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No buyer for Cherry Lane Estates; Somerset Borough refutes claim it will clean up fire-damaged trailers

January 25, 2019

Somerset Borough is refuting claims that it offered to help clear fire-damaged trailers from Cherry Lane Estates after the mobile home park’s owners made another attempt to sell the property.

Divinity Investments attempted to sell the trailer park Sept. 9. Hurley Auctions’ online records show no one attempted to bid on the property. In the terms of sale for the property, Divinity Investments stated that Somerset Borough would be willing to help with cleanup of the park, something that Somerset County Judge Scott Bittner has ordered the limited liability company to do after he declared the property a public nuisance.

“The Borough of Somerset is willing to work with a new buyer upon the payment of unpaid water bills and an agreement to repair water lines, as well as to clean up the uninhabitable mobile homes,” the terms of sale for the property state.

Bittner declared the park a public nuisance in December, and ordered Divinity Investments and owner Thomas Mongold to pay the borough $300,000 in past-due water bills and clean up the fire-damaged and dilapidated trailers within 90 days.

The order also issues a special injunction prohibiting the owner from selling the park without court approval.

Divinity acknowledged the injunction in its terms of sale, stating the “premises are under court order for improvement and the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County must approve the purchaser.”

Borough officials said while there was some contact with Divinity attorney Jack Sharpe and potential buyers about the past-due water bills, there was no discussion of any assistance with clearing out the trailers listed on the order.

“We got inquiries from several potential buyers and a representative of Divinity, and we told them all the same thing,” borough solicitor James Cascio said. “All we talked about was the water and sewer situation.”

Borough officials estimated the cost to demolish each trailer at $5,000 to $10,000.

The December order identifies 47 abandoned trailers and 14 fire-damaged trailers as being in disrepair. Divinity Investments officials had 30 days since Dec. 6 to secure homes that they intend to repair or restore to a “habitable and safe condition” for rental or sale.

Yet as of Thursday, several trailers in the mobile home court were still unsecured. Many trailers had open doors and windows, along with mold, weather deterioration and various stray animals and vermin roaming inside.

Cherry Lane has been the site of 13 arsons and two attempted arsons since May. Police also believe 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. The last fire was in August.

Borough police Chief Randy Cox said police are still devoted to the case, and have a list of “people of interest.”

“That list has dwindled. We’ve eliminated some people from that list, but it still exists,” he said.

The judicial order was in response to two civil complaints filed by the borough against Divinity Investments and Mongold on Sept. 14.

Luzerne County tax claim records show Mongold purchased three properties in Ross and Lehman townships totaling $25,092.09 at a Sept. 27 county upset sale. Divinity Investment officials did not return telephone calls from the Daily American Thursday.

Somerset Township Municipal Authority officials said there is still a $180,157.29 lien against High Top, the LLC operated by Mongold for Roof Garden Acres, for unpaid water bills at the mobile home park from April 2015 to July 2018.

Authority manager Carolyn Zambanini said High Top officials have made minimal payments since a year and a half ago, when leaks started on the property.

“They are still not paying any more than they have been,” she said. “We’re going to have to figure out something for down there.”

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