It was supposed to a thank-you to the volunteers who worked on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition site in Phelan and a moment of corporate synergy for the Walt Disney Company.

Instead, on February 6, a planned concert by Billy Ray Cyrus to thank the workers who had spent a week building a new home for the Almquist family (and promote Cyrus' new album, due to be released by a Disney subsidiary a week after the episode featuring the concert would air on ABC, another Disney subsidiary) was cancelled after a fire burned down another building at the concert venue, Boulder Creek Ranch on Choiceana Avenue.

Seven weeks later, the burned-down lodge is still a ruin, and the ranch owners and city of Hesperia are deadlocked over the future of the site.

"When I bought this land, I wanted to make a dude ranch," James Hasty, the owner of Boulder Creek Ranch, said Thursday. "If this took off, think of the people I would employ.

And his land is zoned for it, he and the city agree. But while Hasty believes he has a great deal of latitude on how to develop his 100 acre property, the City of Hesperia believes they have the legal right to more oversight and, in the wake of the fire, a need to do so.

"There is undeniable evidence that the buildings were not being used for the original uses you stated, that being for private use by your friends and family. Your phone call to me indicated that you again intended to return to the original use," a February 11 letter from Hesperia Deputy Director of Development Services Tom Harp reads in part. "I am sorry to say, I cannot accept that in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. ... I regret having to take this action, but the potentially disastrous event of February 6, 2009 makes it clear that improvements need to be made before any further public uses occur on the site."

Harp's bottom line: The city wants the Hastys to get a Conditional Use Permit, which would give them additional oversight of the site, including the ability to set hours of use for ranch events. The city has also directed him to put in sprinklers in the pavilion, a structure with a concrete floor and a roof, but no permanent walls. It was to be the site of Cyrus concert. When the site plan was originally presented to the city, said Harp, the pavilion was presented as a hay barn.

Hasty says he won't stand for ongoing control by the city of his ranch, and will dramatically scale back his plans for Boulder Creek.

"I'm going to rebuild, but I don't know that I'll do weddings and events," Hasty said. "I'll just do [horse] boarding."

Harp said residents, the staff and city council all hope Hasty continues with his original plan -- but in accordance with their stricter interpretation of city ordinances.

"This could be a tremendous benefit for the city," Harp said. "I think like Jim does. We see the potential as real."

The irony is that the one building that everyone agrees was up to code was the lodge that burned down on February 6.

"That was the only building on the property that was properly permitted and inspected," said Harp. "And it burned down anyway."

It was a cold and blustery evening, and according to witnesses, the lodge fireplace was going around 1:30 p.m.

"I think they probably had too large a fire in their fireplace, and it went on for four hours," Harp said.

The official cause of the fire was "overheated combustible material in or around the fireplace," according to San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman Tracy Martinez.

Cyrus was going to make a return visit to Hesperia and perform at Boulder Creek Ranch on March 20. But conditions set by the fire department, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and city of Hesperia would have cost the Hastys more than $4,000 to host the charity concert.

"The city just wants to keep control," said Hasty, who admits to being frustrated with what he sees as bureaucratic red tape. "Here I'm trying to build something that will draw people from down the hill."

"We would probably book events there if it were on the up and up," Harp said. "We hope he pushes forward with it."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.