Winning bid on Heavenly Mountain hits $10.5M
The 11 registered bidders quickly fell to two as the $2 million starting bid quickly escalated, concluding with a $10.5 million offer from Marvin Sault of Cleveland.
Because the sale included an additional 7.5 percent buyer premium on top of the bid, the purchase price totaled $11,287,500, still only a fraction of the more than $40 million spent to develop the community in the late 1990s.
Sault said that he purchased the tract on behalf of the One in Christ Church, an organization associated with the Ohio International Alliance Missions Trust and Norwalk Bible College.
He said activity would begin immediately to create a campus on the site located about 7 miles from downtown Boone.
“The college will be open within the year,” Sault said.
Little other information could be gleaned about the organizations or the future of the property.Sault, reached by phone Thursday, said that the organization was granted tax-exempt status in 1992 and is now in eight states, “and the ninth being the state of insanity,” he joked.
He said that Norwalk Bible College had functioned online since 1999 and plans to start campuses in all 50 states. Campuses currently exist in Ohio, and a down payment has been made for a 1,440-acre campus in Pennsylvania, Sault said. He said that at one site in Pennsylvania, students work in a factory researching windmill energy generation.
Sault said the Bible college was based in Florida and had about 250 students per semester.
“We are extremely legal in the state of Florida because the state of Florida doesn't regulate theological, seminarian or religious schools,” Sault said.
The Norwalk Bible College has a Facebook page with six “Likes,” but the associated website and phone number do not function. Sault said the website should be working again in about a week.He said that the school motto was, “Live Christ, Christ live,” and included a separate seminary for those who “had a divine call from the Holy Spirit, compared to those who want a job as a minister.”
As for the 26 structures on the Forest Summit property, Sault said they would not be demolished, although renovations would have to be made. A retaining wall has fallen at one structure, and an apartment building was previously struck by lightning. While many of the apartments are now rented through Holton Mountain Rentals, other unused buildings have fallen into disrepair.
“We're a year away from having students on campus,” Sault said. “But if you walked around the mountaintop, you would see that the students' dorms and rooms are in very good shape. The buildings that the students would use are in deplorable shape.”
In addition to the church and Bible college connections, Sault is listed as editor and publisher of Cambridge Christian Press in Cleveland.
The website for Cambridge Christian Press is partially developed and states, “We help your nonprofit get ‘proper' and all and raise funds thru every legal means possible! How do we do this? We follow the law of the Land and use the provisions allowed via the Law.”
A Cambridge Christian Press business card provided by Sault's associate Wednesday listed his name as “Marvin Salt.”
Sault explained Thursday that his grandfather considered changing the spelling of the family's last name to “Salt” but never made it official, so both are correct.
Other websites linked from Sault's Facebook page listed him as an independent Team Beachbody coach.
Jason Dolph, senior vice president of Chartwell Group Commercial Real Estate Brokers, which conducted the auction, said everything went smoothly with the auction. He said the property was under contract, earnest money was on deposit with the escrow agent and they expected to close Oct. 13.
Bidders were required to show a cashier's check or confirmation of wire transfer for $105,000.
He said the next few weeks will be busy with paperwork to close the deal, which he said will be a win for the buyer, seller and community.
“This is a very credible buyer, and we don't expect any problems,” Dolph said Thursday.
Yet research shows that a Marvin Glen Sault with address in East Liverpool, Ohio, has had credit concerns. Sault had five bankruptcy filings between 1999 and 2005, all of which were dismissed, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.
Bethany Dentler, who was economic development director in Norwalk, Ohio, from 2003 to 2008, said those listings were a concern when Sault approached the community around 2006 or 2007 with plans for a Norwalk Bible College facility.
She said he presented plans to purchase a historic theater in downtown Norwalk and talked with other landowners about purchasing property to build dorms. Those plans never materialized, she said.
“Marvin seemed to have a lot of plans, but none of them ever came to fruition,” Dentler said. “We never got to the point where we saw evidence of financial backing. … There never was and there is not now a campus in Norwalk.”
HEAVENLY MOUNTAIN HISTORY
Wednesday's sale is the most recent chapter in the Boone property's storied history.
The land was developed between 1996 and 1998 as the Spiritual Center of America, a community for people who practice the ancient Indian method of transcendental meditation.
Developers Earl and David Kaplan later disavowed transcendental meditation, angering some who said they had invested with the understanding that transcendental meditation would be the basis of the community.
Some practitioners still live at Heavenly Mountain.
The Kaplans directed the sale of the property to focus more on their Colorado-based book business, Books are Fun, Dolph said.
He said the sellers were prepared for the sales price to fall far below the expenses they incurred building the development.
“Sometimes time is more important than price,” Dolph said.