Northwoods’ nearly $7 million in fines won’t be transferred to new owner

VERNON. The Vernon Township Council decided the move would be better for future development of the site.

Vernon /
| 21 Jun 2022 | 12:35

The Vernon Township Council on June 13 decided not to recoup about $6.7 million in fines assessed against Northwoods at Vernon, which is expected to demolish the buildings with violations against them by October 1. The property is near Mountain Creek’s Appalachian hotel on Route 94.

The Northwoods properties consisted of eight units that fell into disrepair, and the township has assigned fines of $6,658,033 for fire code violations. According to the resolution, the fines were not recorded as liens and municipal taxes were not paid. The tax liens were sold at auction.

Four of the units went to foreclosure and were bought by Echo Lake Enterprises, LLC, which also holds tax sale certificates against three other units.

Northwoods is under contract with Echo Lake to purchase the tax liens and intends to foreclose on the properties.

Township attorney Josh Zielinski said Mountain Creek ownership wants to demolish the existing structures, which would abate the conditions and bring the property back on the tax rolls.

“They’ve asked for a resolution from the council that the council will not pursue the new owners for the fines,” Zielinski said. “Nothing in this resolution allows Northwoods of Vernon to escape any liability for what they have done and what they have failed to do. They remain liable for the fines.”

Zielinski also said that if Mountain Creek doesn’t conclude the purchase because they are afraid of a $6 million liability, it may hinder anyone else from purchasing the property in the future.

Councilman Harry Shortway said the Northwoods owner is unlikely to come forward and the township is unlikely to ever receive any of the levied fines.

“No one’s going to pop up and say, ‘hey that building’s mine’ because they’re going to have to pay the $7 million,” Shortway said. “We need to take the steps to return Northwoods back to the tax rolls as a valuable piece of property that Mountain Creek can develop, creating additional property tax and hopefully wastewater revenue as well.”