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Helena Christian School backers’ land heading for foreclosure

2012-10-25T17:22:00Z 2012-10-26T12:31:06Z Helena Christian School backers’ land heading for foreclosureBy SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record Helena Independent Record
October 25, 2012 5:22 pm  • 

Land owned by four backers of Helena Christian School is heading for foreclosure in a dispute over a $1.5 million loan from Mountain West Bank, a judge and lawyers for both parties indicated Wednesday.

District Judge Dorothy McCarter told attorneys for the bank and the school to reach agreement on an order for a foreclosure and sheriff’s sale in the land that the school backers posted as collateral for the loan in 2008.

She also told attorneys Amy Randall, representing the bank, and Bruce Sewell, representing the school, to calculate and agree upon the exact amount the school owes the bank.

“You two sit down and figure it out,” McCarter said in the eight-minute hearing.

Robert M. “Mike” Dellwo, the school’s principal, said it was unclear what the sheriff’s sale would mean for the school’s future. It operates in leased space belonging to Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church east of Helena, not on the 326 acres near the Scratchgravel Hills subject to foreclosure.

The case started with a $90,000 loan in 2005 to the school, guaranteed by Ken Erdahl, Ray Fuller and Robert Hitzeroth.

In 2008, the school borrowed another $1.5 million. That was backed by the original group plus Christopher M. Batson, Dellwo, Jack C. Hamlin and B.G. Stumberg and was secured by property near the Scratchgravel Hills that the group hoped to develop in order to help fund the school.

A few different development proposals failed to gain final approval from Lewis and Clark County. In March 2011, Commissioners approved a preliminary plat with the condition that the developers work with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to address historic mining contamination on the site.

According to court filings by the school, it kept up to date on its payments. But the real estate market declined, and the bank reappraised the property and demanded the school pay the loan down by $1 million.

The bank filed suit in November 2010, claiming it was owed more than $1.5 million, plus late fees, court costs and interest that continues to accumulate.

McCarter granted a summary judgment for the bank in November 2011, but the school appealed and the Montana Supreme Court sent the decision back to McCarter with instructions to order a foreclosure and then enter a judgment for the difference between the proceeds of that sale and the amount owed.

Wednesday, McCarter and the lawyers agreed the foreclosure could proceed before determining the exact amount owed to the bank.

The school has about 150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086, or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. tiredofthelies
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    tiredofthelies - October 28, 2012 12:16 pm
    forthekids - 2. Prattler - 0.

    Quoting Prattler "I do not intend to reopen the circumstances of the tragedy." Hello???? You just did by digging up this letter, as forthekids so aptly pointed out. Prattler, your comments are heavy on personal attacks and short on substance. Age old ploy in debating … if the facts aren’t on your side feign disgust and resort to character assassination. You really aren’t very good at this Prattler.

    I’m thinking forthekids might be right. Prattler was one of the actors/employees of L&C County who allowed this tragedy to occur and Fasbender’s letter struck a little too close to home. Fasbender is threatening the status quo of the Helena good ole boys club, so Prattler and the rest of the government cronies are trying to impugn Fasbender’s character with lies and baseless attacks.

    Speaking of not worthy of the public trust, here is a fact no one can refute. Hunthausen has been caught in several lies in his campaign. I’m afraid Hunthausen is just a pawn of the good ole boys club and doesn’t know any better and is saying anything to get reelected. People are running away from his campaign and he is losing more support every day he continues with the lies that he is pro growth, that he wasn’t involved in the decisions leading up to the lawsuits, and that he reaches across partisan lines. All false.

    Prattler, you go ahead and keep it up with the personal attacks and character assassination. The facts aren’t on your side, and I’m sure to the objective readers it is readily apparent who has been drinking the kool-aid.
  2. Prattler
    Report Abuse
    Prattler - October 28, 2012 8:41 am
    "forthekids", your efforts to promote your candidate by demonizing me are pathetic, but not surprising. I do not intend to reopen the circumstances of the tragedy. It had nothing to do with dangerous roads or subdivisions. It has everything to do with the character of the individual who would write such a letter to promote his agenda. He is not someone who deserves public trust. Since you are defending him, I have to assume that you are equally devoid of character. Happy trails, and don't forget your Kool-Aid.
  3. forthekids
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    forthekids - October 28, 2012 12:29 am
    Prattler, you accuse Fasbender of using a tragedy to promote a political agenda. Hmmm, please explain to me exactly what you are doing by dredging up a years old tragedy to lamely attempt to attack Fasbender? At least Mr. Fasbender offered condolences and prayers to the family while trying to get our do nothing leaders to do something about the intersection, as opposed to you using the tragedy to just attack and promote your blind hatred for Fasbender.

    The intersection where this terrible accident occurred was the site of more than just this fatal accident. Why did it take more than one fatality before any of our so called “leaders” did anything to mitigate this dangerous intersection? Perhaps Mr. Fasbender’s letter was what finally motivated the installation of the roundabout. This is an intersection where a County road meets a State road. As Mr. Fasbender stated in his letter, L&C County knew this was a dangerous intersection, and yet they did nothing to mitigate it. The State of Montana is who had to finally step in and install the roundabout.

