PLATTSBURGH — All 11 parcels of disputed property in Clinton County were purchased in Friday morning’s land auction.
Now it will be up the court to decide what happens.
“We are disappointed that the county decided to continue with the auction,” Vivek Krishnamurthy, an attorney for the Turtle Island Trust, told the Press-Republican Friday. “That is their prerogative, but in our view it doesn’t change anything, and we will continue with litigation.”
The lands in question were purchased in recent years by the Turtle Island Trust, which was established on land in the Town of Altona in 1977 to resolve a dispute between the state and the Mohawks of the Ganienkeh Council Fire.
The 11 properties that the county auctioned Friday are located in Altona near the original boundaries of the trust site off Military Turnpike.
The trust claims the 11 properties are part of the Ganienkeh Mohawk Community. Representatives say the trust is a charitable entity, so land that it owns is not subject to local taxes.
County officials contend that the lands are not part of the original trust and should be taxed. They foreclosed on the lands after six years of nonpayment of taxes, took title and scheduled the auction.
The trust filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court Wednesday, saying the county acted illegally in confiscating the lands and putting them up for auction. The suit warned that anyone purchasing property in the auction would automatically become part of the litigation.
LESS THAN TAX OWED
Friday’s sale took about 45 minutes and netted the county around $125,000, which is about $150,000 less than what is owed in taxes on the lands.
Because the sale did not yield enough money to cover the back taxes, it will be up to the Clinton County Legislature whether it wants to accept the bids.
“We did our part; now it is up the legislature,” Clinton County Treasurer Joseph Giroux said Friday morning.
Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley (R-Area 7, Peru) said he could not comment on the sale or the pending legal case.
“We can’t talk about anything that has to do with Turtle Island Trust.”
In advertising the auction, the county had warned potential bidders that the lands were in dispute and deposits could be held until the conclusion of litigation.
While Langley would not discuss the situation, he did issue a statement saying “bidders in today’s auction have been notified of the county’s position, and all bidders’ deposits are being held in escrow awaiting a court decision. No deeds will transfer until a decision is made.
“Clinton County will honor a final decision. That may take some time to realize. What the people should be aware of is Clinton County will not take any action until a decision is rendered in the appropriate court.”
His statement also said “we would also note that despite many rumors, the Ganienkeh people have made no threats of any kind to anyone that we are aware of. We ask that the people of this county respect their privacy.”
The county did not release the names of those who purchased the properties on Friday, and the website of auctioneer Haroff Realty Inc. listed only screen names.
“We had about 16 people register for the auction, and 10 bid,” Giroux said. “Some of them were local.”
The golf course in Altona off Rand Hill Road, one of the more high-profile properties, sold for about $20,000. It is assessed at more than $600,000.
Krishnamurthy said he was not sure how long the court might take to decide the case and noted that deposits from bidders could be held in escrow for a long time.
“Clinton County allowed others to become embroiled in this, and that complicates things for them,” he said.
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Bids totaling $125,400 were placed on 11 properties in Friday's land auction by Clinton County. The county would not release the names of those who submitted winning bids, and the auctioneer, Haroff Realty Inc. only listed screen names with the bid amounts.
The Press-Republican filed a Freedom of Information request for the actual names and is awaiting a response from the county.
All properties are in the Town of Altona: Here are the property locations, screen name of bidder and amount of winning bid:
1. Devils Den Road, buyer4727, $200.
2. Devils Den Road, buyer4727, $200.
3. Military Turnpike, buyer4727, $500.
4. Rabideau Road, bubba, $500.
5. 1037-1065 Alder Bend Road, jimmyht11, $50,000.
6. Lash Road, tigerclaw151, $9,000.
7. Lash Road, tigerclaw151, $8,000.
8. Lash Road, barovetz, $8,000.
9. 100 Lash Road, jimmyht11, $20,000.
10. Lash Road, jimmyht11, $9,000.
11. 2927 Rand Hill Road, buyer4727, $20,000.