From the StarHouse property on a cloudless morning in June, a visitor could see clearly eastward to the high plains, still a vivid green from the spring rains. To the west loomed the Indian Peaks, graced by the shrinking aprons of last winter's snow.

But as another summer hits full simmer along the Front Range, the future of a unique Boulder County property is harder to discern, after a scheduled closing on a long-awaited sale came and went in late April without a done deal and left its ultimate destiny still shrouded by questions.

Efforts to find a buyer have been ongoing for about the past seven years.

Aniam Newell, center, dances with others during a 50th anniversary Global Dance of Peace celebration in June at the StarHouse in Boulder. For more photos
Aniam Newell, center, dances with others during a 50th anniversary Global Dance of Peace celebration in June at the StarHouse in Boulder. For more photos of activities at the StarHouse, go to dailycamera.com. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

"Every day we end up in meetings, and there's just lots of different people involved in this unfolding, and I feel like until something clearly lands, we just don't know which direction it's going to go," said Lila Tresemer, whose husband David Tresemer bought the 210-acre spread in May 1987.

"The principals at the table are all realizing that, until we collectively really take things to the next step, we can't really have the whole pattern of it land."

Unfoldings and patterns may not typically be the talk of high-end real estate transactions, but perhaps that's not so rare in Boulder. And this unfolding centers on a property that is one of a kind.


Advertisement

Occupying land previously owned by the late Gilbert White, revered as a pioneer in floodplain management and natural disaster research, the StarHouse sits on a saddle barely more than 10 minutes west of downtown Boulder but a world away if measured by vibes, not miles.

People walk the property during quiet time during a full moon ceremony in May at The StarHouse in Boulder. The future of the unique Boulder County property
People walk the property during quiet time during a full moon ceremony in May at The StarHouse in Boulder. The future of the unique Boulder County property is hard to discern after a sale of the property failed to close. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

"It's certainly unlike any property I've been involved in, in residential real estate in Boulder," said real estate broker Roger Walker of Re/Max Alliance Downtown, the lead listing agent for the three parcels totaling 105 acres that are advertised for sale at $5.2 million.

"I've experienced so many different incredible reactions to the property, people brought to tears, people saying they can cure cancer based on the energy and the medicinal plants that grow on the property."

Timothy Dobson, minister of sacred dance for StarHouse, who has lived in the Whites' former cabin on a neighboring parcel for 28 years, said much the same on a recent morning as he sipped strawberry lemonade on his deck, the buzzing of a trio of nearby hummingbirds providing the counterpoint to his reflections.

"I've shown people StarHouse for their first time many, many times, and there's this awe effect," Dobson said.

"They step into it and look around, and people who are highly sensitive, with more of a feng shui personality, are just in awe. And other people that have really very little metaphysical presence will come in and still just be blown away by the architecture, just that aspect of it. Or the view, or something like that."

'This is not dogma'

A few dozen members of the StarHouse community arrived there on a new moon evening in May, as daylight surrendered to dusk, to hear the Tresemers unspool the StarHouse story, and preview how its next chapter might read.

But before they took their seats on meditation chairs arrayed in a circle inside, David Tresemer led visitors on a tour of the 12 large symbolic stones planted in a large circle in the ground outside, each exactly 72 feet from the center of the StarHouse. The distance is significant because that is a multiple of 18; numerology and cosmic geometry strictly guided the hand-crafted construction of what this community sees as a temple.

The building's radius is also 18 feet, which David Tresemer said matches the number of breaths we take per minute.

Once the evening's presentation was underway, the Tresemers took turns recounting the StarHouse history, of how David Tresemer — a polymath who holds a doctorate in psychology from Harvard — put in a bid for the land in 1986.

Timothy Dobson, minister of sacred dance, sings and plays the guitars while others dance during a 50th anniversary Global Dance of Peace celebration in
Timothy Dobson, minister of sacred dance, sings and plays the guitars while others dance during a 50th anniversary Global Dance of Peace celebration in June at the StarHouse in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

"There were eight others and they chose me," he said of the White family, a sense of wonder in his voice these many years later. His earnest metaphysical references that night were mixed with frank humor, as he joked, "If we had seen the totality of how it would play out, we probably would have opted for a rental apartment in Boulder somewhere."

