Settlement proposed in Hermitage Club chairlift case

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HARTFORD, CONN. — A Connecticut court is deciding whether to approve a settlement agreement between Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes and club members who invested in a chairlift at the private ski resort at Haystack Mountain.

The agreement calls for the removal of Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC as manager of Barnstormer Summit Lift LLC within 60 days from Jan. 16. The Barnstormer LLC is a group made up of members who collectively loaned $7.8 million for the purchase.

The agreement would see plaintiffs named in the case appointed as managers of the Barnstormer LLC. And it would require Barnes to produce within 30 days all records of his or HIREHC's concerning "membership in Barnstormer, including information concerning the capitalization of Barnstormer and the addition and/or subtraction of members over time and the circumstances leading to those additions/subtractions; purchasing and installation of the chairlift ... Barnstormer's first priority lien and the recording thereof with respect to the chair lift ... bank records for all of Barnstormer's bank accounts; a complete accounting of Barnstormer membership accounts; and records concerning the disposition of all assets of Barnstormer, including funding of the chair lift."

The stipulation says that Barnes agrees to help and support in any way requested by the managers of the Barnstormer group to assert their first priority lien regarding the chair lift, and "agrees not to, and not to cause HIREHC to, oppose in any way Barnstormer's assertion of a first priority lien with respect to the chair lift."

Not a party to the agreement is Berkshire Bank, which foreclosed the ski resort and other Hermitage properties in February after the company defaulted on more than $17 million in loans and received summary judgment in Windham Superior Court, Civil Court. Members of the Barnstormer LLC worry their security interest in the lift is at risk with that litigation still ongoing.

According to a court transcript, David DeBassio, attorney for the bank, said, "I just wanted to make that clear on the record because there was some representations about the terms of the agreement that are issues that Barnstormer and the bank, I believe, are going to be litigating in Vermont. So I didn't want there to be any confusion in case — present counsel are not involved in the Vermont foreclosure litigation, that there was somehow an admission or a stipulation here on behalf of the bank ... My concern was solely with regard to Vermont counsel seeing what's taking place here and thinking that, for example, Mr. Barnes is going to help them assert their first priority. The bank is not stipulating to that first priority today."

The agreement also calls for attorneys' fees and costs in the suit to be provided to the plaintiffs.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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