Businesses owe millions in back taxes

SANDUSKY Owners of Erie County commercial properties are more than $2 million behind in county
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



Owners of Erie County commercial properties are more than $2 million behind in county taxes.

Twenty area businesses top the list of the highest delinquent tax payers, owing a total of $2,208,509.39.

Reasons for delinquencies vary, Erie County treasurer Jo Dee Fantozz said. Some of the properties are under foreclosure, while others may be in the midst of ongoing litigation.

The two properties with the highest tax delinquency are the result of a sewer line installed in hopes of securing future development.

Most of the proposed condominiums, on nearly 14 acres of property in Vermilion Township, never materialized.

"The theory was, the developer builds the sewers, the county pays for the sewers at the time and gets the money through an assessment on the property," assistant prosecutor Gary Lickfelt said. "When the economy took a dive, it never occurred ... and theoretically, if we waited long enough, it would happen, but we can't afford to wait that long."

The developer, Chapel Creek Corp., owes more than $815,000 on its Beulah Beach properties.

Lickfelt said the only legal action the county prosecutor can take is to foreclose the property.

Fantozz said the county prosecutor can seek foreclosure on properties three or more cycles behind, which usually means they've been delinquent for at least two years.

"The most delinquent go up for foreclosure first," she said.

Ten of Ottawa County's most delinquent commercial properties owe a combined total of more than $697,400.

Ottawa County treasurer Robert Hille said delinquencies are most often industry-driven. Marinas and hotels, for instance, tend to suffer when the tourist season is shorter or not as successful as in past years.

"It's a situation where the business isn't doing well, the cash flow's not there, and they get behind," he said. "If there's not at least a $2,500 delinquency, it's not worth a foreclosure action."

Huron County treasurer Kathleen Schaffer said several properties remain delinquent for years because it is often difficult to notify the owner of foreclosure, particularly if they are from out of town. One example is MM Co. in Bellevue, which relocated to Punta Gorda, Fla., that owes nearly $36,000 in property taxes.

"A lot of them just ignore the mail," she said. "We just sent out all our past-due notices, and hopefully the people who owe will come forward with the money."

Others are long-vacant properties tied up in environmental testing, such as the Norwalk Foundry. Schaffer said she issued a sheriff's sale Thursday after it spent years on the delinquent list.

Highest Erie County taxes owed

* The former D.C. Filter, Fifth Street, $203,371

* East Ridge Development, 20 Mariners, $167,036

* BCC Sandusky, located north of Sam's Club and west of Home Depot, $153,286

* Westgate Properties, 2609 Venice Road, $132,895

* The former Ramone's restaurant, $108,300

* Milan Township outlet mall, $86,168

* International Automotive Components, 1608 Sawmill Parkway, Huron, $83,648

* Okamoto Realty, 3120 Monroe St., $62,713

* Westgate Development, 1651 Tiffin Ave., $11,841 in taxes, $48,787 in sewer and water assessments

* Maui Sands Resort/Holiday Inn Express, 5513 Milan Road, $41,503

* Former Dixon Ticonderoga building, 1706 Hayes Ave., $33,822

* Capital Control, Kelleys Island properties, $33,612

* Milan Industrial Park, 12406 U.S. 250, Milan, $32,720

* West Side Storage, 4305 Venice Road, $31,871

* Steuk's Farm Market, 1001 Fremont Ave., at least $31,171, but will owe more after city officials make a demolition assessment next year

Source: Erie County Treasurer's office

Highest Ottawa County taxes owed

* LAMBCO -- $136,082

* Miller Bley -- $101,869

* Cleveland Genomics -- $89,641

* Skyway Restaurant -- $71,096

* M & D Enterprises -- $64,619

* Shoreline Development Co. -- $58,721

* Moore Business Consulting -- $48,983

* Anchors Away Properties -- $41,740

* Heilman & Heilman -- $34,799

* Helen M. Angel -- $25,579

* KF Enterprises -- $24,342

(Note: This includes those in litigation and those on payment plans)

Source: Ottawa County Treasurer's office

Highest Huron County taxes owed

* Norwalk Foundry -- $86,400

* Fraternal Supplies -- $49,194

* MM Co. -- $38,972

* RAYURO -- $31,273

* Norwalk Investment Co. -- $28,221

* S & V Partnership -- $25,869

* KAMJA -- $11,519

* GMANI -- $10,886

* Champion Home and Building Maintenance -- $9,293

Source: Huron County Treasurer's office