Property tax delinquencies on the rise

Soaring number of vacant properties in Montgomery County.

By Jim Otte, Staff Writer
Updated 9:49 AM Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DAYTON — Property tax delinquencies in Montgomery County increased from $90.7 million in the first half of 2011 to $107.9 million this year, while the number of vacant and abandoned properties skyrocketed from 1,620 to 7,077.

Montgomery County Treasurer Carolyn Rice noted that 94 percent of county residents pay their property taxes, which are due in February and July. But a challenging economy has resulted in a long list of properties — residential, commercial and industrial — where property taxes have not been paid for years. Topping the list of the region’s properties in delinquency is the old Executive Hotel on Needmore Road at Interstate 75 in Harrison Twp.

Owners of the hotel owe the county $954,690 in back taxes.

“It’s terrible. It’s a sore eye to the community,” said Vernon Brown, 84, a long-time homeowner who lives near the hotel property.

The hotel was built in 1962 and for decades was a successful business. Today, the 235-room, two-story building is covered in graffiti; the lower level is filled with water to the ceiling.

Brown’s wife, Willena, said the hotel’s failure to pay its property taxes passes the pressure to cover the cost of government services on to taxpayers.

“Whenever somebody is on a fixed income and lives like we have to live and they get by with it, it’s not fair,” she said.

Another hotel down the expressway at Wagner Ford Road is No. 2 on the list. The owners of the Ramada Plaza Hotel, which remains in business, owe $907,583.

Third on the list is an apartment complex at 4930 Bloomfield Drive in Trotwood owned by the Trinity Foundation of Ohio. It is delinquent to the tune of $619,292.

Not all of the area’s most delinquent properties are in Montgomery County. The Twin Creeks development in Clark County owes $571,081. A few dozen upscale homes have been built just outside of New Carlisle, but the property taxes on the remaining vacant land have not been paid.

Old factories also dot the list, serving as places for more than delinquency notices. Overgrown weeds obscure the sign at the former Dayton Electro Plate facility at 1030 Valley St., where the property has fallen $430,086 behind in its taxes.

A familiar name pops up at midpoint of the Dayton Daily News I-Team’s “dirty dozen” list of properties that are most delinquent on property taxes. Hara Arena, the well-known entertainment and sports venue, owes Montgomery County $385,496. Karen Wampler, Hara’s marketing director, said the cost of doing business, competition in the region, market conditions and other factors led Hara to be on the list of top delinquent properties.

“We are deeply distressed, and there is a series of plans to find our way off of it,” Wampler said.

She added that, after many years, the estate of one of Hara’s founders remains unsettled.

“The long-awaited good news is, we feel resolution will come by the end of the year,” she said.

The most historic property on the list, the Dayton Arcade, comes in at No. 10. The turn-of-the-century complex actually is five buildings that once were the heart of downtown Dayton’s shopping district. Now the out-of-state owners owe $246,737.

Treasurer Rice said the owners are still putting together a plan to use the Arcade.

“It continues to decline, so we hope they are able to pull it off before it falls down,” Rice said.

Many properties in the area have been abandoned, casualties of the nation’s foreclosure crisis.

“People are just leaving them,” Rice said, adding that there is no criminal punishment for abandoning property. “Our market is not supporting the resale of this property.”

The $107.9 million delinquency figure for the first half of 2012 nearly doubles the corresponding total in 2008: $54.8 million.

While many of the properties on the delinquency list appear to have limited potential, the one at the top of the list may have a chance to produce tax money in the future.

Rice, who said the county is 23 percent ahead of last year’s pace in collecting delinquent property taxes, said there is hope that once the planned racetrack and casino is built on Needmore Road, the old Executive Hotel site could be attractive to an investor.

Owners of the nine-acre site are asking $2.9 million.

Staff writer Kelli Wynn contributed to this report.

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