Friday November 5, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- A Berkshire Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the owner of Bousquet Ski Area in a complicated legal issue that involved two other parties in a proposed sale of the 78-year-old Pittsfield ski slope in 2007.

Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ford ruled that Tamarack Ski Corp., which owns Bousquet, did not deceive the ski area's proposed buyers, Patrick J. Muraca and Geometry Group Inc., and did not unjustly enrich itself by not returning a $100,000 advance on a $2.7 million agreed-upon price for the ski area. Muraca and Geometry claimed Bousquet did and sued for the money.

Attorney Thomas J. Hamel of Pittsfield, who represented Tamarack, said Ford's ruling means Muraca and Geometry failed to substantiate their claims.

"The $100,000 was a gift from Pat Muraca to Bousquet and does not have to be paid back," Hamel said.

Ford also ordered Muraca, the president and CEO of Nuclea Biotechnologies of Pittsfield, and Geometry Group, a New York City investment and real estate firm, to pay the Berkshire Natural Resources Council $64,499 in legal fees. Muraca is a former member of Bousquet's ski school, and Geometry is an investor in his company, according to court documents.

The BNRC, which had purchased an 80-acre parcel at the top of Bousquet Mountain from Tamarack before the proposed sale of the ski area occurred, had filed a counterclaim that alleged Muraca and Geometry had interfered in their contract negotiations with Tamarack. The BNRC entered the lawsuit after it had been filed to protect its interests.

In his ruling, Ford wrote that he believed Muraca and Geometry "misrepresented" their true intentions with respect to the 80-acre parcel, including during a meeting with the BNRC's attorney.

Ford further stated that he did not believe Muraca relied upon any statements by Tamarack's original attorney, William Martin of Pittsfield, regarding the status of Tamarack's contract with the BRPC when he gave a $100,000 check as an advance on the sale to Bousquet's owner, George Jervas.

"He told virtually anyone who would listen, including Jervas himself, that the $100,000 was a gift, and that it was something to do in order to help the ski area to survive," Ford wrote.

The BNRC officially took possession of that 80-acre parcel last December after a judge ruled the organization had a legally enforceable contract to buy the tract for $103,000.

Muraca and Geometry Group have until Nov. 17 to appeal Ford's ruling. Muraca could not be reached for comment. In a written statement released by its attorney, Robert M. Fuster Sr. of Pittsfield, Geometry stated, "we are currently considering our appellate options."

In the statement, Geometry said Muraca was acting on the company's behalf in an effort to purchase Bousquet for redevelopment.

Geometry's intent was to reach an "amicable agreement" with both Bousquet and the BNRC so that the conservation of the 80-acre parcel and that long-term commercial viability of Bousquet could be preserved.

"Unfortunately, this did not occur," Geometry stated, "and following an attempt at mediation, the resulting dispute between Bousquet and Geometry Group became a matter for the courts.

"We are disappointed in the recent Berkshire Superior Court decision in this matter," the statement read. "We feel that it does not accurately reflect our intent toward either Bousquet or the Berkshire Natural Resources Council."

Ford had presided over a jury-waived trial that took place in Superior Court in August. Several other claims in the original lawsuit, which was filed in January 2008, were either dismissed or resolved before the case went to trial.

Jervas, 76, who has owned Bousquet for 29 years, said he felt "vindicated" by the court's ruling.

"I'm glad it's over," he said.

Jervas said Bousquet is "always for sale" at the right price, but currently has no formal plans to put the property back on the market.

"I'm going to run it for a while," he said.

The BNRC was interested in purchasing the 80-acre parcel in order to preserve an ecologically sensitive area known as Mahanna Cobble on the Bousquet ridgeline.

"The decision and Judge Ford's ruling, I think, speaks for itself," said BNRC President Tad Ames. "I would say litigation is not our preferred form of conservation."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6224.