BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Leelanau County officials are seeking a warrant to inspect the long-shuttered structures of Sugar Loaf Resort for safety and code violations.
County Administrator Chet Janik said a warrant request sent to county Prosecutor Joe Hubbell Dec. 12 is one of several legal steps that could lead to the demolition of the former ski resort if code violations are not corrected by the resort's owner.
Rumors have swirled about who owns Sugar Loaf since Eneliko "Liko" Sean Smith, a Lake Tahoe man with a history of dubious business dealings, announced in September he purchased the resort near Cedar with plans to create "the most exciting mountain venture in the history of snow resorts."
But county records indicate the resort still belongs to Kate Wickstrom — the titular owner of the resort since 2005 — despite several attempts by Smith to convince county officials that he's the owner, Janik said.
"We have to proceed under the assumption that Kate Wickstrom is still the owner unless she or Mr. Smith provide evidence," Janik said.
Wickstrom said she let the property revert to former owner Remo Polselli about a year ago. Polselli previously told the Record-Eagle the property is in the control of Smith, who tried to buy Sugar Loaf from Wickstrom in 2010.
Wickstrom said she plans to present county officials this week with a quitclaim deed signed by Polselli proving she's no longer the owner of the resort. Wickstrom said she would let county inspectors into the resort if she could, but she no longer has keys to the long-closed buildings.
"I just want this nightmare to be over," she said.
County officials requested the warrant to inspect the ski resort's interior for building code violations after inspections of the resort's exterior found violations may pose a "danger to the public," county records show.
Janik said Sugar Loaf's owner will have an opportunity to address any violations found by inspectors, assuming the warrant is approved. It's possible a judge will eventually order the resort demolished with associated costs going on the tax roles of the owner if violations are not corrected.
"But that's a long way from happening," Janik said. "There's a misconception that the county is going to demolish it in the near future, and that's not the case."