Ashland hotelier Doug Neuman got himself in a bit of trouble when he impulsively purchased the 1,120-acre Circle of Teran Ranch just outside Ashland for $1.525 million.
Neuman reluctantly had been persuaded by Mario Vargas, vice president of client services for Concierge Auctions, to register for the no-reserve auction of the hillside estate at 3300 Butler Creek Road.
Although impressed with the scenic piece of property, Neuman had no intention of buying and didn't even show up for the auction, held July 1.
However, while waiting at the Medford airport for a friend to arrive, he placed a bid over the phone and — much to his surprise — won.
"My wife didn't even know anything about it," he said. "When I first told her, it didn't go over that well, mainly because of our workload now."
The Ashland couple owns the Neuman Hotel Group, which includes Larks Restaurant, the Waterstone Spa, the Ashland Springs Hotel, Lithia Springs Resort and two more recent acquisitions — the Inn at the Commons, formerly the Red Lion Hotel, in Medford and the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites, formerly the Windmill Inn, on the south end of Ashland.
Becky Neuman toured the Circle of Teran in June but couldn't imagine anyone would be in the market for a home that was so unique and large. Then came July 1, when she got a call from her husband saying he had bought it.
"I just had to get my head around it," she said. "I was right in the middle of opening 12 new suites at Lithia Springs, and I was a little bit like, 'Really, honey?' But then I went back a second time with a whole new perspective. It's ours, and that's when I really started to see the quality of the house and the sacredness of the space."
In addition to sweeping views of the Rogue Valley, the 11,000-square-foot residence has 11 bedrooms, most with private baths and balconies; a commercial-grade kitchen; a great room with a marble fireplace, interior balcony and stained-glass skylights; and a climate-controlled tropical conservatory where bananas, mangos and plumeria grow. Other features include ponds, a 5,000-square-foot barn with horse stables and windmill- and solar-generated power.
The owners, Scott and Sulara Young, observe a religious tradition developed by the Huichol Indians of Mexico and, in 2003, built the Circle of Teran as a home and spiritual retreat. Since then, there has been an ongoing debate between the Youngs and Jackson County regarding the Circle of Teran's status as a church, its proximity to Ashland's urban growth boundary and its location on land zoned for exclusive farm use.
This battle was still going on when the couple listed the house for $6.7 million in May 2008. In 2009, the state Land Use Board of Appeals sided with the Youngs and allowed them to establish a church on the property.
Scott Young is a hand surgeon and shaman, and his wife, also known as Robin James, is a massage therapist. Over a year ago, the couple moved to Kihei, Hawaii, where Scott Young opened a new practice as Dr. "Genesis" Young. However, the Youngs retained six tax lots on North Valley View Road in Ashland, according to DeAnna Sickler, principal broker at John L. Scott.
Neither Scott nor Sulara Young returned phone calls from the Mail Tribune regarding the sale of their property.
The Youngs had invested about $8 million in the Circle of Teran Ranch but were not disappointed when it sold for only $1.525 million, Sickler said.
"I thought they would be disappointed with the sale, but they felt a peace," Sickler said. "Their reason for the auction wasn't to get more money; it was to get the right person, and they felt that by offering it in that manner, then the spirit would bring the right buyer."
The property is to close by Aug. 1.
Doug Neuman said he is talking to attorneys and land-use experts to find out what he can do with the property. The Neumans are considering a variety of possibilities, their favorite being a bed and breakfast and winery.
"Vines there just seems right," said Becky Neuman.
Contingent on approval by Jackson County's planning division, a bed and breakfast or winery could potentially be permitted on the property, said Kelly Madding, Jackson County Development Services director. As a winery, the Neumans would be allowed to host unlimited wine tours, wine club meetings and wine tasting events, as well as 18 non-marketing events, Madding said.
The couple is having the soil and the water from the natural springs tested to see what resources will be at their disposal. After the house closes, they plan to invite their Neuman Hotel Group management team to the estate for a brainstorming session.
"I see that great room being used for private parties, anniversaries, renewing vows, baptisms and birthdays," Becky Neuman said. "It's an event mecca in my mind."
"Larks does off-site catering, so it would be natural for us to market it as an event space," she said.
Neuman also said she wants to continue the Youngs' bee operation and retain the 200-foot-wide lavender labyrinth, which takes about 30 minutes to walk through.
The Neumans currently live in a European-style chateau on a 160-acre farm, where they grow cider apples, corn and a variety of beans, and don't plan on moving.
Although the Youngs did not eat meat, drink alcohol or wear their shoes in the house, they gave the Neumans their blessing to do whatever they wanted with the place.
"The Youngs created sort of a spiritual sanctuary," Becky Neuman said. "And I love that part. I think that should be cherished."