WDC declares bankruptcy filing will not stop land development - Word&Way

WDC declares bankruptcy filing will not stop land development

SPRINGFIELD — Plans to move forward with development of land once owned by Windermere Baptist Conference Center won’t be dampened despite bankruptcy court proceedings.

Windermere Development Co., owned by William R. Jester of Springfield, filed a bankruptcy petition on Jan. 14 to halt a foreclosure sale in Camden County of acreage once part of the conference center.

Consolidated Mortgage, which assisted with financing for WDC to acquire the land, started foreclosure proceedings after declaring the development firm in default in December.

WDC has been unable to develop the property, which would have brought in revenue, because of continued legal action against Jester and several of his companies, Jester spokesman Jerald Hill said by phone on Jan. 29.

“We filed the petition to protect the property,” Hill said. “We have every intention of working with our creditor and moving forward with our plan for development.”

As part of a 2006 debt-restructuring plan to cover the conference center’s Wilderness Creek expansion, Windermere transferred 943 of its 1,300 acres to National City Bank of the Midwest in November 2005.

The bank sold the property to Windermere Development Co. in January 2006, agreeing to finance the deal with Consolidated Mortgage. The land was titled to the company in February that year.

In a lawsuit filed in Camden County in 2006, the convention sought to stop all land transactions at Windermere pending the outcome of legal action against five formerly affiliated institutions, including the conference center, filed in Cole County in 2002. The MBC also requested an injunction to prohibit Jester from financing and beginning construction on the property.

The Windermere portion of the Cole County legal action has been dismissed in Cole County and by the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

Jester filed a counterclaim to the MBC legal action in 2006 and amended it last year. The counterclaim charges the convention with malicious prosecution, interfering with business and negligence.

It also charges the MBC with “engaging in a campaign of false, defamatory and otherwise improper communications,” which caused companies and individuals to decline to do business with Jester’s firms. The developer claims the interference has cost him more than $15 million in possible sales or development of the disputed property.

The bankruptcy process will take several months and will include appointment of a trustee to oversee it, Hill said. “We will present a plan to the trustee and then get the bankruptcy settled quickly.” A meeting between WDC and its creditors — Consolidated Mortgage, National City Bank, Allstate Consultants, the Camden County Collector of Revenue and CM Capital Ser­vices — is set for Feb. 19 at the U.S. Courthouse in Springfield.

Hill noted that Jester continues to pursue his $15-million counterclaim against the MBC, with attorneys taking depositions and locating supporting documents.