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No buyer for Cherry Lane Estates during tax sale

September 26, 2018

Cherry Lane Estates residents are wondering what’s next for the Somerset mobile home park after a tax sale Tuesday failed to garner a new owner.

During the Somerset County Tax Claim Bureau’s upset tax sale Tuesday, no one bid on park properties. Minimum opening bids totaled $112,794.41. Divinity Investments, a Chambersburg-based limited liability company, owes $64,621.31 in delinquent taxes on the property.

Alexander Boose, who works for tax claim bureau solicitor Robert Boose II, said the property now goes back into a repository.

“So now they all go back into the pot again, so anybody can make an individual private tax sale bid,” he said.

Boose added that Divinity has the option to redeem the property, but the company would have to pay back the full amount of taxes without a payment plan.

Cherry Lane has been the site of 13 arsons and two attempted arsons since early May. Police also believe two fires set on Sept. 18, 2016, and July 5, 2017, both at 122 Gary Lane, were set by the same individual, who remains at large.

According to Hurley Auctions of Greencastle, an individual bid $250,000 for the trailer park during an auction July 25. The park was listed for $600,000. Neither Divinity nor Hurley has identified the bidder, and the deal was never finalized.

No one from Divinity responded to calls about the sale Tuesday. In a June telephone interview, owner Thomas Mongold said county and local officials are responsible for cleaning up debris from the trailer fires.

“They went to the tax sale last year, and Somerset takes possession of those homes,” he said.

Jane Rizzo, county chief assessor and tax claim bureau chief officer, said the county is a trustee of the property with the right to sell it, but Divinity still owns the property.

″(Divinity Investments) are the owners of the property, responsible for anything they were responsible for prior to the sale because it didn’t sell,” she said.

Somerset Borough filed two civil complaints against Divinity and Mongold on Sept. 14, attempting to recoup more than $300,000 in past-due water and sewer bills and to force the cleanup of the fire-damaged trailers.

Park manager Cindy Duerring said she helped a prospective buyer tour the mobile home park but has not heard from him since. Duerring added that residents in the park are waiting to see what might happen next.

“I think everybody is just kind of like, ‘Should we move? Should we not move?’” she said. “You know, what’s going to happen?”

Park residents have been putting their rent money into an escrow account. They have not received an invoice from the owners in four months.

Duerring said several people talked to her about buying a trailer at the tax sale. Divinity officials originally stopped allowing people to buy trailers in the park around the time the arsons started.

“If they allow me to put people in there, I could definitely get people in there,” she said.

More than 41 bidders attended the sale, which was held in Courtroom No. 1 at the Somerset County Courthouse.

Thirty properties were sold Tuesday for a total of $103,658.52, according to Rizzo. Residents and businesses had 190 properties to consider.

The highest bid was $8,000 for a 16.9-acre tract of land in Paint Township with a one-story home.

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