Tax Distressed Property Sales Halted

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North county mayors have sent a letter to county executive Sam Page, asking him to resume the county program allowing municipalities to obtain post-third tax sale properties at nominal cost. According to the press release, the program was discontinued “without prior notification and has caused a cease to several development projects within these municipalities.”

The program has been abused by some municipalities. In Jennings, during the administration of former mayor Yolanda Austin, properties were acquired by the city and sold at a profit, with no redevelopment requirements. For example, 2315 McLaran Avenue was obtained by the city in March 2022, and offered in the city auction for $5,000. It was purchased by Gorilla Angel Group, which also obtained 2008 McLaran. And 8803 College was offered for $1,500, selling to Adrienne Harris. Taxes for 2022 remain unpaid on all of these properties. Recently elected mayor Gary Johnson halted these sales, and a program is underway to redevelop these abandoned homes.

Jennings is also in the process of attempting to develop the area south of Switzer along Jennings Station Road. This area was formerly the site of Corpus Christi Catholic Church and elementary school. The school, a large and now dangerously deteriorated building, was purchased by the developer of a senior housing complex just east of there. It was never developed, and more than $180,000 in delinquent property taxes accrued over seven years are owed. An official who spoke under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the development indicated that firm plans were made to develop a healthcare center on the site. The plans have been suspended because the county is unwilling to waive the back taxes and deed the property to the city.

Another source identified the city of Pine Lawn as an abuser of the program. According to an official with firsthand knowledge of incidents connected with the program, Pine Lawn acquired tax delinquent occupied homes, and sold them to the owners at a profit. In an examination of tax records, we found that Pine Lawn owns an exceptional number of homes that were obtained from the tax sale. The status of these homes will be determined for a future article.

In Ferguson, the city has acquired tax delinquent properties for use in the city’s Property Restoration Program. Under that program, vetted developers obtain properties at nominal cost, and agree to rehab them within a specific timeframe. Those who fail to comply with the agreed upon terms forfeit the property.

In a press release issued today by the city of Ferguson, Mayor Ella Jones disclosed a letter sent on November 7, inviting Page to a meetintg at Ferguson City Hall on November 16. He did not attend the meeting, and it is unclear whether any meeting took place. The meeting was not public, and was not announced in official city channels. Mayor Jones declined to provide any information beyond that which was given in the press release.