BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A public auction will take place at noon on Saturday, Dec. 1, for the sale of six properties deeded to the county.
The Greene County Property Sales Committee voted on Tuesday to sell the properties via the public auction on the steps of the Greene County Courthouse.
The committee, which includes Commissioners Nathan Holt, Ted Hensley, Phil King and Hilton Seay, spent most of the day on Tuesday traveling the county to conduct on-site inspections of the properties.
It is very unusual for properties to not sell at the delinquent tax sale and this is the first instance in at least 26 years that properties have been deeded to the county because they were not sold or redeemed by the owners, according to County Trustee Dan Walker.
Making the situation even more unusual is that two of the properties have homes on them and the prior owners are still in residence.
These include what the committee described as a double-wide home on a 2.6-acres lot at 1065 Ryan Road, in Fall Branch, previously owned by Stevan Quillen.
The other is a small, older home on a .64 acre lot at 211 Anderson Street, Greeneville, previously owned by Thelma and Eddie Jordan.
The other properties scheduled to be sold are:
* the Bobbie Ripley Worthy property on West Sevier Heights, Greeneville;
* the Lee Phillips property on North Loretta Street, Greeneville; and
* two Steve Rice properties on Greene Mountain Road.
The Greene Mountain properties were small tracts, one of which had a steep grade, the committee noted.
The Worthy property is large enough for a home, but would have a steep grade looking over the top of Greeneville High School at the immediate back, according to Hensley.
The property on Loretta is a small, irregular lot and is not large enough for a building, Holt said.
"There's four of the six we might not get a bid on," Seay commented.
Broyles, however, noted that someone has stopped by his office expressing some interest in the Greene Mountain properties.
Both the Jordan and Quillen families, who previously owned the two occupied properties, have also expressed some interest in bidding on their respective properties, Broyles indicated.
Walker said that each of these properties failed to pay taxes, at which point he turned them over to the Clerk and Master where they were held for one year before going to a delinquent tax sale.
None of the properties sold, but even if they had, in either situation the original owners had the opportunity to redeem the property within one year, Walker explained.
At the end of that year, the properties were automatically deeded to the county.
State law mandates that the county attempt to sell the properties for the best price offered, not to be less than the amount owed in back taxes, penalties, costs and interest, according to information provided by the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).
If no bid or offer is made at the sale, the County Commission must consider offering the land at a lower, fixed amount, according to the CTAS information.
However, if a sufficient bid is made, the winning bidder must pay 10 percent that day and will have until Dec. 31 to close, according to the committee's unanimous vote.
Any interested parties will have 10 days after the bidding to offer at least a 10 percent increase on the bid before the sale is final, according to the CTAS information.
Walker noted that tax maps will be available for public viewing at the Greene County Assessor's Office.
Broyles agreed to check with CTAS to see if he is the appropriate auctioneer and told the committee that his office will handle the public advertising.
Hensley and Seay agreed to research a means to post signs with the basic information regarding the sale on each of the properties at no cost to the county.
With the land technically now in the county's possession, the previous owners' continued presence presented a momentary dilemma for the committee.
County Attorney Roger Woolsey advised that the committee could either begin an eviction process, which he said would likely take up to 90 days, or could sell the properties "as-is."
He recommended that the committee contact the residents to inform them of the date of the sale and to have them sign their agreement to allow any interested parties to view the homes at the county's request.
Without their cooperation, Woolsey noted that an eviction process may become necessary.
However, if such a process can be avoided, the residents may be more likely to bid on the homes or rent the homes from their future owners, he noted.
"I think it would be our desire that the ones that are occupying would [place the winning bid]," Seay said.
The committee informally agreed to advise the occupants of the upcoming sale and address any issues with individuals wishing to see inside either home if the occasion arises.