Investor sees potential in restructured Falls resort

One of the largest investors in the financially faltering Falls golf course is calling on city officials to show the “political will” to help the hillside resort stave off bankruptcy.

Michael Thornton said if the city will “fast-track” subdivision approvals to create smaller “bite-sized” parcels affordable to more buyers, it could help the company deal with the $75-million debt crisis that forced it to seek bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

One of the largest investors in the financially faltering Falls golf course is calling on city officials to show the “political will” to help the hillside resort stave off bankruptcy.

Michael Thornton said if the city will “fast-track” subdivision approvals to create smaller “bite-sized” parcels affordable to more buyers, it could help the company deal with the $75-million debt crisis that forced it to seek bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

“There are ways the City and PricewaterhouseCooper and Blackburn and the investors could still make this a ‘good-news story,’” Thornton said.

But Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the “political will” at City Council plays no part in subdivision approvals, which are in the hands of an approving officer and “completely separate” from city council.

PricewaterhouseCooper is the court-ordered “monitor” that will work with resort developer Blackburn Developments Ltd. deal with the debt owed to various investors and mortgage holders.

The court-ordered protection from bankruptcy allows the company to continue operations at the golf course and resort located in the Eastern Hillsides while a financial plan is worked out.

It’s not clear how big a role the City will have in tailoring that plan, which must satisfy the large number of investors and mortgage holders in The Falls project.

PricewaterhouseCooper officials were not available for comment.

But Thornton agreed reaching such an agreement in the current “feeding frenzy” of investors lining up to get at least part of their money back, is going to be a tall order.

“In shark-infested waters, how many swimmers reach shore,” he said.

Thornton said his company, Landus Development Group, is “owed by far the most” at the resort project through “a series of different mortgages” totalling $16 million.

However, he said the reported $75-million debt is a figure inflated by interest rates compounded over actual investments made 12 years ago.

For example, his initial $6-million investment is now worth about $20 million, he said.

There has been no improper use of the $75 million by Blackburn president Rick Wellsby, he added, which some readers may have read into earlier media reports.

“Where Rick Wellsby made his critical error is, long ago he assumed he could deliver up (residential) lots faster than proved the case,” Thornton said.

“I suspect the real story here is the debt spiraled out of control because of a delay,” he said.

In court documents, Wellsby blamed the company’s debt problems, in part, on development delays caused by the City of Chilliwack, and on the worldwide economic meltdown of 2008.

Wellsby told The Progress in an earlier interview that the current cash crisis started when a mortgage holder called in a loan.

Thornton believes the golf resort still has legs, if investors can be convinced to hold off taking what they can grab now, and if more buyers can be attracted by “more saleable” smaller lots approved by the City.

“Longterm the property could produce far more than $75 million,” he said, and eventually become a “mini-Whistler” in the hills behind Chilliwack contributing to the local economy.

But the development won’t likely be in the hands of the man who started it all back in 1989: Rick Wellsby, he said.

“Of all the guys I know, he has the best ability to visualize the potential of something,” Thornton said. “He can look at a piece of land and see what can be done with it.”

But with his focus fixed on the “big picture,” he said, it appears Wellsby got tripped up by the details.

• Related Story: The Falls in debt crisis

Just Posted

Chilliwack launches study to evaluate seniors’ housing needs

Goal is to create diverse supply of safe, affordable housing for 55+ in Chilliwack

Sardis secondary alumni rally behind Sardis Strongman event

This year marks the 21st annual competition for students and fifth annual gathering of Sardis alums.

WATCH: All About Kids and Family Expo in Chilliwack

Fifth annual event had dozens of vendors for both children and adults at Chilliwack Heritage Park

PHOTOS: Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack

Family Day weekend powwow a colourful, vivid celebration of Indigenous culture

ACES grows the love of gardening with annual seed exchange

The event will be returning to Harrison Mills Community Hall on March 1

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

CRTC: Telecom industry using unacceptable sales tactics

Regulator held inquiry on sales practices of 12 Canadian providers of wireless and internet services

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

B.C. photographer captures otters on ice

A Langley photographer was at the right place at the right time on the Fraser River

Do you live with your partner? More and more Canadians don’t

Statistics Canada shows fewer couples live together than did a decade ago

B.C. child killer denied mandatory outings from psychiatric hospital

The B.C. Review Board decision kept things status quo for Allan Schoenborn

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

5 to start your day

The B.C. government released it’s 2019 budget, we break down snow removal per capita and more

Most Read