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Albany Heights settlement done, city has sights on L'Jua's

L’Jua’s restaurant on Radiumsprings Road.

L’Jua’s restaurant on Radiumsprings Road.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany residents may not like all the end results, but the movement many have been asking for on property taxpayers have unwittingly become partial owners of — due mainly to non-payment of city-backed grants — is taking place.

City Attorney Nathan Davis announced Tuesday that the city had reached a settlement with the owners of the 249 Pine Ave. Albany Heights assisted-living apartment complex, one of two properties the city began foreclosure proceedings on in October of last year. The other property, L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road, will soon become property of the city as well and most likely be put up for sale shortly thereafter.

Albany attorney Sam Engram, who serves as counsel for the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development, said Thursday that once a “formality” ruling by a bankruptcy judge is made — possibly this week — the city will become owner of L’Jua’s.

“The owner of that property, Lajuana Woods, has filed a total of five bankruptcies, I believe, to stop foreclosure on the property,” Engram said. “There is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition pending, but the judge in that case sent it to Superior Court and said he would abide by the decision of the Superior Court judge.

“We had that hearing last week, and the judge ruled in our favor. We have to go back to bankruptcy court, but that should be a formality.”

Davis said the city, which was second lien-holder on the L’Jua’s property, moved to secure first position before the financial institution in that spot, Albany-based Capitol City Bank and Trust, completed plans to foreclose on the property. The city paid Capitol City the $100,000 it was owed by L’Jua’s and became first lien-holder on the property.

“If we hadn’t done that, we would have been literally and figuratively cut off at the knees,” Davis said. “If Capitol City had foreclosed on the property, we would have had no possibility of recovering the money owed us.”

Engram said Woods had received “around $90,000” in Housing and Urban Development-financed grant money through Community and Economic Development to help build her restaurant. When she failed to meet the stipulations of the loan repayment agreement, the city filed a lien on the property. But Capitol City was in first-lien position and announced plans to foreclose on L’Jua’s.

“We paid (Capitol City) what they were owed so that we would not lose an opportunity to recoup our money,” Davis said. “We felt that was an option worth taking because the property is worth more than what is owed, and we now have an opportunity to protect our investment.”

Engram said Woods, who is reportedly still hosting a number of parties and events at the restaurant, had filed a petition to stop foreclosure on the property, claiming she had not been given proper notice of the pending action. Engram said Woods should have been aware of her financial standing.

“We bought Capitol City’s note on that property in April of 2012,” the attorney said. “With the petition she filed and all the bankruptcies, it’s taken us more than a year to get to this point. And she hasn’t paid a penny (of the money she owes) in all that time. And I believe she was already several months behind before that.”

Engram said once the bankruptcy judge has officially ruled on Woods’ petition, she will be asked to vacate the property.

“If she does not move out voluntarily, we will file a petition for a dispossessory warrant and have the sheriff remove her,” he said.

Davis said the city is fortunate to have an opportunity to recoup the grant money it is obligated to repay at the Radium Springs Road property. The same couldn’t be said, he noted, for the University Gardens property near the East Albany sand dunes. The city attorney said the city was again in second-lien position on the 8.61 acres of “raw land,” whose developer — Liberty Partners Albany Land LLC — had received some $500,000 in city-backed HUD funding.

When one of Liberty Partners’ principals died before any work was even started on the property, a project that Davis admits, in retrospect, was all but doomed from the beginning, a bank foreclosure left the city with no hope of recovering the CDBG funding. It repaid the half-million dollars to HUD.

“My impression of that project is that even before Mr. (Davey) Gibson died, it was already going south,” Davis said of the 2006 project that predates his and current Community and Economic Development Director Shelena Hawkins’ involvement in the grant program. “Yes, to us, $500,000 is a lot of money. But if that’s the only money you have guaranteed on a project, you’re in trouble.

“That much money can be used for acquisitions, but there has to be other funding in place before a development project like that has any hope of succeeding. That’s what we look for (in determining CDBG participation) now. Unfortunately, this project started going south around 2008, when raw land was about the worst thing to have.”

Meanwhile, officials with the county’s Tax Office — and tax records available at the city/county website — confirmed last week that the abandoned Enclave at Oglethorpe development, which is adjacent to the University Gardens property, had been sold and is being repaired for habitation.

Davis and other city officials said Tuesday the Albany Heights settlement — which included the property deed and $110,000 in lieu of foreclosure — with owner Albany Ventures LLC was “the best the city could hope for.” Engram, who handled the settlement negotiations, agreed.

“That was a non-recourse note, so we probably got the best deal possible,” he said. “When we initially started foreclosure proceedings, (Albany Ventures) tried to block it by filing bankruptcy. When they couldn’t come up with a restructuring plan, they settled.

