Resolution to cancel sale of foreclosure lot in city withdrawn

MAYVILLE – A resolution to cancel the sale of a tax foreclosure lot in Dunkirk has been withdrawn.

Instead, the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Administrative Services Committee moved to withdraw the sale of the property from a resolution authorizing Quitclaim Deeds during its recent meeting.

During the county’s tax foreclosure auction June 22, John Davis Jr. purchased a property on Willowbrook Avenue in the city of Dunkirk. Davis won the property against another bidder, in the amount of $3,200. The property had previously owed $1,158.76 in taxes.

Davis told legislators he had gone to the property prior to the auction, but did not enter a gated area, as he did not yet own the property.

Once he won the bid, Davis went onto the property, only to discover it is considered a hazardous waste site. Davis said the property is in the remedial stage, scheduled to be worked on in the fall.

“Never, ever, ever in my life did I think it would be a PVC waste site,” Davis said. “I’ve been going to these auctions a lot. … I have bought some real junk; some real junk, which I still own. That’s OK. But, when it comes to risking my family’s life when I do go look at that, that’s what got me upset.”

Jim Caflish, director of the Chautauqua County Office of Real Property Tax, read a prepared statement to the committee regarding the auction.

“The auction conditions state we sell properties as is,” Caflish said. “Our terms and conditions – which we read aloud to everybody at the auction as well as put on the Web, in the book – is very explicit. People have to understand, we sell the property as it is.”

Caflish said the county does not do searches on the property. Additionally, he said the county relies on the conditions, because the county no longer does environmental assessments on the properties before they go up for sale, because it was not cost effective. Caflish argued that by canceling the sale for Davis, others would have buyer’s remorse on properties they purchased as well.

Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown, agreed with Caflish, stating that by canceling this particular sale, the county would be opening a can of worms for future sales. Others, however, argued that it is the responsibility of the legislature to protect the people of the county.

“I just think it’s incumbent upon us as legislators to protect citizens against sometimes their own actions,” said Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown.

Other committee members agreed that the property should be reimbursed. Cornell chose to withdraw the resolution to cancel the sale of that particular tax foreclosure lot, which she had originally sponsored. Legislators agreed to instead move to strike the property from a resolution for Quitclaim Deeds, with the understanding Caflish would return Davis’ money and reach out to the second bidder to see if the person is still interested in the property.

The full legislature will be discussing the resolution for Quitclaim deeds Wednesday.