From: Tony Simpson
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:02 PM
Subject: Response to your Rivermont Ranch letter
Mr. & Mrs. Besemer,
Iím sending this in response to tour letter of June 16. Itís good to know that there are still people living here
who are concerned about the welfare of this unique community.
I can provide you with a lot of information about the past history of Rivermont and what I feel to be a reasonably
accurate accounting of how we came to be in our current predicklement. Iíll try to be as brief as possible but it
must be understood that where we are today began in 1971.
Iíve attached a large amount of background information that will take you from the initial incorporation of the
Gravois Land Co., the original developers of Rivermont Ranch, subsequent owners of the corporation through the
heirs of Ted Pieper, their dissolution of the corporation, the expiration of the covenants and restrictions and the
formation of, Gunflahr Land, the current developer. As a long time resident, member of the board of trustees and a
member of the County Planning Commission, I took part in many activities of the board that effected this community
and I had many personal conversations with the older residents who were here when Rivermont Ranch was formed as a
resort and recreational community. From that perspective I would say that the first 35 years of Rivermontís
history were that of a very honest, well regulated , close knit and cordial community composed mostly of people
with means and/or influence and the last 40, as this community has transitioned into middle class, full time
ownership have been characterized by deception, deceit and dishonesty. As you read through this narrative I think
you will see why I hold that opinion.
My wife and I bought our home here in 1972 from the four heirs of Ted Pieper, president of Gravois land and owner
of the majority of land in Rivermont from 1955 until his death in the late 1960ís. A few weeks before we were to
move in, we met with two of them. One of them identified himself as the president of Gravois Land, gave us a copy
of the covenants and restrictions and advised us that they were in effect and compliance was mandatory or liens
would be filed against the property and legal action taken by Gravois Land Co. to enforce them.
At this point, I want to emphasize that to the best of my knowledge, neither us nor any other persons here,
including the resident members of the board of trustees, knew that the heirs of Ted Pieper had dissolved Gravois
Land. That information was not revealed or known to us until I received the email response from the Secretary of
Stateís office in June 2005.
The first ten years or so here were great, most of the homes were still summer homes and many of the owners were
still people of means and influence. Our relationship with the alleged owners and officers of Gravois Land was less
that friendly at best. Ted Pieper was respected and admired; he loved Rivermont and devoted much time to its
administration and well being. His heirs were not held in the same high regard by many of the full time residents
and summer home owners. They didn't live here or have a summer home; many residents believed they thought of
Rivermont as an investment, nothing more. The Board had a number of tense meetings with them, their typical
response to confrontational issues was to prevail with their 80% ownership vote and tell us to sue them if we
didn't agree. The Board determined to do just that on a few occasions and on each the heirs, backed off and
accommodated the Board.
We knew the restrictions had an expiration that was in the mid to late 1980's. We knew that the heirs had
transferred the ownership of all their land out of the Gravois Land name and into their own names but they never
told us the truth. We sat in meetings with them, at which their representative authorized the Board to take actions
and file liens in the Gravois Land name They introduced themselves as Gravois land Officers and owners at Ranch
Land Owners Meetings. They overruled our decisions. They claimed ownership of the roads and demanded our money to
maintain those roads, all on the basis of a Corporation that didn't exist. They never told us the truth.
In the late 1980's we wrote them a letter asking them to meet with us and renew the restrictions. They declined and
the restrictions expired.
Sometime later, when I was a member of the County Planning Commission, we decided to attempt to incorporate the
subdivision into a Village. A few of us met with a lawyer, he reviewed the restrictions and advised us they had
expired, they could not be renewed or reinstated on and piece of property without the written permission of all the
owners of the property. He cautioned us against continuing to send road assessments to the land owners unless we
notified them the restrictions had expired and the road maintenance funding by the property owners was not
mandatory, it was a voluntary contribution. He thought Gravois land in all likely hood did own or control the roads
as the subdivision still have common ground that could be described as "resort" per the restrictions and Charter
as far as he knew. He said it was best that way and advised us that maintaining the roads could expose the property
owners to liability should someone have an accident. He said we would need to form a not for profit corporation
for the landowners, meet with the Gravois land officers and get a hold harmless agreement, demand a certificate of
insurance and some shared authority in return for funding the road maintenance. If Gravois land refused he advised
us to send them a notice demanding that they maintain the roads in a safe and drivable condition at all times,
including snow removal. If they refused he advised us to sue them. He also offered his legal services in writing
the petition for incorporation to present to the County Commission.
We took this back to the remaining ex-board members. They refused to do anything. I told them, I couldn't believe
that they were going to lie to and deceive their own friends and neighbors, I made some comments about them
forgetting about the word trust in trustee, I told them I was through with them and I walked out of the meeting.
