County prepares for August back-tax auction

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

July 6, 2013

The former Hottle’s Restaurant on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre is among more than 350 properties slated for Luzerne County’s Aug. 22 free-and-clear, back-tax auction, county records show.

The popular dining establishment closed in the fall of 2010 after 73 years in business.

Property owners William and Lynn Kravits, who took over the eatery in 1994, owe $26,717 in property taxes from 2010 through 2012, county records show. The couple could not be reached for comment.

Properties are eligible for auction if real estate taxes are unpaid for two years.

The August sale is for properties that weren’t snatched up in a first-stage September auction, when liens were still attached.

Free-and-clear auctions typically draw large crowds of bidders because back taxes, mortgages and other liens tied to the properties are forgiven. Most properties will be listed at starting bids under $1,000 to recoup only the tax claim office costs to bring the parcels to auction.

Among the other properties scheduled for the August auction, according to county records:

• The Four Seasons Golf Club in Exeter owned by Amita and Ragesh Patel, which has $194,600 in taxes owed on two parcels from 2010 through 2012.

• Keystone Garden Estates, an assisted-living facility in Larksville, with a back-tax debt of $367,919 dating back to 2007.

• The former Coal Crackers bar and restaurant on Alter Street in Hazleton. Owner Carol Sheman owes $12,881 in taxes from 2010 to the present.

• Six properties owned by Hazle Township businessman James Lagana, including his 6,600-square-foot mansion on Butler Terrace Drive in the township, which is assessed at $675,000. Lagana owes $38,000 in taxes on the residence from 2010 through 2012.

• A 2,700-square-foot residential property on Wyoming Road in Dallas Township assessed at $481,900. Frank M. Henry Jr. owns the 10.3-acre property and owes $31,942 in taxes from 2010 to the present.

Property owners may get properties removed from the auction if they pay the back taxes before the sale, file for bankruptcy or convince a judge that the property should be pulled.

A representative of Keystone Garden Estates said that property will be removed from the sale because taxes will be paid through a pending refinancing.

Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the county’s tax-claim operator, oversees back-tax auctions. A list of available parcels and information on bidding will be posted in the near future at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com.