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Sunday, April 29,2012

County forecloses on big trailer park, other sites

By Jim Phillips
Photo Credits:
Photo Caption: Raymond Croxford

Though a big Athens County landlord who's in serious tax trouble has managed to dodge foreclosure on one trailer court by selling it, a judge on Thursday issued a default judgment against him for more than $170,000 on three other properties, clearing the way for them to be sold at auction to pay their tax bills.

These include the Pine Aire Village mobile home park near The Plains; a small apartment building on Bentbrook Lane, off U.S. Rt. 50 West just outside of Athens; and a home on Dalton Avenue in Athens.

Athens County Treasurer Javon Kittle Cooper reportedly has met in the past with owner Raymond Croxford to arrange a possible payment plan on delinquent taxes to allow him to keep the properties. According to county officials, however, Croxford hasn't made the payments.

In Athens County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Croxford, acting as his own attorney, asked Judge L. Alan Goldsberry for a continuance, to allow him to get legal counsel.

Former county Prosecutor C. David Warren, who's acting as a special prosecutor in the case, objected to Croxford's continuance motion, noting that the landlord failed to respond to foreclosure complaints against the properties within a 28-day deadline after being served with the complaints last November.

The judge denied the motion.

Kittle Cooper testified that Croxford owes, through April 19, more than $170,617 in back taxes on the properties, and has made no payments since 2006. She said the county entered into a payment plan with him in 2003, but he has not kept his accounts up to date.

Croxford, however, suggested that Kittle Cooper late last year refused to accept a third-party payment plan that he recommended to solve his latest tax problem. This apparently would have involved selling the property to a local real-estate company.

Last year, Croxford unloaded what was probably his most problematic property, the Knollwood trailer park on U.S. Rt. 50 west of Athens.

He was facing foreclosure on that property, as well as regulatory enforcement by Ohio EPA for persistent sewage-treatment problems at the site. As part of a consent order, Croxford agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty for the violations.

He dodged that bullet when the Athens-based Capstone Properties, LLC, agreed to buy the trailer park and address the problems at its on-site sewage treatment plant.

Croxford was apparently hoping that Capstone would buy the other properties facing foreclosure as well, which would have allowed the back taxes to be paid.

"Wouldn't it have been advantageous for all to start collecting (back taxes) immediately?" Croxford asked the treasurer.

She replied that she did not accept this arrangement, because she has been in contact with the company, which has told her that after researching the other sites, Capstone decided not to buy them.

"They came out and said, 'We're no longer interested because of the liens (against them)," she testified.

Croxford argued that because Kittle Cooper learned this only after meeting with him late last year about a possible payment plan, she should not have rejected the proposal.

"At our meeting, you did not know that the third party was no longer interested," he insisted. "You needed only to give me permission to proceed (to try to arrange the sale)."

Croxford told Judge Goldsberry that if the foreclosures are handled as separate cases, "it's possible that I may be able to save one of the properties." Goldsberry agreed to keep them separate.

Warren said he would much prefer to see someone paying the back taxes, rather than having the county foreclose on the sites.

"We don't want to be in the business of selling property," he said.

Though Goldsberry has filed a judgment against Croxford in the case, he can still redeem any of the properties if he comes up with the full back-tax amount before they're put up for sale at auction.

Croxford left immediately after the hearing, and The Athens NEWS has been unable to reach him for comment.


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