Homowack owners owe taxes
By Dan Hust
PHILLIPSPORT The owners and operators of the old Homowack Lodge in Phillipsport may soon find themselves in court over a range of issues.
The state Department of Health (DOH) is preparing to take the girls’ camp operator, Congregation Bais Trana, to court today, after it refused to fully comply with a DOH-issued mandatory evacuation order.
But that’s only for the health, safety and sanitation issues the DOH fears endangers the lives of the hundreds of young campers and their adult supervisors still assumed to be on the premises of a illegally operating without proper permits from the state and Town of Mamakating.
The owner of what is now known as Machne Bnos Square Ahavas Chaverim Gemilas Chesid of Monsey could lose the 45-acre resort complex and the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has already paid in a tax installment plan.
According to Sullivan County Treasurer Ira Cohen, representatives of the Hasidic corporation began talking with the county late last year, soon coming to an agreement to pay more than $300,000 in back taxes from 2007 and 2008.
“They made some payments,” Cohen said, “but then they went into default.”
Earlier this year, however, the corporation paid its 2009 county/town taxes in full, totalling more than $134,000.
They also paid $84,000 toward their arrears, and had once again started paying $13,479.73 a month under the installment plan.
“That includes interest of 12 percent a year,” Cohen pointed out.
He said representatives of the corporation sought a 100 percent tax exemption earlier this year because of what they said was the bad economy. The treasurer recalled that they appeared apologetic about taking that action, but in the end, both the Mamakating assessor and the township’s board of assessment review denied their application for a tax exemption.
And now they’re in danger of foreclosure yet again.
“They owe a July payment which I haven’t seen yet,” Cohen said.
That was due on July 15 and has already been assessed a five percent late charge. Cohen explained that they have until August 25 to make the payment, after which the county will ask the court to let it foreclose on the property.
But even if that payment is made, the corporation still owes more than $100,000 in estimated room taxes, as a summer resort is operated alongside the girls camp.
Cohen said the corporation hasn’t filed a return on room taxes since 2007 when the owners were known as Ulster Mountain, LLC, and Ulster River, LLC. (Cohen and others say the groups are one and the same the current corporation was deeded the property in order to facilitate the tax exemption application.)
A $65,000 warrant has been filed for 2007, and Cohen is preparing another for 2008, though he can only guess at occupancy rates. A bookkeeper hired by the corporation has so far only given him a one-page summary of 2008’s occupancy, he said.
Meanwhile, town officials continue to monitor who’s currently inside the facility.
“They’re still there,” said Mamakating Supervisor Bob Fiore yesterday, planning to make a trip to the resort later in the day. “It is in court now with DOH.”
A representative of the corporation, Rabbi Dov Goldman, declined to comment on the matter yesterday.