs’ goal for the suit.
Kuijvenhoven voiced optimism that the system will prevail. “Even in today’s situation, with the development’s failure,” he said, “the [community] values are still intact. I have no fear whatsoever that the mechanisms are still in place and will prevail.”
Reached in Huntsville, Ark., Lew Thompson’s business lawyer, Heartsill Ragon III, said he plans to respond to the complaint.
“We will be filing an answer and a series of cross claims that will set forth our position in this matter,” Ragon said. “We are extremely comfortable that we will realize a positive outcome.”
The plaintiffs are requesting a jury trial.