Lending firm seeks to foreclose on former Green Mountain Race Track site

POWNAL — A complaint filed in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division seeks to foreclose on the former Green Mountain Race Track property.

Mortgage holder Bayview Loan Serving, LLC, of Coral Gables, Fla., filed the suit last week, naming the current owner, Green Mountain Race Track, LLC, a former track ownership group; two other mortgage holders, and entities involved with a solar array on the property that went online in 2013.

The lending service seeks foreclosure over the unpaid balance on a mortgage on the 144-acre track site off Route 7 that dates to 2004. The loan was modified in August 2009, with some accumulated interest added, after a similar foreclosure complaint had been filed by Bayview.

Pownal also had scheduled an auction to recoup overdue town taxes in April 2009, but that debt was paid.

The plaintiff seeks, upon failure of the defendants to redeem their interest in the track property, a writ of possession for the site and a judgment of foreclosure by sale.

The firm also asks the court to award its costs of maintaining and securing the value of the track property during the court process, including municipal charges, taxes and insurance payments that are or will become due.

The court likewise is asked to "determine the priorities of the parties' claims and interest in the collateral pledged to plaintiff."

Attorney Daniel Young, of Schiller, Knapp, Lefkowitz & Hertzel, of Waitsfield, representing Bayview, said Thursday that the suit was recently filed, "and at this point, we are just serving everyone."

He said six defendants were named in part because they are or once were associated with the property, and Bayview is notifying all the parties of the action. Green Mountain Race Track, LLC, is listed as the current owner.

Others listed include Progress Partners, LTD, which purchased the track for $1 million in December 2004 from J.T. Megaplex Inc., taking on a $600,000 loan from J.T. Megaplex that later was reassigned to a lending service.

In 2015, the property was transferred by Progress Partners to GMRT, LLC.

Also named are Corporate Strategies Group, LLC, and Andrew Davilman, both listed as other mortgage holders, and three companies associated with the 2.2-megawatt solar array: Gestamp Asetym Solar, North America; Svep Solar Project Co., LLC, and Bal Solar Portfolio I, LLC.

Gestamp is listed in the suit papers as a mortgage holder, while Svep Solar and Bal Solar are listed as lease holders, beginning under the Progress Partners ownership.

The solar array is located at the southern end of the property where the race track stables and related buildings once stood.

Young declined Thursday to comment further about the suit, including about the remaining debt owed to Bayview.

GMRT, LLC, has kept up with its property taxes, Pownal Treasurer and Delinquent Tax Collector Ellen Strohmaier said. She said the property is assessed at $750,000 and the recent tax bill was $14,048.

Steve Soler, a principal in GMRT, LLC, could not be reached for comment.

"I am sorry to hear that," said town Select Board Chairman Nelson Brownell. "But I hope that someone will now be able to do something good there for the town."

State Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal/Woodford, said, "I think this is a significant development, and we need to fully understand what that means for the town."

If the property ultimately is revived as an economic center, he said, Pownal would benefit.

Progress Partners purchased the property — including its 64,000-square-foot glass and metal grandstand — for $1 million in 2004 from J.T. Megaplex, an entity associated with the John Tietgens, of Clarksburg, Mass. Tietgens was a local horse owner and racing enthusiast who purchased the track at auction for $250,000 from the Rooney family — owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Palm Beach (Fla.) Kennel Club — in 1992.

The facility was constructed by an investment group for about $6 million in the early 1960s and sold to the Rooneys in 1973 for $8.5 million.

The track, which opened in May 1963 with thoroughbred and harness racing, had been operating as a greyhound race facility since the late 1970s, before closing for good in 1991. Numerous efforts to revive horse racing over the years, including a failed effort to convince the state to allow casino gambling, and later attempts under Tietgens to bring back horses, all proved unsuccessful.

In recent years, the site owners have tried holding car shows and live music or other events, many of which also were considered financial failures.

Yet another proposal in 2010 involved a proposed 29-megawatt biomass power generating plant, which was dropped amid fierce opposition from area residents and residents from nearby Berkshire County, Mass., over projected stack emission issues.

According to some local residents, the grandstand building now is in a deteriorated state and appears unsecured or maintained. The track oval is still visible, encircling a pond, and there are wide parking lots to the north and west.

The Hoosic River flows past the rear of the grandstand and track offices, and the Pan Am Railways track runs just to the east of the site, near Route 7.

The property apparently has an abundance of groundwater, with a well that served the former track rated at 350 gallons per minute. Soler last year approached the Pownal Fire District No. 2 board with the idea of allowing the district to drill a well on the track site in connection with a water bottling plant Soler proposed to sell district water under a contractual agreement.

However, that proposal failed to advance, and the district, which seeks to replace a municipal water system well contaminated with PFOA, is now focused on a well site on the west side of the Hoosic, opposite the race track land.

According to suit papers, a promissory note and mortgage related to the sale by J.T. Megaplex to Progress Partners were assigned to Sunvest International Inc., of California. Sunvest later assigned the mortgage and promissory note to Bayview Loan Servicing.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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