Kudos to Pasco County government for working to derail potential extortion attempts like those favored by a mysterious trust bullying neighbors into buying nearly worthless real estate.
Last week, commissioners correctly canceled taxes on 110 oddly shaped, tax-delinquent parcels that could be targeted by unscrupulous investors looking to make a quick buck at the expense of unsuspecting owners of adjoining property.
That is the scenario in Holiday where investors identified as the (818) 239-2215 Land Trust of California purchased small pieces of land that neighbors mistakenly believed were part of their lots or in the public domain. The trust paid less than $4,000 for three parcels and recouped its investment by agreeing to sell one along Plaza View Drive in Zephyrhills for $4,000. Neighbors acquiesced, saying said it was cheaper than a court fight for land that included a private road serving more than a dozen homes. The trust had asked $15,000 for the parcel after buying it for less than $1,400.
Contention continues over the other parcels in Colonial Hills and Aloha Gardens in Holiday. To intimidate neighbors, the trust has suggested it will use its land for, among other things, a homeless encampment, dog run, drag strip, or inventory for a sod company.
At one point, the trust attempted to have a storage shed on the land dismantled, and then put up a temporary fence and "No Trespassing'' sign around the structure that owner Sam Dennewitz said was on the land when he bought his house.
The commission's decision canceling tax payments due on the 110 lots, which include 36 road rights of way, does not resolve the current dispute, but should help prevent a reoccurrence. Likewise, Tax Collector Mike Olson said his office will notify adjacent property owners whenever someone applies to buy an oddly shaped delinquent parcel. Land acquired by the trust became available for tax deed sale before a 2004 state law requiring such notification.
The swift actions by Pasco County officials are a welcome attempt to prevent future abuses from unconscionable investors.