Oops! County sells city-owned property
Board of Supervisors may rescind sale of land
A small piece of land in Porterville is going to get a lot of attention at Tuesday’s Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Turns out that the piece of land on East Orange Avenue just west of the driveway into the Heritage Center was mistakenly sold in a delinquent tax auction in June.
The matter is up for discussion during a public hearing, and the man who purchased the land, Donald Beardsley, would just as soon the county let the sale stand. The city, on the other hand, wants the sale to be rescinded and the land to remain under the city’s ownership.
“Hopefully, city of Porterville and Tulare County can come up with an agreement to leave the sale alone,” said Beardsley, who has since sold the property in June to another individual, Steve Penn.
It is not clear as to who is at fault, but the mix-up that led to the sale of the city property began in April of 2005 when the grant deed for the 40-by-70-foot square lot was transferred to the city of Porterville from a previous owner, Jackie Cotton.
According to a city staff report, on July 25 of that year, the city wrote the county assessor requesting the property be made tax-exempt.
However, according to the staff report, “due to a backlog in the Assessor’s Mapping Unit, the necessary remapping for this change in ownership was delayed.” In fact, it was never reported by the assessor’s office to the tax collector that the land had changed hands and was now tax-exempt.
That led the tax assessor to continue to send property tax bills to Cotton. They were never paid.
However, prior to the sale last year, the tax collector was informed the land had been sold to the city in 2005, but the tax collector’s office failed to “connect the lack of payment of taxes to its purchase by a tax-exempt entity.”
In another slip up, the city was notified on Jan. 23, 2012, the property would be sold, but the city never contacted the tax collector about it, says the staff report.
In March of 2012, the parcel was sold in an online bidding process for $7,100, and another twist to the story, the listed purchaser is Porterville City Council member Greg Shelton.
“I’m not involved,” said Shelton, saying he bid on seven parcels during the online bidding process, and the bid on the parcel in question was done for Beardsley. He said he used his computer and his account number in making the bids. Shelton said he was never given the deed to the property.
Ironically, during that same auction Shelton was successful in his bid to purchase property on D Street which became the subject of a council debate regarding whether he could purchase land within the city redevelopment zone. Shelton said three of four agencies which looked into that purchase, including the Fair Political Practices Commission, have found no wrong doing on his part.
Shelton makes part of his living purchasing property at auction. He said he has bought five pieces of property via the bid process over the past decade.
According to the county staff report, the East Orange Avenue land sale can be rescinded and the purchaser given a refund with some interest. Neither Shelton or Beardsley agreed to have the sale rescinded, and thus the need for the hearing.
Shelton said it appears no one really wants to take responsibility for the mix-up.
“They [Beardsley and Penn] did everything right. They bought it but in the end they are the ones who are going to suffer,” he said.
Beardsley said he was unhappy.
“It kind of irritates me they would screw up that bad,” he said.
He added he purchased the land, even though it was small, it already had improvements such as curb, gutter and sidewalk and he thought it would be a good investment.
“It is right next to the trail and near the new courthouse. I thought it would be a great place for a coffee shack,” he added.
The board of supervisors meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Tulare County Administration Building, 2800 W. Burrel Ave. in Visalia.
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by email at email@example.com.