CEDAR — Glass crunches underfoot, graffiti decorates the walls and the roof has opened up in several spots at the former Sugar Loaf ski resort in Cleveland Township.
All the doors are busted in, leaving hotel rooms wide open to vandals, animals and the curious.
“It’s deplorable,” said Leelanau County Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little. “Not only is it an eyesore, it’s a danger and it needs to come down.”
After four years of waiting for Jeff Katofsky, who bought the property in 2016, to begin work on the resort, Cleveland Township officials are taking action on a blight ordinance adopted in January.
On June 22 a letter was sent from township Supervisor Tim Stein to Sweet Bread LLC, the company that is developing a new resort at the site. The letter asked for a response as to what Katofsky’s intentions were for the property.
“The township was in an awkward situation and we wanted to know so we could develop an action plan,” Stein said.
After getting no response, the Cleveland Township Board this week gave Stein the go-ahead to contact the township attorney to establish the next step for a violation notice and injunctive action by the court to enforce the ordinance.
A fine for non-compliance will also be established, Stein said.
“We’d like to be ready by Aug. 1 to initiate action,” Stein said. “It’s a real health and safety issue and it’s dangerous. It needs to be addressed now.”
Rick Barreca, construction manager for the project, in April met with county and township officials. At that time he presented a timeline that had demolition of the resort starting June 1 and finishing by fall. The new resort would cost $134 million and would open in December 2024, according to the timeline.
The company also submitted a Brownfield application to the county asking for up to $6.5 million in reimbursement for demolition and remediation costs.
Stein said Barecca was told at that time that the township would hold off on enforcement of the blight ordinance pending the outcome of the Brownfield application, which gave a general overview of the project. It was approved by the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and was to have been followed by a more detailed application, but that never happened.
“Nothing happened,” Stein said. “Nothing, zippo, nada.”
Neither was an application for a demolition permit ever submitted, said Chet Janik, county administrator.
Stein said a quote on demolition costs from Team Elmers came in at $1.2 million.
“It was just to get some numbers so we all know what we are dealing with if we have to go ahead with the demolition on our own,” Stein said.
Located in Cleveland Township, Sugar Loaf opened in 1947 and was once the largest employer in Leelanau County.
Since being purchased by Katofsky, three underground fuel tanks have been removed and some of the ski lifts were taken down. Otherwise, no work has been done at the site.
Soutas-Little said she understands that COVID-19 has impacted the project.
“Everybody understands that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but it has to be done,” she said. “We have a real eyesore out there that is a hazard and somebody is going to get injured.”