YOUNGSTOWN - With a bid of $700,000, the mortgage holder on a 68.37-acre rear tract of land at Ponderosa Park was the top bidder at a Mahoning County Sheriff's sale on Tuesday.
The second, more historic and valuable front section of the park, which includes the outdoor stage and guitar-shaped swimming pool, was withdrawn at the last minute.
A third middle section consisting of the multi-deeded campgrounds won't be ready for auction for two years, according to Attorney Gary Rosati who assembled the auction data for the county.
Equity Portfolio LLC Ltd., a Warren company representing the mortgage holder, placed the top bid after a 10-minute battle with Terry Pidgeon of Salem who owns property adjacent to the park.
The park, consisting of about 141-acres, is located five miles north of Salem on state Route 45 in Goshen Township.
The purchased property was appraised at $144,000.
The minimum bid was $96,000.
The auction was held to recover delinquent taxes dating to 1989-90 on the former country and western music hot spot and campground, according to the Mahoning County auditor's office.
Rosati withdrew the front 45.45-acre parcel because of inadequate technical/legal descriptions on the land map.
"We decided not to go ahead with the front part," he said while apologizing for any inconvenience.
That section, appraised at $225,000, will be auctioned in May with a $150,000 minimum bid.
Rosati was hired by the county to foreclose on the property "because of the extensive research" required, according to Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Elizabeth Phillips, who also noted the county didn't have the staff.
Rosati said the county was "making no representation regarding the oil and gas leases while noting there was one well on the property, owned by a Canfield company, that was "issuing checks." He added since it was a foreclosure sale all the liens "will be eliminated."
The park carries a debt of a couple of million, he said noting it was over $10 million at one time.
Youngstown Attorney Leo Puhalla, representing Equity Portfolio, wouldn't say how high he would have bid, but Rosati, who said he was surprised by the amount, explained the company had all the interest in all the outstanding mortgages.
"I think the people are interested in the mineral rights ... they had a mortgage balance of over $1 million ... they would have gone over $1 million with all the back taxes," he said, adding, "I think the mortgage company was probably prepared to go quite a bit higher due to the amount owed on the lien."
The taxes owed on the two parcels auctioned off totaled $97,109, according to county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino.
One parcel is zoned commercial and has $89,037 in back taxes owed while the second is zoned agricultural and has $8,072 owed.
Of the total, the West Branch School District will receive $45,640; the county will receive $21,444 and Goshen Township will get $20,764.
Goshen Township Trustee Chairman Bob McCracken said the property "got more than I thought."
Years ago, small deeded plats on the campgrounds were sold outright to campers and many complained to then-owner Seasons Resorts about the contract provisions being ignored.
The park eventually closed and in 2010 and there were 962 deed liens against it including three by the Internal Revenue Service, four mechanic liens and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were investigating problems on the grounds.
The Mahoning County District Board of Health condemned the property last May due to unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Equity Portfolio LLC Ltd. was incorporated in Ohio in 1996 with permission to use a similar name of an affiliate company, Equity Portfolio Inc., which listed Rokki Rogan as president and sole director.
He is also CEO of Landmark Group of companies, which, according to its website, acquires distressed loan assets at discounts, takes the unrecovered value and enhances it by utilizing its negotiating, banking and real estate expertise.
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org