“I believe getting the money and the deed was a plus for the city, given the kind of note they had on the place.”

Comments

Sister_Ruby_Two 10 months, 4 weeks ago

This "article" is another all but impossible to follow Carlton Fletcher Special. Anybody make heads or tails of it? Need a scorecard to know who owes who half a Mill? Hey, a Mill here and a Mill there and pretty soon you're getting on up there into some Big Money.

All I would really like to know is what kind of car is Lajuana Woods riding in right now? Somebody please post that up in here.

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RedEric 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Fletch needed so many words for filling, so he apparently reached into his word box and flung it to see what stuck. This could have been reduced to " property tax payers are screwed again". This waste of money on social experiments makes me sick.

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MRKIA 10 months, 4 weeks ago

ANOTHER GRAND GHETTO SCHEME GONE GA-GA WITH GOVERNMENT GREENBACKS AGAIN.

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Abytaxpayer 10 months, 4 weeks ago

@Sis Carlton does that so you won't ask questions about what should be asked. Like why is the city the major guarantor and yet they keep being the "second Lien-holder" . Or just why is it we keep paying Capitol City Bank for bad loans, who is the city protecting. Or maybe he is just afraid the taxpayers will realize we are being lead around by the wallet by a commission that has NO idea how to tell a good deal from a scam. Just ask Chris the Piker of Roger the Fish Man.

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erock 10 months, 4 weeks ago

I say we move Huggins to the northwest side and take a D9 Cat to what's left of that section of Radium Springs. It's just one thing after another over there and none of it seems to be any good.

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chinaberry25 10 months, 4 weeks ago

All of these LLC's should have the names of the actual owners or boards. Let us know who the dead beats are. Many times these LLC's are scams to begin with. I can think of a sawmill in Baconton that was financed by Camilla so it could increase the jobs for the community. the owners took the money and ran. It was a scam to begin with. It is now owned by Balfour and they seem to be doing very well. Many times the corruption in in the owners. Many do not even have the credit other than their charm to get the monies. I can think of 2 folks right now whose name appears over and over in foreclosures and other outside activities like farm loans and insurance fraud. You name it, but they are still in business with another corporation. Do folks never learn. Some of these monies are for $11 million and change.

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Yea only n Albany do we buy a $90000 debt for $100000. Now were out $190000. Bunch of Dumb Bunnies downtown.

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

One question where the heck is all this high paid legal advice on the front end of all these bad deals? And why do we keep bailing out Capitol City Bank??

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whattheheck 10 months, 4 weeks ago

What is missing is good financial advice. lawyers only do what they are told. The objective is to make loans and whether they will go bad does not seem to be a serious consideration. Why we seem to always position ourselves behind Capitol City is up for grabs. But on that subj, we paid for clearing and purchasing 3 blighted parcels of property on Highland owned by Capitol City as part of the Heritage House knockdown. Did you read about that one in the Herald?

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dcat 10 months, 4 weeks ago

It seems to me that before loaning the money out, there should have been some type research done to insure that the person or group of people had the resources to run a business or be successful at whatever enterprise that was beint proposed. Banks do it all of the time to determine that they have a return of capital. Call me naive..... I can only hope the city has learned their lesson and does a better job at due diligence.

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dingleberry 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Hi, naive! The problem is DCED seems to be a great big ship with a little bitty rudder. The commission should be more involved with what DCED does but then the track record of the commission in making decisions ain't too good either. When one looks at the fiascos that have occurred, the question may be why are we involved in such loans--period. Let them go to the bank for funding since the success rate of our efforts seems pretty low.

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whattheheck 10 months, 4 weeks ago

She started out with $100k and I doubt the figure has been repaid to "around $90,000". If she doesn't tear it up before leaving we should get the money back unless the lawyers clean us out in the proceedings or we virtually give it to a "friend"..

The land involved in the University project is another case of us being second tier behind Capitol City who now owns the land planned for the development. We seem to always be the sled dog behind the leader, a view that never changes. We were also second tier on the Dollar Square project near the airport that went teats up for $100K..

No one talks about the loan for the defunct Aunt Fannie's. And there have been others that may go sour. Regardless, you won't hear of them because no one does the research. But all of this does raise two questions:

How many loans made by DCED are in arrears and what is the total amount? What is the total contingent liability for the city on DCED loans it will have to cover if they go bad?

Remember, in addition to the smaller business loans there are a lot of loans outstanding on multi-family and single-family housing.

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Sister_Ruby_Two 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Great questions, wth, but are you expecting some investigative reporting to be done up in here? You gone wait quite a long time for that.

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whattheheck 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Actually not, Sis. I always hope shame will spur to action but I know it won't. You find some investigative reporting in ATL, print and TV. But in our neck of the woods, both media are content with letting the city/county feed the stories to be used. The "go along and get along" approach.

