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sean mcdaniel


the lien issue is a countywide affair. i have two empty lots next to my home that have been vacant since they were subdivided in 1917. When I checked into the possibility of buying them last year, I discovered that the owner — Francis McGuillicuddy, or something close to that — owed $17,000 in back taxes on each lot. Now, since Francis' forwarding address is unknown — or I'm guessing unreachable by mail — I'd have to shell out $34,000 for two 40 foot wide parcels of heavily wooded land (I did a fast count one day and stopped keeping track when I got to 70 trees). The compnay that holds the liens won't budge. So the property, which isn't all that usable because it's located on a very steep alley — will just sit there, with back taxes building up that will never be collected.

Mark Rauterkus

Never say 'never.'

And, the issue isn't a 'problem' in the rest of the county.

But, the matter is a bit different perhaps as well. Who holds the lein for the back taxes? Was that sold? Or, does is just reside with the township?

But, I think we are talking about different brands of apples in these matters in the burbs vs the city. And, this is because of our bone-headed mayor who just left office one year ago.

What are the details?

Mark Rauterkus

Furthermore, this move by Luke is a killer for political opponents. It is a wonderful move that will get Luke lots and lots of votes in 2007 and again in 2009.

But, as you expressed, the deals that flow from this for the future years are going to be 'insider deals' with favorite partners -- the LDCs (Local Development Corporations).

In many ways this is just what got Tom Murphy his juice when he was a younger politician. Then in the later years, Murphy did the bigger and bigger deals that needed massive development with 'anchors' and 'whole vs. hole' efforts.

Murphy could pick up the phone and do a deal with one call to the Rooney family -- and it would take dozens of meetings and hundreds of calls to work with the little guys and grassroots owners.

So, I see a specialized mid-sized, non-marketplace, insider sales process. Great that it isn't mega developers. But bad that it isn't going to break to the favor of the marketplace and public releases to citizens.

Time will tell. And, we've got to keep watching and put pressure on the process.

sean mcdaniel

mark, the county sold all the liens to a collection company.



Answer: (1) No, (2) Not really, (3) Yes, (4) No, and (5) Yes, but I believe that would be considered illegal (or at least wildly unethical) under City rules.

Mark Rauterkus

So, is it a problem that the county sold a tax lein to some property that can't be developed upon and was a greenfield / hill / wooded area in a suburban sector?

I say that issue is a lot less of a problem than what we've faced in the city. The city property is generally urban with many homes within blocks where density is desired.

There is a bit of a problem in that the land isn't earning any income for the county with annual taxes. However, it is like the land is in a land trust for now. But, it is still taxable land. So, it is like the county backed into this land trust out of folly.

In the end, I'd rather NOT have the sprawl and landslide risks. I'd rather let that land sit idle in the county. Not a BIG deal.

Other properties with other settings, of course, presend different opinions. The example above makes a best case discussion point IMHO.


Mark R states"Furthermore, this move by Luke is a killer for political opponents. It is a wonderful move that will get Luke lots and lots of votes in 2007 and again in 2009."

According to the PPG article the whole program has been made possible not thru the diligence of the Ravenstahl administration,but thru "The deep discount is thanks to a decision by financial giant MBIA Inc. of Armonk, N.Y., which is the parent company of Capital Asset, to get out of the tax debt business, which has not been profitable."

This buyback has been sought before,but only now that the lienholder has agreed to sell is it possible.Mayors around the country will be able to take advantage of this program.

sean mcdaniel


i live in avalon. not cranberry. the two empty lots sit between me and another neighbor, whose home has houses beside it. to an outsider, my neighborhood would look like a city neighborhood. besides, i don't want to build on the land. i just want to buy it to make sure no one else builds on it. the trees will stay if the property deed ever ends up in my hands.

as far as the steepness of that alley, it's not exactly pig hill.

Jonathan Potts

I'm guessing there are a lot of tax-delinquent properties in places like Wilkinsburg, Braddock, McKeesport, etc., that pose the same impediments to redevelopment as they do in the city.

sean mcdaniel

actually, i'd love to buy the land next to my home so that some greedy bastard with $200,000 doesn't build a six-unit apartment building next to me. yeah, accuse me of NIMSY (not in my side yard)syndrome. but too much of that thing happens around here. i readily admit guilt.

Mark Rauterkus

So, you want to have the property next to yours for the sake of insurance and buffer to possible neighbors. And, the property next to yours has a big tax bill that has mounted for decades.

You're in the cat bird's seat then. You've got what you want. Enjoy.

However, if you really wanted to be safe, just buy the tax lein from the company that holds the tax lein.

Don't buy the property. When you own the property, you'll have to pay taxes on it.

Then if someone does want to buy the tax lein from you -- you'll have good notice and be able to do a 2 for deal, perhaps.

sean mcdaniel

no mark, the tax bill is $34,000. that's not really much for two 40x120 pieces of land. if you're looking to throw a six to eight unit apartment on it. however, for me, it's more than i want to pay. after living here for 25 years, i still have dream in which i wake up to find bulldozers knocking down trees and stealing my privacy. my only hope is that the alley is too narrow for an apartment to be built there. though I imagine a duples might be allowed.

i'd rather pay another couple hundred dollars in taxes each year for the peace of mind.

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