MERIDEN — The vacant eight-acre site of a proposed 99-unit apartment complex on Bee Street is one of more than a dozen city properties slated for auction in a tax sale set for March 2.
The auction is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center, 175 E. Main St. According to CTTaxSales.com, where the auction is listed, all those who attend must observe social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, with attendance forbidden for anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms.
City property records list the owner of the parcel at 406 Bee St. as JHM LLC, a firm based out of Lexington, Massachusetts. Developer M2 Realty USA’s plans to construct the proposed 27,288-square-foot building were approved by the Planning Commission in March 2020.
M2 Realty proposed that project after a previously planned senior housing development failed to secure fundraising.
M2 Realty USA was incorporated in 2018 as a limited liability corporation in Delaware.
The firm had previously planned to build a 111-unit apartment for residents 55 years of age and older. The site of the proposed building abuts another complex, the Flats at 390, built by the same developers.
According to a tax levy and sale notice served to JHM LLC’s representatives last month, the firm owed the city of Meriden at least $74,940 in unpaid taxes and other financial penalties. That total was current as of Nov. 30, 2020.
Other properties slated for auction include former industrial sites and residential properties, some of them blighted.
In an email to the Record-Journal, Meriden City Tax Collector Michelle Kane explained the city’s current tax sale list was actually developed a year ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kane explained demand notices were sent out to property owners in January 2020, with the auction notices issued that March. Shortly after, all tax sales were put on hold following an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont. That hold wouldn’t be lifted until late last year.
Kane explained, “The criteria used to select properties is usually the dollar amount and/or the number of years delinquent.”
For delinquent real estate taxes, like that for the Bee Street property, owners usually have to owe more than $8,000 or $9,000.
“We send multiple notices and make many attempts to contact the homeowner before sending a property to tax sale. A tax sale is always the last resort. My goal is to get the taxes and water/sewer paid, not to auction off a property. We encourage partial payments and do accept payment plans, but only before it is sent to the attorney,” Kane wrote.
Developer intends to pay
The receipt of auction notices by property owners like JHM LLC does not mean their properties will be auctioned off.
M2 Realty Chief Operating Officer Daniel Graicerstein told the Record-Journal on Friday the developers and property owners intend to fully repay any owed back taxes and financial penalties prior to the auction’s occurrence, thereby cancelling it.
Bridgeport-based Attorney Adam J. Cohen, who manages CTTaxSales.com, said, “Most properties that are scheduled for a tax sale never reach a tax sale auction.”
Paul Dickson, acting director of Planning, Development and Enforcement for the City of Meriden, explained the site so far remains undeveloped.
“No building has ever started up there. No site work has ever started,” Dickson said.
Meriden Economic Development Director Joseph Feest explained it’s been difficult for developers to secure financing for the project. Financing has become even more difficult with the pandemic, Feest said.
The property, which is sited near the intersections of interstates 691 and 91, is a “unique parcel,” Feest said. “It is a unique but nice piece. You have a little privacy and you have a highway around there.”
Feest added, apartments located at neighboring 390 Bee St. “seem to be doing OK.”