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Wednesday, 19 August 2015 14:44

Balsam Nature Center property headed for sale on court house steps

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jacksonA nonprofit nature center ensnared in a foreclosure saga at Balsam Mountain Preserve is one step closer to being evicted.

A court-ordered auction of the property where the nature center is housed was set for Sept. 9 at a foreclosure hearing last week.

The nature center is a hapless bystander to a larger foreclosure dispute between a New York investment lender and the former developer of Balsam Mountain Preserve, a 4,000-acre eco-development in Jackson County.

Now, it’s a matter of watching the foreclosure unfold and preparing to move out of its current location — yet the nature center continues to hold out hope a deal might be worked out with the investment lender who currently holds all the cards, according to Rob Howard, chairman of the board of Balsam Mountain Trust, the non-profit over the nature center.

“Everything happened per expectation,” Howard said of last week’s foreclosure hearing.

There was no last-minute argument to stave off an auction date from being set, he said.

“That had been adjudicated already,” Howard said, referring to the civil suit in the spring attempting to nullify the lien behind the foreclosure.

The nature center is the darling of homeowners in the upscale, eco-development, who take pride in having their own nature museum, which doubles as the headquarters for ecology lectures, kids’ programs and guided hikes, as well as a resident collection of live critters and a botanical repository.

The nature center also does programs for the community at-large, making its foreclosure of interest to more than just the Balsam Mountain Preserve homeowners.

The nature center was inadvertently included as collateral when the former developer borrowed $19.8 million from the New York lending firm. Balsam Mountain Trust has tried on and off over the years to untether itself from the ill-fated $19.8 million loan to no avail. 

There’s still a chance that the nature center could work out a deal with the investment lender. Or that the nature center could buy the property when it goes to auction. But in the meantime, plans are in the works to relocate to another building on the property that previously served as a development office.

“We have an understanding with the developers we can occupy that space if necessary,” Howard said.

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