A local developer will get some financial relief on a property he is redeveloping, despite losing it in a city foreclosure.
Peter Samuels of Scotia has been redeveloping 31-33 First St., for the last four years. He has sunk $60,000 into the property, he said, given the old Victorian a new siding and is 75 percent done with the interior.
However, he learned a few weeks ago that he doesn’t even own the building anymore, after the city foreclosed on it Feb. 26.
Samuels had fallen behind on the taxes for the property because the city fees are about as much as the taxes on the 6,000 square-foot Victorian home, he said. He is renovating the building into a four apartments and the city charges roughly $800 per unit per year for water and sewer service.
Samuels approached the Common Council in December, asking for some relief from the fees while he was renovating the home. He said he wasn’t using the services and felt it wasn’t fair to pay for them. Officials, at the time, seemed amenable and Mayor Ann Thane thanked him for the work he did renovating other properties in the city. He also renovated 16 and 23 Reid St., 1 Evelyn St., and 36 Glen St.
In March, officials were hoping to draft legislation that would put a provision in the City Charter to waive user fees for developers renovating multiple apartment units. However, no such legislation was ever drafted or approved, and Samuels was never granted any relief.
“We totally goofed up because no one did anything,” Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, said. “It was a lack of communication that is all too prevalent in this administration. [Mr. Samuels] got the bureaucratic run-around. I sent him to a place figuring things were being done and they weren’t.”
Samuels said he was advised by city officials not to pay his taxes until the city drafted legislation that would waive his user fees because there was no way of granting him a refund. He said he was assured that everything was taken care of, so he did nothing.
Upon realizing that his house had been foreclosed, Samuels spoke during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. He pleaded with council members to find a way to grant him relief from the user fees and give him his house back. The property was bundled into a list of over 100 properties that were being sent to auction.
Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said Samuels was notified via certified mail that the proceedings were taking place, but Samuels said he received no such notices.
Common Council members agreed to help Samuels out. His home was removed from the list of homes being sent to auction and members unanimously agreed to waive the user fees on three of Samuels’ apartments.
The move cut Samuels’ bill in half, he said. He has 30 days to pay roughly $10,000 in back taxes and fees and a year to renovate and rent the apartments.
“We can handle that,” he said Wednesday.
Samuels, who has six children, said his goal is for each of them to inherit a house when he dies. He renovated homes all over the Capital Region operating under a business called Capital District Exteriors.