The auction of a planned subdivision in Winlock is expected to proceed next week, according to legal counsel involved with the sale, after the property owner failed to meet a Monday deadline to bring himself out of default.
Attorney Jacob Cohen, successor trustee acting in the interests of Valley High Investments, confirmed Tuesday Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates, owned by Chehalis developer Phil Smith, will be sold June 19 to satisfy a debt of more than $900,000 Smith owes after purchasing the property in early 2013.
While Cohen confirmed Smith has told Valley High Investments he is attempting to seek refinancing to prevent the sale, Smith has offered only "oral representations" of such assurances, according to Cohen, and the sale is expected to move forward.
"At this point, the auction is scheduled to happen," stated Cohen.
The sale of the property had originally been in response to a failure on Smith's part to honor his mortgage obligations since last August, according to noticed filed with the county Jan. 9, while also failing to pay related property taxes last year. The notice said Smith was required to fulfill all outstanding loan payments and interest, totaling more than $42,000 at the time, by June 8 or the auction would proceed.
Since acquiring the property two-and-a-half years ago, Smith has been challenged by multiple development delays, having sought two plat extensions from the Winlock City Council in 2013 and 2014, and stating part of the challenge has been finding potential homeowners willing to invest in the undeveloped lots.
As delays continued, the property became the focus of complaints from local residents concerned about a debris pile left on the southern end of the property by Smith in November of 2013, later confirmed by Winlock city staff to be the remains of a two-story house Smith had been paid to remove from nearby industrial property, but was never taken to the dump.
Since complaints were initially received by Winlock in January, 2014, the city has issued letters instructing Smith to remove the debris and, after he failed to do so, a stop work order was put in place last September, preventing any more work on the development until the debris was removed.
Simultaneously, the Lewis County Department of Health and Social Services began citing Smith for the debris, which violates public nuisance ordinances, and though Smith has pleaded "committed" to four citations issued June 11 and 18, 2014, as well as Feb. 13 and March 11 of this year, he has yet to pay a total of $1,542 in fines associated with the citations, according to Lewis County District Court, and the debris has yet to be removed.
In light of the impending auction, both city and county officials have said they are waiting to see the results of the sale before deciding to move forward with further citations or notices, as the new property owner would inherit liability for the debris, according to County Code Compliance Officer Bill Teitzel.
Teitzel also said the previous citations will remains Smith's responsibility to honor, with District Court staff confirming the citations issued in June have gone to collections and the more recent citations from this year will go to collections on June 29 if they continue to go unpaid.
When interviewing Smith on Friday about his plans to prevent the sale of the property, he told this newspaper "It'll get straightened out," and said he has no further comment on the issue.