Town takes land in lieu of back taxes
Southfield Village Development LLC owes $400K on undeveloped land
PETERBOROUGH — After receiving no tax payments since 2007 on about 10 acres of land on Southfield Lane that have been approved for 60 condo units, Select Board members voted Tuesday to accept tax deeds on the land, putting it under town ownership.
“It’s all raw land, none of it has been developed,” Town Administrator Pam Brenner told the board, noting that the rights to build the condos would remain in effect. The board will have to choose what to do with the property, which could be sold at auction, sold on the open market, or held as town land.
The land in question is owned by a company called Southfield Village Development LLC, which is based in Nashua, according to town tax records. Brenner said the town has had little contact with the company, which has been involved in bankruptcy proceedings for several years.
The company owes the town $407,297 in principal and interest on its unpaid tax bills.
The Planning Board approved 120 condos on land on Southfield Lane in 2005, but only 30 units were built, although some additional units are in various stages of construction.
Brenner said taxes are up to date on the already occupied condominium units known as Southfield Village, which are managed by the Southfield Village Condo Association, and on unbuilt lots owned by Belletetes’ Inc.
“Of the 120 units approved by the Planning Board, 60 are paying taxes,” she said.
Nothing has ever been done on the land where the other 60 condos were to be built. Brenner said the downturn in the economy affected Southfield Village Development, and although the town lowered the assessed value of the land from $2.3 million in 2007 to $1.1 million in 2013, no tax payments were made.
The town first started the tax deed process in 2010, but because Southfield Village Development was in the midst of a bankruptcy filing, the town was unable to proceed. Brenner said the town’s attorney, John Ratigan, went to court this year and obtained an order directing Southfield Village Development to either sell the property, which would require that back taxes be paid as part of the transaction, or let it revert to the town through tax deed. Brenner said there has been no indication that the company made any effort to sell.
Board members asked Jack Belletete, whose company owns some of the adjacent property, for an estimate of the market value of the land. He said it has some value because it has been approved for condos, but there is not a lot of demand for new housing.
“I think the amount of absorption Peterborough could handle is about 10 units a year,” Belletete said. He said the land is still assessed too high, even at the lower numbers.
Leo Smith, the town’s assessing clerk, said the assessments are based on both raw land and development rights and the question should be whether the portion based on development rights accurately reflects the current market.
Stan Bullard, a representative of the condo association, said members would encourage the town to keep the land as open space.
Select Board members Joe Byk, Liz Thomas and Barbara Miller voted unanimously to accept a tax deed on the property. Brenner said the town will have to notify Southfield Village Development of that decision and the company could retain the land by paying the taxes, but that seems unlikely.
In the meantime, the board will ask the town’s Office of Community Development and members of the Conservation Commission to look at the land and make recommendations on how it could be used.
The board also accepted tax deeds on two lots, totalling less than two acres, on Lobacki Drive that are owned by the estate of Bradley Jackson.
The lots, which are on the corner with Route 101, have no buildings and are wet, with a brook running through the land. Brenner said Jackson had been denied variances to build on the lots in 2000 and had stopped paying taxes in 2010. The amount owned to the town is $2,232.
Jackson died in 2011, and Brenner said his estate has no interest in retaining ownership of the lots.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.