Luzerne County Council to mull purchase offers for 60 repository properties

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
This lot at 57 Taft St. in Wilkes-Barre, once the site of a structure known as the ‘raccoon house,’ is among 60 Luzerne County repository properties that have pending purchase offers. - Times Leader photo

Luzerne County may unload a batch of 60 repository properties that did not sell in back-tax auctions, including some that have been in limbo for years, according to Tuesday’s council work session agenda.

Sales are encouraged because the county is semi-liable for the properties, serving as legal trustee while the owners of record have abandoned them and stopped paying real estate taxes, officials have said. Offers for the properties, listed at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com, can be submitted at any time and are typically $500 because county officials are eager to get rid of them.

As of June, the county had 977 properties in the repository, which is one of the largest — if not the largest — count among similarly sized third-class counties in the state, officials have said. Another 47 properties that did not sell in this month’s free-and-clear auction have been added to the repository since the June tax base reading, records show.

The 60 proposed purchases are for a mix of residential structures and vacant lots.

Wilkes-Barre resident Vernon James submitted an offer to buy two vacant lots on South Welles Street in Wilkes-Barre for $500 each.

An apartment building that once stood on one of the lots was torn down after a 2010 fire, archived reports show. James could not be reached for comment Monday, but a relative lives on the street and said he plans to build a residence at the site of the demolished structure.

The current owners stopped paying taxes on the two parcels 14 years ago, records show.

Also on the purchase list is a lot at 57 Taft St. in Wilkes-Barre that once held a rundown structure called the “raccoon house” due to an animal infestation. Neighbor James Burden complained repeatedly to city council about the structure before the city demolished it around 2016.

Another neighbor submitted an offer to buy the lot from the repository for $543, but Burden said Monday he also plans to contact the county about presenting a competing offer because he wants it and was unaware it was up for grabs.

Structure status

As a side note, county assessment records still show structures existing at both the Welles and Taft street sites. The office said it never received notification of demolition from the city or owners to trigger an inspection and assessment change. Such notification is important, the office said, because prospective buyers who don’t physically visit the sites could wrongly conclude a structure is included in their purchase.

County council members must vote at a future meeting for the repository sales to take effect.

Taxing bodies typically accept $1 bids from governmental entities interested in assuming ownership of repository properties. Several such requests are in this group:

• Butler Township has asked to acquire two parcels totaling 1.07 acre on Mill Mountain Road containing two seasonal cabins.

• Plymouth wants a residential structure on 0.02 acre at 50 Vine St.

• The Kunkle Fire Co. is seeking eight vacant parcels totaling 1.1 acre in the area of the Kunkle-Alderson Road in Dallas Township.

Among the proposed repository purchases of residential structures for $500 each, according to county assessment descriptions:

• Andres Mejia, a 1,761-square-foot house at 160 Seneca St. in Pittston assessed at $73,000.

• NEPA Home LLC, a small house above a two-stall garage on Maple Street in Newport Township assessed at $41,300.

• Rosalind Rosario, a 2,147-square-foot house at 57 Ridge St. in Newport Township assessed at $75,200.

• Alberta Rios, a 1,380-square-foot house at 17 Railroad St., also in Newport, assessed at $54,600.

This lot at 57 Taft St. in Wilkes-Barre, once the site of a structure known as the ‘raccoon house,’ is among 60 Luzerne County repository properties that have pending purchase offers.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_lot.jpeg-1.jpgThis lot at 57 Taft St. in Wilkes-Barre, once the site of a structure known as the ‘raccoon house,’ is among 60 Luzerne County repository properties that have pending purchase offers. Times Leader photo

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.