The lawsuit Ferrell filed on Jan. 30 targets a parcel of about 7.3 acres in Cold Creek in west Sandusky, attempting to collect at least some of the $242,159 of taxes owed on the property.
Ultimately, the property will likely be sold in a sheriff’s sale, said Jason Hinners, the assistant prosecutor who filed the lawsuit on Ferrell’s behalf.
The lawsuit names as defendants Cold Creek Development Co., Joe F. Yost III and Mary J. Yost, of Huron, and First Merit Bank and Home Savings and Loan Co., of Youngstown. The suit says the county auditor has set the fair market value of the parcel at $73,370.
To date, the total amount of taxes owed by Cold Creek is $1,275,491.14, Hinners said. The first lawsuit was filed on the Cold Creek parcel that owes the most in taxes, Hinners said.
Hinners said the lawsuit is the first of what will likely be many other lawsuits. About 55 parcels in the Cold Creek development are delinquent on taxes, Hinners said.
The standard approach is to file a lawsuit for each parcel, but it’s possible a suit will be filed that names more than one parcel, Hinners said.
Jonathan Blakely, Yost’s attorney, said he had not seen the lawsuit yet but said a tax foreclosure lawsuit probably is the best way to handle the situation at this point. The taxes on the property at Cold Creek are very high, Blakely said.
He said Yost put a second mortgage on Cold Creek because he was attempting to pay off a debt from another project rather than simply walking away from it.
Hinners, who handles civil law cases for Prosecutor Kevin Baxter’s office, also is trying to piggyback on a foreclosure lawsuit against Hoppers mobile home park. Currently, Yost owes a $303,266 assessment on that property for Sandusky’s water and sewer bill and for unpaid county taxes. The bulk of that is money owed to Sandusky, Hinners said.
The foreclosure case filed against the Hoppers property is Margie L. Hoffman Trust vs. Westgate Development Co., doing business as Joseph W. Yost III, and several other defendants. The lawsuit was filed in 2008.
The lien for the money owed to Sandusky and Erie County takes precedence over other debts, Hinners said.
“I’m kind of working on seeing what we need to do,” he said. “I’ve been in talks with their attorney on that, on how we can move forward”
Yost also faces a fifth degree felony theft charge, filed in Erie County Common Pleas Court, alleging he stole money his Hoppers tenants paid to him that was supposed to go toward paying Sandusky’s water bill. The case is pending before Judge Roger Binette.
No trial date has been set yet, Blakely said.
Blakely said he cannot comment on the criminal charges, but added, “I would like to say that the lot rents and the water bills, the majority of it had not been paid for a lot of years” If those rents had been paid, none of the problems at Hoppers would have happened, he said.
Ferrell said she intends to follow the law as treasurer and collect on tax delinquencies, although she said she doesn’t want to hurt anyone who is in financial difficulties.
“I don’t want to take someone’s house away from them” Ferrell said.
She said by law, tax foreclosure lawsuits only are filed when taxes are more than two years overdue.
Before she files any lawsuit, Ferrell said she will send a letter to the property owner inviting that person to work out a monthly payment schedule. As long as that payment schedule is being met and the property owner is keeping up with current taxes, Ferrell said she will not file a tax foreclosure lawsuit.