Instead, a retreat cabin was built there by David Tresemer in 1987, and the completed StarHouse opened its doors to the public for the first time May 30, 1990.

Over the course of a couple of hours, the couple laid a foundation of the StarHouse creation story and gradually brought their audience into the present day. David Tresemer admitted that All Seasons Chalice, the nonprofit that leases the StarHouse space from a trust controlled by the Tresemers — and on whose board Lila Tresemer serves as president — had struggled to balance core events such as equinox and solstice observations with paying events like weddings and similar gatherings.

All Seasons Chalice, which has 501(c)(3) status, is described by one board member as providing "sanctuary for people of all faiths within a sacred structure built in nature."

The StarHouse is its temple. And as such, All Seasons Chalice members want to give more thought as to who passes through its door, and for what purpose.

"We're revising our sense of who uses this space," David Tresemer said. "... Some of what has been here will be asked to find a new space."

The Tresemers made it clear that under any future ownership structure, they want the foundational principles that fueled its vision and construction — its 12 sides are aligned perfectly to the four directions and its layout mirrors a map of the human chakras — to be honored.

Under Boulder County's zoning, in the name of All Seasons Chalice, the StarHouse property in 2009 was granted "use of community significance" zoning, for which it had to prove it met at least two of the following characteristics: historic, cultural, economic, social or environmental value. Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case said that zoning would carry over to any future owner.

"To use this tool, to inspire human capacity, is very exciting," David Tresemer said. But as heavy as he was on philosophy that spring evening, he also tossed off the disclaimer, "These are all my hypotheses. These are my ideas. This is not dogma."

David Tresemer said the myriad perceptions of what StarHouse is, and what it could someday be, have inspired a range of would-be buyers over the years, including a South American psychic and a Canadian who envisioned it as a western Chinese Taoist temple.

"To sell a temple obviously doesn't work," David Tresemer conceded. "We tried. I could almost write a really bad play."

A canceled closing

Moving around within the center of the circle that evening in May was Alexis Neely, who also goes by Ali Shanti.

Neely, an attorney, California transplant and the founder of Law Business Mentors, recorded video of the whole presentation on her smartphone, seeming to reflect her deep personal investment over the past year in the Tresemers' ongoing deliberations.

It was a nonprofit group spearheaded by Neely, One Nation of Life, that had a date at the closing table April 24 to buy StarHouse and two additional associated parcels, one including a two-story 6,300-square-foot residence called Morning Star, another parcel consisting of 35 virgin acres that features a gathering space the Tresemers call "Council Grove."

Why didn't the sale go through?

"There were terms of the contract that were not able to be met. That's the bottom line," Lila Tresemer said.

Walker, the real estate broker, said, "It had more to do with, the buyers just weren't able to complete the deal."

Neely, in the wake of the scuttled sale, composed a long and detailed email that someone, to the dismay of both the Tresemers and Neely, forwarded unsolicited and anonymously to the Daily Camera. Neely said the piece was only a draft that was accidentally sent out before it was completed.

Responding to comments that the One Nation crew did not come through as promised, her email said "It hurts my heart to read those words given what I feel we did accomplish in the last six months." Her note detailed those efforts, including plans for what leadership might look like under the "stewardship collective" her ownership plans called for, including efforts at mustering the funds to cement the transaction.

Offering further detail on the scuttled closing, she wrote, "Our intentions were good here and we played FULL OUT, but between everything it took to handle all the negotiations for the purchase, the paperwork, the transition of (All Season's Chalice), the activation of the revenue model, etc., we were only able to give a very small amount of attention to fundraising" most of which she said came from the Boulder community, although there were also interested donors from outside the area.

Boulder resident Steven Dedrick, a board member of All Seasons Chalice, is now the group's director of operations and would have held the same role under the "stewardship collective" Neely had envisioned.

"This idea of like, 'The terms weren't met and so the deal didn't go through,' I think there's something deeper, and I think that it kind of gets into more of a mythic way of looking at things," Dedrick said.

