Ex-resort owners are sued over '07 project

By J. Harry Jones

Friday, May 15, 2009 at 2 a.m.

BORREGO SPRINGS — The state has sued the former owners of Montesoro Golf & Social Club in Borrego Springs and numerous other defendants, saying they knowingly bulldozed a 12-foot-wide, 1.8-mile-long road through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park two years ago.

According to the suit by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the incident happened May 9, 2007. Park employees spotted Jarrett Frederick, working for Integrity Golf Course Construction, operating a bulldozer and grading park land to build an all-terrain track for the resort, said the suit, filed last month in Vista Superior Court.

Frederick was told to stop what he was doing, leaving 0.9 miles of uncompleted flagged track, also on park property.

Greg Perlman, principal of GH Capital, which then owned Montesoro, said yesterday that all that happened was the bulldozer driver – “it wasn't even a bulldozer, just a small scraper” – got confused and “scraped” the wrong area.

In fact, Perlman said, the reason for the project was to create a road that would delineate the resort's property boundary. He said some stakes that had been placed in the ground had blown over in the wind leading to Frederick's confusion.

But according to the court filing, before the grading took place, Frederick and his immediate supervisor, Robert Slocum, drove the proposed route in a Gator all-terrain vehicle, following the route that was marked with white flags attached to wooden spikes. The proposed route was also driven by Mike Cusick, vice president of development for Montesoro, about a week before the bulldozing started.

The lawsuit says that during the drive, Frederick noticed a “No Vehicle” sign posted on park property. Slocum and Montesoro golf course superintendent Steve Gregory told Frederick to ignore the sign.

The Montesoro resort, in the southeastern corner of Borrego Springs, used to be known as Ram's Hill.

The suit contends the resort, GH Capital, the golf course company and several individuals trespassed on park land and damaged or destroyed numerous indigenous plants. The bulldozing and vehicular trips that preceded it also killed or harmed park wildlife and damaged or destroyed significant archeological and paleontological park resources.

“The actions . . . were malicious, oppressive, and in violation of law. At all times (the defendants) knew or should have known, of the recorded boundaries of park property.”

The suit is asking for damages exceeding $1 million plus unspecified punitive damages.

Perlman said there was never any intent to trespass upon or damage park land, and right after the incident his company brought in biologists to determine how the area could be repaired.

No court dates have been set, and the defendants have not yet filed a response to the allegations, according to the case file.

J. Harry Jones: (760) 737-7579; jharry.jones@uniontrib.com