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Abytaxpayer 10 months, 3 weeks ago

LOL What that is our problem none involved from the loan takers to the loan makers have any shame. Not to mention the leadership.

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erock 10 months, 4 weeks ago

and if you do any of your own, you know what you'll be met with.

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dingleberry 10 months, 4 weeks ago

So now that we own Albany Heights, a magnanimous albatross, where do we go from here? It is filled with subsidized senior renters including some in arrears on rent. The building suffers from lack of maintenance. There will be significant costs attached to the future of this building so who will pick up the tab and how much will it be?

I suppose ADICA could float another bond of some type to add to the millions now outstanding, for things such as the ASU project (over $40 million), the Hilton, et al. *But whatever route is taken, we don't want any bond backed by the tax digest/credit of the taxpayer as was done with the Hilton.*

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Hey idea!!! Mr Blair our so called Downtown Manager that wants to develop more rental housing downtown. Why not transfer Albany Heights over to him to manage and run. Will give him something to do and he will learn real fast why the city and ADICA need to stay out of the housing rental business.

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

I suspect WGL is also owed lots $$$ from the Albany Heights complex. Now that the City officially owns it expect more tenants to stop paying rent and WGL. I wonder if Butch Mosley needs another contract job.

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whattheheck 10 months, 3 weeks ago

No lien filed by WG&L but there is is $76k lien filed by Klean Pros due/payable 4/23/13, filed 5/23/13 against the building/former owner for materials and services for "fire cleaning". Whether we agreed or are liable to absorb such claims is not known.

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Yea $100000 more to a local preacher that his flock spent abbout $350000 of City of Albany Fed guaranteed loan money to develop some apartments in Broad. All they ever put up was a nice sign on the corner. That money had to be paid back to the Feds by the City. Then they give McKinley Drake a $100000 to buy a little kitchen restaurant. A real business person could open thee same thing for $25k to $50k. Now it has been printed n news that $100000 is defunct. I guess

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Amazed2 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Then the City of Albany and Mayor Adams lost $500,000 ( 1/2 Million $$$) on the defunct project in the Sand Dunes. I guarantee you Albany is well known as around the South as an "Easy Mark" for wanna bee developers and scam deals.

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whattheheck 10 months, 3 weeks ago

At the top of the list I would think, supported by empirical evidence.

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Sister_Ruby_Two 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I still would like somebody to post a picture of Ms. Williams's ride.

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Amazed2 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Its seems based on several or more of these deals where Capitol City Bank gets bailed out by the City that there must be some kind of a co- operation agreement. It could simply be a non wrtitten Understanding that if the deal goes bad we the City will make you whole. Capitol may get some principal and interest from the borrower but if it goes bad then Big Daddy City of Albany steps in and buys out the First Lien held by Capitol. It seems to be the same in more than one case. Kind of makes you wonder how a Bank could be making loans of this size to clients with marginal history. May simply be just a fluke happening more than once.

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Amazed2 10 months, 3 weeks ago

L'Juas will fight takeover by the City because they have to be making $$. That is as I interpret what I read they have not paid the loan and I assume are not currently making payments for the building. I assume this means they only have utilities. Labor and supplies. No building rent or payment? Or property taxes??

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whattheheck 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Doesn't pay rent to the city because Woods paid to get it built using the building as security for the city/Capitol City loans. Owes about $10k in property tax for 2012. At time of bankruptcy filing in Nov 2012, liabilities were shown as between $100k and $500k under name Lamos Management Services.. Under the name L juas Restaurant LLC/Lajuana Woods/Lajuana Walker, there are a lot of liens that may or may not be in the Lamos figures. Owes a wad to IRS and GA, some liens outstanding for several years.

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RedEric 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Hey Herald! You could support an investigative reporter with the info on this thread alone. Do you think you would these kinds of comments with out anonymous commenting?

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dingleberry 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Tips, help to develop tips, writings, and analyses have been offered/provided free in named source documents but it seems there is no interest in anything requiring effort or thought. Much like the main stream media with the President where questioning actions means you don't fly on Air Force One anymore. lol

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dickyboy 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Get Hogencamp out of retirement..probably the best investigative reporter we had when at the helm of the Journal... he knows how the game is played

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dingleberry 10 months, 3 weeks ago

He knew what to do and did it well!

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dickyboy 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Come to think of it.... He may already be with us.....

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Amazed2 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The WG&L is basically the one and same as the City of Albany. We should not sell them Utilities. They owe back taxes and defaulted on the City loans. Why support them with City services. Should be a condition of getting the City guaranteed loans. Pay the note or get power and water cut off.

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dingleberry 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Right, WG&L has a cutoff policy. Follow it .

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