The developer who asked Forsyth County to apply for a U.S. Housing and Urban Development loan plans to build on land whose owner is two years behind in property taxes.
Kennesaw-based Almquist Hansen, however, is not the property owner and not responsible for the more than $50,000 due from 2009 and 2010 taxes, plus late fees.
The developer has proposed using a Section 108 HUD loan to in part fund construction of Towne Club at Windermere, a high-end senior rental housing community.
The project qualifies for this type of HUD loan because it would reportedly create jobs for low-to moderate-income workers.
Greg Almquist, CEO of Almquist Hansen, said the sale of the 18-acre parcel is contingent upon financing. Furthermore, the transaction could not be completed until the taxes are up to date.
A representative of the property’s listed owner, Windermere Village Holdings, could not be reached for comment Friday.
According to county tax records, the owner also is behind on about $50,000 in taxes on a neighboring parcel of similar size.
An employee of the Forsyth County Tax Commissioner’s Office said properties two years behind in payments can be auctioned off for sale. If the taxes aren’t paid, these could go to the courthouse steps later this year.
Almquist said he thinks Windermere Village Holdings "is arranging in the next several months to bring all those [taxes] current, but that they’ve been dealing with with their lenders."
He said Almquist Hansen became involved in the property when contacted by Windermere Village Holdings in 2007, just before the housing market collapsed.
The property owner originally planned to put more than 100 single-family homes on the 36-acres, but foresaw the economic downturn and looked for other options, Almquist said.
Windermere Village Holdings reduced the number of homes planned and offered about half of the land to Almquist Hansen in a rezoning application to change from the surrounding master planned development to a commercial designation.
The original idea was to create a senior village where people can “age in place,” moving from the homes next door to Towne Club at Windermere. They could also shop in the stores planned border both developments.
By the time the rezoning was complete in December 2008, however, the economy was no longer right for building either the senior living community or the single-family homes, Almquist said.
Most recently, Almquist Hansen came to Forsyth County with its proposal to transmit the HUD loan application to seek funding that could launch the project.
The developer is seeking a $5 million loan to help fund the $30.8 million project.
The local government, in this case Forsyth County, is needed to submit the application and, if the loan is approved, act as a conduit between the developer and state and federal governments.
The remainder of the funding for the project would come from another pending HUD loan of about $19.2 million for senior rental housing under Section 232, as well as about $6.6 million in private money.
County commissioners voted 4-1, with Todd Levent opposed, to transmit the pre-application to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
The department will respond to the county with further information about the specifics of the loan.
At that point, the county can decide whether to commit to the process, which if so would involve another public hearing.
Levent announced at a previous session that he intends to make a motion to rescind the vote at Thursday’s meeting.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the county is still in the early stages of the pre-application process, and hasn’t reached the matters of property ownership and taxes.
After the pre-application returns from the state DCA, the terms of the potential loan would be made available, and “a lot of the questions people are asking will be answered,” Jarrard said.
At that time the county would begin the “due diligence” of issues aside from the HUD application.
Jarrard said the commission “would likely expect that taxes are caught up” before making any commitment to the process, as is required in rezonings and other county matters.
Commissioner Jim Boff, who represents the district that includes the property, said the commission has not discussed the issue of overdue taxes or land ownership.
He said he had also heard that the name of the property’s owner was misspelled on an application so the public information was difficult to follow.
Boff said the matters were “troubling” and he would look into them when considering how to move forward on the issue.
“It’s not so much the taxes due,” he said, “but that it’s bogged up in what makes people suspicious of government and suspicious of HUD.”