Foreclosures to make lots available in 2 subdivisions

Lots from two troubled subdivisions could become available to bargain hunters in the coming months.

The most recent batch of county tax foreclosure lawsuits show that taxes haven't been paid on 178 lots in the Legacy and Whispering Lakes subdivisions.

They are part of the 358 properties in the foreclosure lawsuit filed by Sedgwick County, one of three expected this year. In all, the county expects to seek tax foreclosures on about 1,000 properties this year because their owners haven't paid property taxes for four years.

The dates for the three expected auctions haven't been set but could start as early as July, said Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kizzire.

A tax foreclosure, which is filed for failure to pay property taxes, is different from a bank foreclosure, in which a lender forecloses for failure to make payments on a loan.

Whispering Lakes, at 159th East and Harry, was developed mainly by Len Marotte and Joe Kramer.

Part of Whispering Lakes has become homes, but 89 lots, most without utilities, are listed in the county's filing.

Marotte blamed the steep drop in new home construction for the problem. They had put money into a pool, pool house and other features to boost the subdivision's attraction, but it hasn't been enough.

"We are not seeing any greater interest," he said.

Conway Bank was listed in the county's filing as having a secondary claim as lender on the project. The bank had no comment Wednesday.

The Legacy, Third Addition, at 45th South and Meridian, also has 89 lots in the filing. Legacy Bank is listed as having a secondary claim to the lots. The bank didn't return a call for comment.

Developer Rob Armstrong declined to comment.

The back taxes on the lots range from about $1,200 to $7,000 per lot.

If property owners want to sell or lenders want to foreclose on a property, they will have to pay the back taxes in order to get clear title.

Typically, most properties listed in tax foreclosure lawsuits are redeemed by their owners before the sheriff's auction, Kizzire said. About 20 to 30 percent are typically sold at auction to the general public.

Buyers do not pay back taxes, but they must assume taxes and specials going forward.

The economic downturn has taken its toll. The number of delinquent properties in 2010 was up 69 percent over 2009, according to figures supplied by the Sedgwick County Treasurer's office.

Interest from the public in the county auctions has grown, Kizzire said. This year the auctions will be held at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, rather than at the courthouse as in the past.

Last year, Kizzire said, some of the lots in Bentley Estates — a subdivision in the town of Bentley originally developed by Tim Malone — went for as low as $50 a lot.

Delinquent property costs taxpayers plenty. Over the past five years, according to the Treasurer's Office, just 30 percent of the delinquent taxes and interest was recovered. That means various governments that collect property tax in Sedgwick County lost $2.8 million in taxes.