QUEENSBURY — A property owner’s last-ditch attempt to avoid having their land sold at auction Saturday prompted a heated discussion and narrow vote among Warren County supervisors Friday over whether to pull the properties from the auction list hours before the sale.
A lawyer representing the properties’ owners attended Friday’s Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting asking to pay taxes on two 0.13-acre lots on Thomson Avenue in Lake George, which are scheduled to be auctioned off for unpaid taxes Saturday morning (Oct. 19). The lots are vacant.
That prompted an impassioned discussion that ended with Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson saying it was a “crime” for the county to take someone’s property, and those who believed otherwise could “kiss my asterisk.”
“It’s very important to me to protect people’s property’s rights. I know the family. They’ve had a lot of health issues,” Dickinson said after.
The board discussed voting on whether to allow the taxes to be paid, but supporters fell two votes short of the 667 weighted votes needed to have it considered.
Dickinson’s comments led to the county board briefly adjourning its meeting to look into the status of the situation before deciding not to undo months of foreclosure work that came after taxes weren’t paid for three years.
County Treasurer Michael Swan said the county had already taken ownership of the property in preparation for the auction.
That led to a discussion about whether the county should allow the properties to come out of the auction hours before it was to be held.
Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, chairwoman of the board’s Real Property and Tax Services Committee, which oversees the auction, said she could not support removing the property from the auction the day before, when the county already owns it.
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She said owners receive notification of the impending foreclosure months in advance, and the board holds a “last chance” meeting each August to hear from owners who want to work out payment plans. Property owners then have through September to make payments or set up payment plans.
“We give people lots of chances,” she said.
County Attorney Mary Kissane, though, said the board “chooses to forego the processes a lot” for delinquent property owners, and her office could undo the deed transfer if needed.
“We make exceptions all the time for people. We’re going to run into problems if we stop making exceptions,” she said.
Lawyer Nathan Hall came to the meeting representing the property owners, identified in county records as Bobby Brand, Brand Family Revocable Trust and Michael Stafford. Hall said he had a check for $1,600 to pay the taxes.
Stafford, a longtime Lake George town justice, is a founder of the law firm for which Hall works, and Dickinson said he was executor of the estate of one of the owners.
But Swan said Stafford was called months ago about the properties’ tax situation and no payment was made, nor was there any indication one would be made.
The lots are assessed at $22,000, and there are two vacant cabins and a garage/carport on one of them.