Rockland County, NY - Controversial High Density Housing Project Facing Foreclosure Under New Rockland County Policy
New York - Rockland County is taking a tough stance on tax scofflaws, with a new effort that will expedite foreclosures on vacant non-residential tax delinquent properties, potentially sending a hotly contested property that could provide several hundred residences for Orthodox Jewish families to the auction block.
County Executive Ed Day made the announcement Tuesday at a press conference standing outside Patrick Farm on the northern end of Route 306 in Pomona. The 208 acre property was bought by Scenic Development LLC. in 2001 for $7.5 million and has been the subject of controversy for years, with residents opposing plans for several hundred high density housing units to be constructed by developers Yechiel Lebovits, several of his sons and Abraham Moscovits.
Patrick Farm has an outstanding debt of more than $350,000, an amount that is expected to grow to $500,000 in the next few weeks when tax records are updated, making it the largest unpaid outstanding tax bill in the county. Day said that the county began foreclosure proceedings on Monday for Patrick Farm and 124 other properties which have a collective tax debt of $3.3 million.
Previously the county had to wait three years before initiating foreclosure proceedings on delinquent properties, but the new policy unveiled Tuesday would allow the county to begin foreclosing on properties with outstanding tax liens after just two years. The initiative kicked off this week and also gives the county the ability to foreclose on property owners who fail to live up to their commitments on pre-arranged installment payment agreements.
“Tax delinquents must and will be held accountable,” said Day. “We will not allow those who look to work the system to force the good people of our county to foot their bill. It is a matter of fairness and it is a matter of law.”
As one of the largest undeveloped sites in Ramapo, the Patrick Farm development has been facing legal challenges for years by those who hope to protect both a natural gas line on the property as well as wetlands which supply drinking water to the Lower Hudson Valley and parts of Bergen County.
Opponents have also objected to the size of the plan, which includes 479 housing units and could bring several thousand new residents to the development as reported by The Journal News. Directly across the two lane roadway lies another highly controversial project, the proposed Congregation Rabbinical College Tartikov, which include a yeshiva and on site adult housing. That property has been embroiled in lengthy legal battles as well, with Tartikov suing the Village of Pomona for denying the property a tax exemption under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act as previously reported on VIN News (http://goo.gl/dEVBeK).
County officials said that Scenic Development had agreed to a two year installment plan to pay off its tax liens, which date back to 2013, this past July but that those payments stopped in October, with the new county policy giving the county an opening to initiate foreclosure proceedings against Scenic Development. No change has been made in county law regarding homeowners who have a three year grace period before foreclosure proceedings could take place.
Although Day described the Patrick Farm project as “one of the most untoward developments that I see on the horizon for Rockland County,” he noted that his new initiative was aimed only at collecting taxes and was unrelated to any possible construction at the site.
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