Meadville Tribune

May 8, 2013

Park trustees may sue Beach Club, Hotel operator

By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — The Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park Inc. are legally striking back against one of its tenants.

The Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park Inc. has filed a writ of summons against Park Restoration LLC — notifying Park Restoration it may file full lawsuit in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.

The writ of summons is for breach of the contract and obligations surrounding the operations of Hotel Conneaut and the Beach Club in Conneaut Lake Park, Brian Pulito, attorney for Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, said in an email Tuesday. No details were released in Tuesday’s filing with Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.

“Unfortunately, the Trustees have, with no success, attempted to resolve its issues with Park Restoration from behind the scenes,” the email said. “It is our hope that Park Restoration and the Trustees will reach an amicable resolution to their differences.”

Contacted Tuesday night, Pulito said, “The Trustees’ hope is to get them to the (negotiation) table. If Trustees can’t reach agreement with Park Restoration within two weeks, then the intent is to file the full suit.”

Greg Sutterlin and Steve Popovich are the principals in Park Restoration LLC. Sutterlin said on Tuesday that a meeting with three members of the board of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is set for today at 6 p.m. at the Conneaut Lake Park office.

“Any concerned citizen is able to attend,” Sutterlin said Tuesday night. “Unlike the Trustees, we have nothing to hide.

“We’ve had difficulty meeting with them. We’ve been trying for a few weeks to reach a meeting,” Sutterlin said. “There seems to be a difference of opinion on who owes who money. We feel they owe us money, and they feel we owe them money.”

Park Restoration LLC is a company that leases the Hotel Conneaut and Beach Club from Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the amusement park.

Park Restoration has been operating and restoring the two properties for more than four years, but in recent months the company publicly has expressed concern about the lack of a tax repayment plan by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.

As of April 30, Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park owes $877,168.24 in back taxes and interest to Crawford County, Conneaut School District and Sadsbury and Summit townships, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office. The overdue taxes and interest date back to 1997, according to the Treasurer’s Office.

Sutterlin and Popovich have submitted a proposal to Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park to have Park Restoration not only pay real estate taxes for the entire amusement park property, but also reopen several other areas including the water park, the Jungle Cruise area, the building hosing the Ultimate Trip ride and the park’s convention hall.

“With their backs against the wall and no plan to pay back taxes, we feel this is their last attempt to generate revenue,” Sutterlin said about the writ of summons. “It seems they have interest in blaming us for their inability to pay the taxes.”

Last week, Pulito told the Tribune the two sides were trying to work out issues to have a united front on the back tax issue.

One of those issues is a lawsuit filed in February in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas by Park Restoration against Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park over the long-term lease matter.

The lawsuit by Park Restoration claims that in 2008, Park Restoration signed long-term lease agreements with Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park for both the Hotel Conneaut and Beach Club, but those documents weren’t notarized.

Under Pennsylvania law, without signed and notarized copies, the lease documents won’t be accepted for recording by the Crawford County Recorder of Deeds Office, according to the lawsuit.

In its suit, Park Restoration claims the documents need to be recorded to protect Park Restoration’s investment of more than $1 million since the Conneaut Lake Park properties may be subject to a tax sale later this year.

Crawford County commissioners are weighing whether to put the Conneaut Lake Park properties on the annual delinquent tax sale in September because of the amount of back taxes owed.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at Dan Walk contributed to this report.