    I found another IR comment from Prattler bringing up this letter. I’m beginning to wonder if Mr. Fasbender’s letter struck a little close to home, and wondering if Prattler isn’t one of the so called county "leaders" who because of their thoughtless agenda allowed this tragedy to occur.
  4. Prattler
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    Prattler - October 26, 2012 4:18 pm
    Since "forthekids" chooses to quote Mikey, I'll do the same. Mikey sent the following Letter To The Editor of the Queen City News on April 9, 2008:

    Was tragedy preventable?
    by Michael J. Fasbender
    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    To the Editor:

    On March 11, 2008, a traffic accident claimed the life of a beautiful little girl named Deedee. She was in my son’s kindergarten class. My prayers go out to her family for their tragic loss.

    I drive through the intersection where the accident occurred every day. I wonder if it may have been prevented.

    In 2006, a subdivision was proposed that included upgrades to this intersection. The county delayed and ultimately denied the proposal, stating that Lake Helena Drive is an unsafe roadway. What if this subdivision had been welcomed? Perhaps we would have had a traffic light, a reduction in the speed limit, rumble strips, or some other safety measure to prevent this accident. Of course, we will never know.

    What we do know is this: our county commission is so blinded by their determination to stop growth that they continually shirk their duties and instead promote misguided out-of-state agendas. They have wasted years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a non-existent water emergency. They knew that Lake Helena Drive was unsafe, a true emergency, and yet they did nothing.

    They were given an opportunity to help alleviate an actual emergency. Why didn’t they take it?

    Michael J. Fasbender

    Anyone who would use such a tragedy to promote a political agenda does not deserve my vote. So "forthekids", what's your opinion?

  5. forthekids
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    forthekids - October 26, 2012 4:11 pm
    Prattler's post is the one filled with obfuscation, lies, and misinformation. I would urge anyone reading to contact any of the owners of the subdivision and get their side of the story. They tried to jump through every hoop the city and county held up, but were faced with continually moving targets, and then were finally shut down with the zoning. Yes, they lost their market, but that was because of all the delays forced upon them by city and county officials. Prattler needs to check the facts.

    Also, Prattler's hatred for Fasbender comes out clearly with the lies Prattler is telling about him. Probably a crony of Hunthausen or Ellsaucer.

    The neighbors purchased their homes with the knowledge that there was no zoning or other type of covenants on the neighboring property that the church group eventually purchased. If the neighbors didn’t want a subdivision next door, they should have pooled their money and purchased the land. Or, they could have purchased a home in a different neighborhood that had zoning or covenants. To do it after the fact is theft. To argue that more homes will devalue the existing properties is a false argument used by those who want to tell their neighbors what they can do with their property because they want open space next door without paying for it. It is greed, plain and simple. The NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard) are some of the greediest people I’ve ever met … they have theirs, and want to slam the door on anyone else having a home.

    The only ones who profited at their neighbors expense were the greedy homeowners who stopped the subdivision with the help of Hunthausen and Murray.

    I for one believe in the Constitution, and Fasbender is the ONLY one in this race who is talking about defending the Constitutional rights of L&C citizens, while Hunthausen on the other hand has been found to have violated the US and Montana Constitutional rights of L&C citizens. (and lying about his involvement in the process).

    Long past time for a change. Fasbender is the ONLY choice in the County Commission race. He has my vote, and judging by all the signs I see and people I've talked to he has the vote of many many many others.
  6. bornNraised
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    bornNraised - October 26, 2012 1:50 pm
    I'm sure you work for government or have an otherwise comfortable life. Typical attitude of the privileged.

    Sad that you can't see that many are struggling-- good jobs and affordable housing are much in need here in Helena.

  7. Prattler
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    Prattler - October 26, 2012 11:29 am
    Yet more obfuscation, pandering to the uninformed and feigned outrage from the Fasbender camp. With supporters like this, Mikey needs all the help he can get. "Waterunderground" is absolutely correct. The original subdivision proposal was entirely inappropriate for the location. By the time the applicants got around to revising it, the market had tanked and Mountain West bank had been told by the feds that they needed to get rid of their loans on these overvalued properties. Since the applicant was a church, Fasbender and friends have resorted to playing the discrimination card and again demonizing the County Commissioners.

    For over 20 years the County has attempted to implement consistent zoning and development standards to govern growth and assure that public health and safety issues are not neglected. During this time Fasbender and his developer cronies with a significant financial interest in the status quo have decried the lack of consistency while delaying the process indefinitely through endless “working groups”, committees, hearings, and lawsuits.
    Fiascoes like this failed subdivision are the result.

  8. bornNraised
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    bornNraised - October 26, 2012 11:24 am
    There will eventually be homes on this land. It is inevitable. For the commission for deny this project over and over tells that their agenda is simply ANTI-growth......fewer jobs and less affordable housing.

