The Bitterroot Resort answered two weeks ago to its lender's attempt to foreclose on the sprawling ranch below Lolo Peak, the second step in a legal back-and-forth in Missoula District Court that could last years—and eventually determine the fate of Tom Maclay's grand vision for a four-season resort south of Missoula.
In the filing, the defendants—the various business entities that make up the yet-to-be-built Bitterroot Resort—admitted or denied a series of allegations levied by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC) Asset Holdings, LLC, in its October 2009 "Complaint of Foreclosure." The current value of the loans, given in 2000 and 2005, total nearly $19 million, and MLIC claims the resort, in April and May 2009, defaulted on its payment obligations. The resort denied that claim in its filing on Jan. 21.
"All the back-and-forth you see is just typical litigation stuff," says Bitterroot Resort attorney Stephen Brown of Garlington, Lohn & Robinson. "There's really nothing unusual going on. It's just a typical case where a lender brings a claim arguing they have a right to foreclose. It's being defended right now. It's really in the early stages."
Maclay's financial troubles became clear before MLIC's October filing. Reports surfaced in April of unpaid services and liens placed on his land. Also in April, the resort's former COO, Jim Gill, told the Independent that Maclay was selling parcels of his roughly 3,000-acre ranch to pay off his mounting debt.
Brown represents Maclay's business entities, but not Maclay. He says Maclay's representing himself, and he failed to answer to the foreclosure complaint on time, prompting the court to file an "Entry of Default" on his behalf. Maclay then filed, on Jan. 20, a motion to set aside the default.
"The grounds for this motion are that I am appearing in this matter pro se and was under the understanding that the time for me to respond to [MLIC's complaint] was the same as for other corporate Defendants," he wrote.
Maclay did not return repeated calls for comment. MLIC declined to comment.