Pittsburgh URA set to buy vacant land
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The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is poised to pay $34,000 for a vacant tax-delinquent parcel in Lawrenceville owned by a deceased businessman whose estate is being handled by the wife of a city councilman.
URA board members are expected to vote today on a sales agreement with Carlotta Burgess, who is serving as the executrix for the estate of John D. Kemp, her late father. Mrs. Burgess is the wife of Councilman Ricky Burgess.
Kemp owned the 3,400-square-foot property through a business, John D. Kemp Inc. Mrs. Burgess is simply facilitating the transaction between the estate and the URA, said Shawn Carter, chief of staff to Mr. Burgess. She is not the owner of the parcel, he said.
The property is located at 3340 Penn Ave. in Doughboy Square, an up-and-coming area at the entrance to Lawrenceville from the Strip District. It sits in the middle of a series of other properties that already had been acquired for future development, said Matthew Galluzzo, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corp.
The acquisition will give planners one large, uninterrupted parcel for potential development, he noted.
"This was sort of a missing tooth in terms of site control," he said.
According to city and county records, about $3,000 in delinquent city and county property taxes are owed on the Kemp property.
Mr. Carter said the delinquent taxes will be resolved at closing. He said Mrs. Burgess and the estate may not have known there were taxes owed because the property was owned by John D. Kemp Inc. and not personally by her father and mother. "It may have fallen through the cracks," he said.
It was not until recently that Mrs. Burgess legally was able to get the right to sell the property on behalf of the estate, he added.
Kyra Straussman, URA director of real estate, said it is not unusual for the agency to purchase delinquent properties. The taxes owed typically are paid from the proceeds of the sale, she said.
It's "more reasonable" to do business that way than to wait 18 to 24 months for the property to be sold at a treasurer's sale, she added. The Kemp parcel has been scheduled for a treasurer's sale in April, according to the city.
Between the taxes owed on the parcel and some "outstanding issues" involving other properties held by the estate, it is unlikely that Mrs. Burgess will see any money from the sale, Mr. Carter said.
"My guess is that the estate may very well end up in the hole when all is said and done," he said.
Ms. Straussman said the URA has been trying to buy the Kemp property for several years but had been stymied in the past by issues related to title and ownership.
In 2010, the URA completed a real estate swap with Mrs. Burgess involving vacant lots in the 3400 block of Butler Street in Lawrenceville near Doughboy Square. Mrs. Burgess also received $4,000 in the swap because her lot had a higher appraised value.
At the time, Mrs. Burgess owed about $6,925 in property taxes to the city and school district, including $17.30 on the affected parcel, but took steps to satisfy the obligations.
First Published January 10, 2013 12:00 am