WRAP owes $17,000 in back taxes

WARREN – Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. owes an estimated $17,700 in back property taxes on 21 parcels of properties, according to information released last week by Trumbull County officials.

The properties, located primarily on West Market Street, include land formerly owned by Paul Martin Inc., which held the former Martin Chevrolet.

In 2011, 22 parcels of the property were purchased by the private, non-profit agency for $375,000 for future development. WRAP was able to purchase the property using money from an up to $440,000 loan it acquired from Warren Community Development.

Under the May 6, 2011, loan agreement between Warren Community Development and WRAP, the nonprofit is to repay the loan as the property is sold.

The property is commonly referred to by city administrators the “peninsula” because the Mahoning River wraps around it. The riverfront area is on both the north and the south limits of the property.

Mayor Doug Franklin said the city believes the land is particularly valuable because of its proximity to the downtown area.

“We hope to have it marketed for mixed-used development, which is for office, residential and retail spaces” Franklin said.

Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa said WRAP challenged the fair market value of some of the parcels, so the county auditor’s office decided to re-evaluate the value on each of the properties. Because the reevaluations were recently completed, the late property taxes were listed in last week’s Tribune Chronicle.

“Reevaluation does not affect how much the tax payer currently owes,” Lamancusa said. “It may affect how that will be owed in the future tax billing cycles.”

Lamancusa said his office is awaiting the most recent election to be certified, allowing it to determine the 2013-14 tax rates.

Community Development Director Michael Keys says although the property is legally owned by the WRAP, it is was purchased by the nonprofit on behalf of the city for future development.

As part of the agreement, “holding” funds are available for the maintenance of the properties and to pay other costs, including property taxes.

“That is why the loan was up to $440,000, instead of the actual sale price,” Keys said.

WRAP Executive Director Anthony Iannucci Jr. in an email noted the agency is seeking a tax exemption for these properties.

“If not approved, we will pay the taxes due at that time,” he said by email.

WRAP does commercial development throughout the city through the purchase, stabilization and resale of commercial properties. It provides public project management and assists with sale or development of city-owned sites.

It uses money granted to the city through the community development block grant program to purchase vacant properties with development possibilities. The buildings are sold to private entities, which commits money to the refurbishment of the property.

Typically, the private business must commit $10 toward building improvements for every $1 reduction in the asking price, meaning if a property price is reduced by $50,000, the developer has to agree, in a written contract, to supply $500,000 for renovations.

WRAP also manages the Warren Business Exchange, which is a hybrid business incubator designed to nurture and support companies by providing structured guidance. It also provides economic development technical assistance on public and/or private projects. It reviews development proposals submitted to the city and provides analysis.

In addition to his work as the director of WRAP, Iannucci also is the executive director of a private, non-profit housing agency called Sunshine of Warren Trumbull Inc., which also is negotiating with the treasurer’s office a payment plan for back taxes that are owed on some Sunshine properties.

The treasurer’s office has threatened foreclosure procedures on Sunshine properties with back property tax issues.

The Sunshine officials and the county are negotiating a repayment plan for the Sunshine properties. The plan is expected to be completed within the next month.