    VOTE FASBENDER! I've never met him but he has to be better than the status quo.
  9. waterunderground
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    waterunderground - October 26, 2012 11:13 am
    So I'll say again, why should HCS be allowed to profit at thier neighbor's expense?
    The private property rights argument cuts both ways; in this case it was the neighbors private property rights getting trampled and suffering if the HCS had been allowed to develop high density housing on that land.
  10. forthekids
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    forthekids - October 26, 2012 9:37 am
    More casualties in the rabid anti growth agenda of Hunthausen and Murray. Hunthausen MUST go, and we HAVE to elect Mike Fasbender as County Commissioner. Proof? I did a search on this subject on this website this morning. Here are the links:

    And Andy says he is pro growth. Give me a break. Andy, the evidence is in, so please quit assuming we are all idiots by continuing to misrepresent your record.

    Here is a GREAT Your Turn by Mike Fasbender I found in my search.

    On December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment to the US Constitution was adopted officially abolishing slavery. On January 20, 2009, a black man was inaugurated as President of the United States. A very monumental occasion.

    Amazing to think that just 143 years ago slavery was still legal here in the United States. How could lawmakers ever justify passing laws that allowed slavery? An even bigger question is: How could one man be allowed to legally steal the labors of another man? Many knew that it was wrong and immoral, and yet allowed it to continue because the law allowed it. What a complete and utter perversion of justice that a law would exist that would allow one man to take the property of another without just compensation.

    To quote French philosopher Frederic Bastiat, “It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.” He goes on to state that one of the consequences of such perversion is, “it erases from everyone’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.”

    Who among us would say that justice is served when the law allows one man to plunder the labors of another? And yet, even to this day there are many who use the law to do just that.

    Current case in point: Efforts by a local group whose intent is to stop the Helena Christian School (HCS) from subdividing their property. HCS’s intent was to use the profits to build a new school in the Helena valley. A group opposed to the subdivision has promoted a special zoning district that is currently in front of the zoning commission that would for all intents and purposes halt the development, require HCS to apply for a special variance to build a church, and completely ban the possibility of building a new school on their property. I’m not suggesting that land use laws that take property rights away from one and give to another rise to the level of egregiousness of slavery, but at their core they both allow one man to benefit from the labors of another without compensation, and that is exactly what is happening here.

    The effect is mob rule. Who has the advantage? The smaller property owners who live on parcels that have already been subdivided outnumber the owners of the larger properties. So they band together to pass a zoning ordinance that would place restrictions on their neighbor’s property that did not exist prior to the zoning, thereby taking away the property rights of the larger landowners, one of which is the HCS property. They want to change the rules after the fact. In essence they are asking government to sanction their plunder; to take value away without consent from the larger landowners and give it to the smaller property owners without compensation. The exact same thing happened with property owned by Helena Sand and Gravel near East Helena.

    Zoning can be a useful land use tool when properly implemented. Zoning can also be an easy method for one group to steal property rights from another. It can be used to allow one group to benefit at the expense of another. In recent years zoning abuses have been very prevalent in L&C County. When properly adopted, zoning protects private property rights. When abused it takes the rights of one and gives to another.

    Quoting Bastiat again, “The nature of the law is to maintain justice.” Justice is not maintained when the law allows the wealth (property rights, labors, physical property) of one person to be transferred to another without consent or compensation.

    Bastiat states, “ … the person who receives the benefits is not responsible for the act of plundering. The responsibility for this legal plunder rests with the law, the legislator, and society itself.” My question is this: Whose immorality is greater, the person who uses the law through legal (but unjust) methods to achieve their ends, or the lawmaker who sanctions the actions?
  11. waterunderground
    Report Abuse
    waterunderground - October 26, 2012 9:22 am
    If my memory serves the first two plans for developing this land was for small lots and multiple unit housing of a density characteristic of an urban setting. That was out of step with the surrounding neighborhood and was indded apposed by the neighbors who worried that the number of homes would damage the groundwater resource since the plans did not call for being hooked up to city water and sewer.
    By the time that a third plan was proposed with scaled back density the housing market was flat. I don't remember if the last plan was approved.
    High density housing needs to be supported by the city services and be integrated into the master plan for the city. Otherwise that sort of development negatively impacts the neighbor's property values. That is the same as taking the neighbor's property. So if you object to the way this was handled by the county you need to check on what your thinking is on personal property rights. In this case the county protected the neighboring property owners rights.
  12. tiredofthelies
    Report Abuse
    tiredofthelies - October 26, 2012 8:15 am
    Thank you Commissioners Andy Hunthausen and Mike Murray for shutting this project down and bankrupting these people. I appreciate your successful efforts to zone the development and the school out of existance ... it would have been an eyesore for the neighborhood to have additional homes and a Christian school. Those little Christian kids need to be going to our public schools instead of having their own school where they are brainwashed by learning about the crazy founding fathers, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other obsolete documents and ideas.
  13. Johanna
    Report Abuse
    Johanna - October 26, 2012 8:10 am
    This is due to the adverse business climate in the county. They had to find ways to deny the subdivision, it is the way that they operate. Yet another reason to vote for Mike Fasbender, because he won't stand in the way of development. Hunthausen is anti-growth and the problem and he needs to be removed.

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Alexander Deedy covers education and business for the Independent Record. Send news tips and feedback to Follow Deedy on Twitter at @IR_adeedy.

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