I then took the matter of the expiration up with Planning Director, Don O'Donnelly. Mr. O'Donnelly reviewed the
matter with County Counselor, Benson Cytron and advised me that there was no reversing the expiration. All of the
provisions were null and void. There were no restrictions of any kind on the entire subdivision other than those
to be found in the County Subdivision Ordinances and Zoning Regulations, all existing property that did not comply
was grandfathered as existing non-conforming uses.
Both Mr.O'Donnelly and Mr. Cytron strongly cautioned me not to attempt to continue to attempt to exercise any of
the powers of the former trustees or collect any assessments that were established under the expired restrictions.
All land use communications should be suggestions and all funding requests must state that this was a request for a
voluntary contribution. They also suggested we contact an attorney and form a not for profit landowners association
to limit personal liability.
MrO'Donnelly strongly cautioned me against any participation in funding activities should the ex-board members
choose to continue sending demands for funding in the name of assessments and continue withholding the information
about the expiration of the restrictions from the remainder of the land owners. He told me I was a sworn County
Officer, participation in activity that he described as deceitful at best potentially fraudulent, which would be
very embarrassing for the County if it was discovered and could get me in serious legal trouble.
I reported this information to the rest of the former trustees and ceased all activity in the governance of the
subdivision other than that required of me as the Planning and zoning representative for the township.
To the best of my knowledge they continued as though nothing had happened. They continued to send "assessment"
notices. I wrote several letters advising them I would be happy to contribute when they requested a voluntary
contribution and sent a release from any and all personal liability that might result from my contribution, signed
by the owners of the roads. I have never received any such request or release. I also sent several letters advising
them that I would notify the authorities request an investigation and take legal action if any action was taken
against me, my family or my property.
In 2001, the subdivision was sold to a developer known as Gunflahr Land. They claimed to own all of the roads. One
of the first things they did however was to sell the beach and playground areas at the end of Rivermont Trail The
controversy over who actually owns the roads came up again. The original and all subsequent, covenants and
restrictions that were in effect until the expiration, provided that Gravois Land owned and controlled the roads as
long as the land was developed as a resort.
Boards and Associations came and went. In about 2005 Mr. Rutherford came on the scene. He has been the resident
representative, chairperson, fund manager of the Rivermont Ranch, Road and/or Land Owners Association C/O
Rutherford Accounting Services.
I met with him at some point. I related my involvement in the subdivision and the funding issues. I emphasized how
critically important control of the roads was to future development. If the residents controlled the roads, we
could establish weight limits, require bonds for contractors and heavy weight vehicles to pay for the damages they
would do to the roads like other private subdivisions did.
He said he understood all about those things and would be taking care of those matters. I wished him well.
I April 2005, Mr. Rutherford sent a letter to the residents that stated;"currently, subdivision road assessments
are voluntary". I thought things were really looking up. The truth was told at long last.
In 2005 when I was able to access the Secretary of Stateís archival records, I was shocked to discover that Gravois
Land had been dissolved in 1971. I took a copy to Mr. Rutherford. I suggested he meet with Officers of Gunflahr and
try to work out some sort of road authority sharing agreement. He thought it was a good idea.
In August 2005, he sent a letter advising us he had a meeting with Mr. Gordon Gundaker and Mike Hejna. He wrote "I
agree that we share the use of the road and we should pay half of the cost to pave from highway 30 to the end of
Rivermont Trail. The estimated cost of such paving is $220,000.00......via a special assessment of approximately
$1,150.00 per current resident"
It goes on "we discussed the formation of a land owners association that would cover the entire
subdivision.....mandatory road dues... by all residents....non-payment would violate subdivision rules and legal
action ....to collect unpaid dues"
When I received this letter, I contacted him and asked about the shared control of the roads. He told me we would
work that out after we collected the money to pay our half of the paving.
I said, Let me get this straight, we give you $110,000.00 and we work out the details later?
He said, that's right. I said , no thanks, good by.
Other than hello and good by I haven't spoken to him since.
Now he says he's going to file liens against everyone who owns him more than a thousand dollars.
After I recieved that notice, I contacted Debbie Dunnegan, Recorder of Deeds. We had a long discussion. There are
currently no active restrictions on the old sections of Rivermont, Gulflahr filed some on their lots on plat 8 in
2009 but they only apply to those lots still owned by Gunflahr. Filing covenants and/or restrictions on a property
requires the approval of all owners of record. She told me that anyone can file a lien against anyone but if the
lien is the result of an illegal act or the attempt to get money through means that might not comply with the law,
that is a matter that should be taken up with the authority's having jurisdiction over such matters.
At this point I intend to follow her advice.
I've attached a lot of information about these matters, as you have invested some of your own money in sending the
initial letter, to which I hope you have received some internet resopnse, if would be a great idea if you would
keep our nieighbors in the email loop.
I'll send some information about the creation of a neighborhood improvement district in a seperate email. This
would address many of our issue's but the primary issue of the road must be the first as a NID could not be used to
fund a privately owned road.
Have a great day,