‘Gardens’ project a dilemma for city

ALBANY, Ga. — A project originally billed to provide low-to-moderate income housing in the East Albany sand dunes has proved to be vexing for city officials, who now must explain to the federal government how they plan to use the space where they have found nothing but dirt and dejection.

University Gardens was supposed to be a separate phase of a $20 million project that was to be built off of Frank Postell Drive.

Instead, the property that was purchased still sits largely undeveloped and a $500,000 loan from the city’s Community and Economic Development Department’s revolving loan fund has yet to be repaid, which has prompted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ask the city of Albany for action plan on the property.

Contrary to the belief of many Albany residents, the property that was developed into a row of eight town houses on Postell Lane known as the Enclave was not the project in which the city awarded the $500,000 loan.

The Enclave is a private project developed by Dwidon Albany, LLC; and while it was not spared its own bit of controversy when the general contractor for the project filed a lien for $312,025 in unpaid but completed work on the project, there is no indication that the project ever received public funds.

The city did, however, award the $500,000 of HUD funding to Liberty Partners Albany Land LLC, for land acquisition to spur development of $11.5 million worth of low-income housing that was to be a second phase of the townhouse project.

That loan, according to documents obtained from the city of Albany under a request under the Georgia Open Records Act, was made in June 2006. In 2008, the principals of Liberty asked the city commission for a two-year extension on the deadline on which they had to begin paying the money back, which was granted.

But as the deadline to pay, June 2010, came and went, nothing was repaid and, one of the principals of the company died unexpectedly.

Currently, Capitol City Bank has foreclosed on the property, and bank officials say they are owned $175,022 on the property.

And despite letters threatening lawsuits from the city, city attorney Nathan Davis and City Manager James Taylor say there has been little headway made in finding out exactly how the funding was spent.

Given that Capitol City Bank paid $122,400 — the rest is interest and penalties — and the city gave $500,000 to Liberty for land acquisition, its reasonable to assume that Liberty borrowed at least $622,400 to begin work on the project.

So how was the money spent?

A closing statement sent to the city and obtained by The Herald shows that Liberty was to pay $392,737.23 for 7.5 acres of land for the site.

If the developer used the funding from the city to do what they were supposed to, which was to purchase the land, Liberty still had more than $107,000 in unspent tax dollars left over from the purchase of the land that, to this day, remains unaccounted for.

Taylor said that the city had been working with the family of the deceased principal to see what assets existed or how the remaining funds were spent. Since the company was a limited liability partnership, there isn’t much the city can do to go after personal assets.

Instead, the city is working to find a purpose for the land so that they’ll have something to show to HUD.

According to Joseph Phillips, a spokesperson for HUD in Atlanta, the Feds sent the city a letter in September asking for an action plan for the property by November 21.

In his email to The Herald, Phillips inferred that action could be taken by HUD.

“The action plan is due back to HUD by November 21, 2011. After the action plan is reviewed a determination will be rendered,” Phillips wrote.

LaToya Cutts, director for the city’s DCED, said she believes it’s unlikely that HUD would ask for repayment or withhold $500,000 from a future allotment because the funding came from Community Development Block Grant or CDBG funding, which has far more latitude in how the money can be spent, than other federal housing programs.

If the city can find a purpose that meets the core mission for the money, such as low-to-moderate income housing or blight reduction or community development, HUD would likely be satisfied, she said.


supersquawker 2 years, 6 months ago

This city is simply throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars with no accountability and nothing to show and it's been going on for years and it still goes on up to this very minute. Why do I see so many people driving around this town in expensive cars that I could never afford? Here's your sign!!


truthsayer 2 years, 6 months ago

Just like I've said a hundred times on these blogs, It's all about family and friends once somebody is elected. This makes about the umpteen loan Albany's elected officials have doled out only not to be repaid, and this is the norm. People are ripping the city of Albany off with no retaliation, and no intent to ever pay these loans off. Now this folks, is a crime and officials who doled the loans out ought to be responsible for the payments, that's how it works in the real world, but not in ''Ebony''. When will this end? Remember to vote next election, let's get this town back.


KaosinAlbany 2 years, 6 months ago

Great, another Cuttliff Grove fiasco all over again. I am NOT buying what Ms. Cutts is saying. That whole project was just to fleece the taxpayers once again. How many times are we going to let the city do this to us and let them get away with it? Vote November 8 for real change. Don't vote for anyone who has sat in the commission chair in the past few years. They are destroying our city and letting their friends steal our hard earn tax dollars.


whattheheck 2 years, 6 months ago

An action plan for using the property should be very interesting since the city does not control it--Capitol City Bank does. CC gets its money first but in this case no one will see any money for quite some time if ever . If the city does come up with a plan, I hope the Herald gets its hands on it.


supersquawker 2 years, 6 months ago

Herald, PLEASE get on this and stay on it until there are answers! Don't take "No Comment" for an answer. That normally means "We're hiding something".


richie 2 years, 6 months ago

My question is who was able to sell 7.5 acres in Albany for $392,000? Follow the money. I don't think Pike or Marietta should be held responsible since they came in after the money was long gone.


KaosinAlbany 2 years, 6 months ago

Hi Roger, you are trying to cover the stinch of dirty politics I see. Instead of posting on here you should be more worried about what the commission is going to do with that property to satisfy HUD. Us taxpayers are tired of paying for the city's pit falls. The commission hasn't answered what is going to be done about the Cutliff Grove fiasco or the Mediacom debt. We want answers NOT excuses. I do hold the whole commission accountable until there are answers.


waltspecht 2 years, 6 months ago

The con artists are fleecing the Taxpayers again. Those with oversight should have seen this for the ripoff it was. Instead they went with the good intentions they thought a Developer had. The Developer simply wants to risk others money to profit themselves. They should check on any possible relationship the origional property owner may have had with the Developer. About like a member of a School Board selling his land to the School District to build a School on. Kind of raises some concerns that were never made public doesn't it?


wilson 2 years, 6 months ago

Close DCED now! Ms. Cutts and her office have cost taxpayers way too much. And why doesn't the DA report his findings on Cutliff Grove?


ustaknow 2 years, 6 months ago

the Cutts lady surfaces once more and once more tax payers on the hook.

500,000 dollars for 8 acres of land is simply 450,000 too much and moreover how long can we afford these bad investments before we are asked to pay more in property taxes to pay for bad purchases?

It appears to be in Albany's best interest to fire Mrs Cutts.


Cartman 2 years, 6 months ago

Its beyond ineptitude. When is someone going to jail for this corruption and thievery? When is someone going to do an actual investigation? What will it take to get the state or feds down here. That's what it took to get CRCT looked at. Someone please get some adults down here.


wilson 2 years, 5 months ago

It is sad that far more readers took time to comment on the day care closing than on this huge taxpayer ripoff. Does anyone besides me have a problem with Ms. Cutts (apparent) position that as long as HUD doesn't ask to be repaid everything is OK? The original $500K was tax dollars too. Search the Journal for a story exposing possible wrong doing in this matter from years ago.


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