Monday, March 12, 2012

County Property Auctions 3/12

Tuesday evening, Saratoga County is auctioning off 55 properties that they’ve seized after the parcels’ previous owners failed to pay taxes on their land for three consecutive years.

That number is probably outdated by the time you’re reading this, as parcels are constantly getting pulled off the auction block.

The county started with a delinquent list of 98 parcels, Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond told me, but that number has been basically halved as supervisors either pull parcels off the block or their owners come through with last-minute tender offers to buy their land back from the county.

The Equalization and Assessment Committee, which Raymond chairs, will hold a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon, which is the last chance to reclaim rights.

Registration for tonight’s auction begins at 5 in the Saratoga County Facilities Building at 40 West High Street in Ballston Spa.

“The important thing is buyer beware,” Raymond said of parcels being auctioned off beginning at 6 p.m. tonight. “Do your research. At the very least, drive by and look at it.”

I thought that was a very peculiar thing to say, so I asked her and Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge, who chairs the county Law and Finance Committee, about the auction. Turns out, the county has auctioned off some bizarre properties over the years.

Raymond said one individual was the high bidder for a five-acre property on U.S. Route 9. At face value, that seems like an attractive investment, so Raymond was puzzled when the buyer never followed up on the purchase. Come to find out, Raymond said, “it was a swamp.”

Grattidge took it a step further.

“We had the bottom of Lake Desolation on the tax rolls once,” he said with a laugh. “Some guy owns the bottom of Lake Desolation.”

Sure enough, that guy is Middle Grove’s Roy Simonds, who acquired the deeds to the properties in 2009. According to county records, he owns both the Greenfield and Providence portions of the lake and his property is assessed at $9,400. I’d love to know the circumstances surrounding its acquisition.

Does anyone know Mr. Simonds? Tell him to give me a call.

The properties on Tuesday's block range in size from a .04 acre parcel on Albany Avenue in Round Lake to a 24.41 acre parcel on Male Road in Clifton Park. Most will for less than $100, Raymond said, but it’s important for people to know what they’re buying before they start bidding.

You can find the list of available properties online at and use the county’s online GIS map at to search by the parcel’s print key. Make sure to include the dots and dashes, or it won’t work.

Most of the interesting stuff has already been pulled from the auction block. In some radical cases, Grattidge said, you’ll find that the parcel is a drainage ditch that has been leftover from a subdivision.

 “Some of these are landlocked,” Raymond said. “You can’t even get there without a helicopter.”

The county’s top priority in these auctions, Raymond said, is to get the properties back on tax rolls. The county isn’t paying taxes on the land, but the person who buys the parcels will at the county property tax rate $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Raymond said the ideal way – and these are her words, not mine – to get the properties back on the tax rolls is through patching the marriage between the original owner and his or her land, but the next best thing is “a clean and clear divorce” that allows someone else to pick up the property.

Divorces? Those can be tough. But there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Or, in Saratoga County’s case, at the bottom of Lake Desolation.

Finally, it’s been a while since my last blog post, so I wanted to share this anecdote.

 There was a 40-minute gap between committee meetings today, meaning I had a chance to start scribbling some notes on how I wanted my stories to look. I’m sitting in the committee meeting room and some observers from the League of Women Voters come in and sit to my left.

While one guy is flipping through the pages of one of our free Life publications, which he picked up outside the meeting hall, he took a swipe at The Saratogian, saying something along the lines of – and I’m slightly paraphrasing here – the price is too expensive for the content of the stories.

Then the woman sitting next to him said – I distinctly remember this one – “You shouldn’t say that when Lucian is sitting right there.”

Until next time,

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