Ted Stanton Special to the Democrat
January 14, 2014
After a big first step in the legal battle that pits the Oklahoma Land Commissioners against developers of a proposed luxury resort at the top of Lake Texoma, several questions remain. Most of them probably won’t be answered until the commissioners’ suit against Pointe Vista Development LLC gets to court.
That first step was the filing of a suit last week in which the Commissioners asked that Pointe Vista Development be forced to start work on the project or sell the land, a former state park, back to Oklahoma. How that plays out will depend on the court ruling, but given that the company has repeatedly claimed that it can’t raise funding for the project, completion, or even starting, seems unlikely.
Gov. Mary Fallin, a member of the Land Commission, said Friday, as quoted by the Oklahoman newspaper, that suing the company moves the issue closer to a solution that “will lead to economic development and allow the state and local residents to fully utilize the area’s natural resources and beauty.” What the board will seek next is still to be decided, but another commissioner, state Auditor Gary Jones, said yesterday he will encourage the land board to seek development of the extensive facilities envisioned in the state’s contract with the developer. The company’s next step is unclear because, through its spokesman, the company said that it’s a legal matter now and so the company will not comment.
The resort was to be built on the site of the old Lake Texoma State Park lodge. It would have included a lodge, cabins and other facilities, and perhaps a gated community on the waterfront. Jones said he hopes that kind of a project can still go up, because of the economic boost it would give to the region. Area business has been hampered since PVD won the contract, bulldozed that half-a-century old lodge and let other facilities fall into disrepair. “I will encourage the board,” Jones said, to replace the old park facilities and “provide the economic help the area needs.”
The company has made all but the final payment for its $14 million purchase of the land and facilities. Whether the final payment of $2 million will be made by the due date of Jan. 31 is a question, although the company has said often it will make that payment. In its lawsuit, the land board said it should be allowed to buy back the property from Pointe Vista, restoring the “purchase price or so much thereof as Pointe Vista may be entitled.” It adds that the company should pay damages for failing to start work on the development, plus any legal fees and any other costs tied to its failure to satisfy terms of the contract. A key deadline in the contract called for the company to have substantially completed the high-rise hotel by the end of this May.
The group of area residents that calls itself Restore Lake Texoma State Park has called for state officials to hold the final payment until the suit is resolved. Commissioner Jones said the board didn’t discuss that action or decisions on payments or other contract provisions at its meeting last Thursday. Terri Watkins, Land Board spokesperson, said the payment would go into the PVD account and the company can make any improvements consistent with the contract’s provisions. The company, she added, has held title to the property since 2008.
That board meeting Thursday was closed to public and press, as have been all other land board meetings dealing with Pointe Vista and the developer’s contract failures. A highly visible failure by the company, noted in the suit, was its inability to “obtain financing for the project, necessary utility plans, or construction plans for the resort,” the Oklahoman said. No work has begun on the project although the company had said much earlier that its bulldozing of the old lodge and cabins should be considered the beginning of construction.