"There was a valiant effort to raise the money and put together a business model and a narrative that would bring in the funding to meet those objectives. And I think that even moreso, what we're realizing is the need to slow down a little bit. The goals of One Nation were ambitious, and maybe a little too much, too fast."

U.S. District Court records show that Neely filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2012 in Colorado, and that the bankruptcy was discharged in 2014, with $4,381 paid to creditors against $337,035 in claims allowed.

"I never saw it as a factor," Dedrick said of Neely's bankruptcy, in terms of her subsequent efforts toward a possible StarHouse purchase. "I knew parts of her history, and she is also really successful, right now. That just seemed like part of the rise and fall of her life."

Neely said the hoped-for stewardship collective that ultimately takes control of the StarHouse property might or might not include her. She doesn't see her own ultimate role as what's most important, now.

"I see the purpose of the land itself as a catalyst for helping people to remember who they are, why they are here and what is theirs to do," she said.

"When people say, 'Why is she doing this?' That's the return I get. It anchors all three of those things into me; regularly and consistently keeps bringing me back to the answer to those questions. I think that is the most important discovery we can make, especially during these very challenging times. That's the most important thing to know about this land."

'I am not leaving'

Candice Knight, who lives in Boulder, is the lead minister for the StarHouse, and also serves on the All Seasons Chalice board of directors

"The Star House is my temple and I am devoted to it, and want the highest good," she said. "So personally, I look at the StarHouse as the sacred temple that has its own path, in service to all of us. I bought into the essence of the land and the temple itself, and so I feel like I'm a guardian and a witness to this evolution of the temple into its next global service."

She came here from New York City about 20 years ago, and after being drawn to the StarHouse and entering a three-year training program it offered called the Path of Ceremonial Arts launched by Lila Tresemer and two other women, she had found her spiritual home for life.

"On the final night of the last year of the training, people were like, 'Oh gosh, aren't you sad?' And I said no, because I am not leaving," she recalled.

The strength of the bond Knight feels with the land is echoed by others who have made it their favored place of refuge or ceremony.

To gauge how the lingering uncertainty of its future is wearing on members of the StarHouse community is — like so much about the saga — not a simple thing.

"When you talk about 'the StarHouse community,' a person who has been up here for one or two events may consider themselves part of the community. And I, who have lived on the land for 28 years, consider myself part of that community," said Dobson, the minister of sacred dance.

"But it's such a loose definition as to who that would refer to, that I don't feel comfortable answering that question."

Knight voiced ambivalence in her consideration of how a future sale might play out.

"My personal thing is not to want something, particularly, but to be in the moment — of which there have been many. I don't have a personal attachment. I trust that in the end, what will happen will be right for all concerned," she said.

Mary White's family moved into their cabin on the property — the same one where Dobson now resides — around 1970. Another now- dilapidated cabin where her father in quiet solitude wrote some of his most important works on hydrology and the Boulder floodplain, still stands across a hill. The edge of the StarHouse property dovetails with the western terminus of the beloved Anne U. White Trail — named for Gilbert White's wife and Mary White's mother — still closed in the wake of the 2013 flood.

Mary White visited the Tresemers at her family's former refuge a couple of years ago.

"I want to say how much our family appreciates the Tresemers for keeping up my father's vision" for land that is being preserved as a largely undeveloped refuge from the bustle of the city at the base of the foothills, said White, an artist now living in Berkeley, Calif.

"I know it is very difficult nowadays to find somebody who is willing to keep that land and have it be enjoyed by the public. And I don't know who the people who are interested in purchasing it are. But we are so appreciative that David created a space that could continue to be shared by the community in Boulder County."

Dobson, from his perch on the porch at the Whites' onetime home, contended that the property's ultimate destiny is still to be revealed.

"I, in my heart, feel like there is something unmanifest through the StarHouse, even as of yet," Dobson said.

"I feel that there's even a greater potential to be realized — and hopefully in a form that will give David and Lila some peace about their part in it — and not just become this enigma about how to support its function; but that it actually is that shining place on the hill."

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan