From the Richmond Palladium-Item:
County officials took the plunge Thursday and now it remains to be seen if they have a chance to recover the back taxes owed on the former Reid Hospital property.
The Wayne County Board of Commissioners and county Treasurer Cathy Williams filed a civil lawsuit against a company owned by two New York developers, who planned to develop the former Reid Hospital property on the 1400 block of Chester Boulevard.
The owners bought the land in 2009, announcing plans to build student housing, a hotel, technology park and private housing. No development ever took place, and the land and buildings now stand vacant, unkempt and decaying.
“This does escalate our efforts to collect the back taxes owed, but it is far, far from making any conclusion about the potential liability of the owner,” said county attorney Ron Cross. “As far as piercing the structure of the entity that owns the property and is responsible for the back taxes, it is impossible to say at this point whether we will be able to do that.”
In 2011, the company, Spring Grove Development LLC, owned by Bob Ciprietti and Ernesto Zamparini, stopped paying property tax on the approximately 60 acres and several buildings that make up the former Reid campus. County officials filed the suit, hoping to claim the $350,618.22 owed.
“We’re taking the next step,” Cross said. “The burden of proof is now on the county to show its entitlement to the judgment it seeks.”
But limited liability companies offer personal liability protection for investors, and Cross said he will research to see if Spring Grove is “a single asset entity” or if the company has other assets in the state the county could pursue.
“This is just another avenue to pursue and we will see where it takes us,” Cross said.
Ciprietti did not return phone calls seeking a comment Friday.
Jodie Woods, general counsel for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, declined to venture a guess as to whether the county would be successful.
“You don’t get money if they don’t have any money,” she said. “This is just another facet of what went on when the mortgage market crashed. Cities and towns across the country have these problems. Yours is just on a grander scale.”