West Side properties could be auctioned because of late taxes
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
Jan 24, 2013 | 3113 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Land previously slated to contain a housing development near Diablo Grande's Legends golf course was included on a list of properties that could be auctioned on Feb. 27 because of unpaid property taxes. The project's developer, R.W. Hertel, declared bankruptcy in 2008, and no one has sought to build on the property since that time. The property is one of several West Side parcels that appeared on the list. -- Irrigator file photo
Land previously slated to contain a housing development near Diablo Grande's Legends golf course was included on a list of properties that could be auctioned on Feb. 27 because of unpaid property taxes. The project's developer, R.W. Hertel, declared bankruptcy in 2008, and no one has sought to build on the property since that time. The property is one of several West Side parcels that appeared on the list. -- Irrigator file photo
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A list of West Side properties that are slated for auction in February because of unpaid taxes is like a registry of grand developer proposals before the 2008 housing bust.

A town house project near Patterson High School, a golf course-lined housing project in Diablo Grande both may be sold Feb. 27 because owners have not paid property taxes for five consecutive years.

Crows Landing auto retailer Crows Auto for Less also made the delinquent property-tax list, as did popular downtown eatery Mil’s Bar and Grill, which has no plans to close.

Unless the owners fork out the cash by Feb. 26 or are found to have bankruptcy protection, those properties will be sold at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors chambers, according to county officials.

“As long as the property taxes are not paid, we will sell,” said Jegan Raja, the county’s assistant treasurer and tax collector.

Still, Raja said most owners pay up to avoid that scenario, even if they do so at the last minute.

Development plans defunct

At least two of the listed properties were previously slated to be developed by companies that went belly-up during the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008.

A slice of land at Highway 33 and Ward Avenue was owned by Ontario-based Empire Land LLC, and a group of vacant housing lots next to Diablo Grande’s Legends golf course was previously owned by Ventura-based developer R.W. Hertel.

Empire Land announced plans in 2004 to develop nearly 400 acres for housing and businesses in northern Patterson off of Zacharias Road to the north and Highway 33 to the east.

Company officials later scrapped plans for that project, dubbed Del Puerto Valley, and North Carolina-based Keystone Pacific and Patterson Frozen Foods owns the bulk of the former project area today. But neither of those companies owns the 1.5-acre parcel at Highway 33 and Ward that could be auctioned off next month. Empire owes $22,500 in taxes on the property, according to county records.

Meanwhile, the potential auction of the Diablo Grande property has caused confusion among residents in the developing community southwest of Patterson. The limited liability corporation that Hertel formed to develop the project is named RWHS Diablo Grande, Legends, LLC, and many residents have mistaken it for the Legends golf course, which is owned by Diablo Grande development company World International.

Hertel owes $626,100 in taxes on the property, according to the county tax collector’s office.

Carmen Kearney-Millan, chief financial officer for World International, said a few people have called her and mistakenly thought the golf course might be auctioned off, but she stressed that is not the case.

She described Hertel’s project as a neighbor of Diablo Grande, not a part of the developing community’s current plans

Neither the Diablo Grande lots nor the property owned by Empire Land would be auctioned off if the county determined that the owner was in bankruptcy.

If the county tax collector’s office finds that a property owner has declared bankruptcy, the owner’s assets will be handled by the federal bankruptcy court and not by the county, Raja explained.

Projects remain on shelf

Yet another property slated for auction has received city approval for development but appears to have been shelved, at least for a time.

A 154-unit apartment and town house project, slated to be built on 12.67 acres, has changed hands a couple of times and is listed for sale by Intero Real Estate Services for $1.495 million.

A 6.2-acre triangular lot included in that project will be auctioned off Feb. 27 if $61,110 in property taxes remains unpaid. However, Ted Borns, one of the project owners, said by phone Tuesday, Jan. 22, that the taxes would be paid before next month’s deadline.

Though the property is listed for sale, Borns said he and his partners with Thrust Properties LLC still had not decided whether to sell it or develop it.

Seven parcels, totaling 41.5 acres, within the proposed 700-acre Villages of Patterson development also initially appeared on the list of properties that could go up for auction. But they have since been removed from the list after $102,400 worth of unpaid property taxes were paid on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Raja said.

Similar to the town house project, which received City Council approval in August 2007, the 700-acre Villages of Patterson appeared to be ready to go when the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission approved city annexation to allow it in 2007.

However, approval of the 3,100-home development came just before the national housing bust, and several of the properties that would have been developed have since gone into foreclosure.

John Ramos, a local developer who was a partner in the project, referred calls to the lead developer, Bruce Harrington. Harrington did not return calls seeking comment.

While Harrington had agreements giving him the right to purchase several properties for the Villages of Patterson, Patterson City Planner Joel Andrews noted that most of those agreements have lapsed, and some properties have been sold.

“It’s going to be hard to pull things together to get them the way they planned it,” Andrews said.

Still, Visalia-based Self Help Enterprises still hopes to see affordable homes built there.

The nonprofit planned to build about 100 single family homes and 60 multifamily units in east Patterson at a low cost to buyers by having them help with construction, said Tom Collishaw, the nonprofits director of development.

Though officials are still waiting until it is economically feasible to build those homes, they would be built at First Street and Walnut Avenue at the southwestern edge of the Villages project.

Local businesses face auction

In addition to large-scale development projects, a couple of local businesses and homes found their way onto the delinquent taxpayers list.

Popular diner Mil’s Bar and Grill, 100 S. Del Puerto Ave., was the only Patterson business that appeared on the list. However, Raja said a manager there indicated that the restaurant planned to pay its taxes.

Mil’s owner Dan Gray declined to comment about the matter last week.

The Stanislaus County Tax Collector’s Office indicated that Gray owes $13,300 in unpaid taxes on the property.

Crows Auto for Less, a closed auto retailer whose business license expired last year, owes $4,000 to the county, according to tax records.

A home in Diablo Grande at 9460 Perrett Road and one in Patterson at 1435 Carly Creek Drive are also on the list.

Property owners must pay their taxes by 5 p.m. Feb. 26 to prevent their properties from being sold.

The auction will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 at the board of supervisors chambers, 1010 10th St., in Modesto, with registration to participate in the auction beginning at 8:30 a.m. that day.

The county tax collector’s office keeps an up-to-date list of tax delinquent properties that are slated for auction online.

For information: www.stancounty.com/tr-tax/auction

Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

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