Condo developer owes $190,000 in Cambridge property taxes
The city isn’t just taking a North Cambridge condominium developer to court. Because of almost $190,000 in unpaid property taxes and fees, it also has a lien on the property he is developing.
But just as the court case has been slow in developing, after nearly six years of complaints by neighbors and filings by city inspectors, the lien does not indicate the city will take advantage of the debt to seize and sell the land owned by Joseph Perroncello.
“We give them an opportunity to pay,” said Michelle Borden, of the city’s Finance Department. “We already have a lien, and that’s all we have to do to secure an interest in the property.”
Perroncello, a Boston resident, is converting a three-building Roman Catholic school into condominiums at a 22-acre, L-shaped site that touches on Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue by wrapping around other people’s property. Neighbors have complained for years that he has failed to clean the site or keep work within allowed hours. They say construction has drawn rats with garbage and caused flooding and cracked foundations at nearby homes. He also brought in tenants illegally, although he now has the city’s permission to lease units in one building while the others are under construction.
Perroncello was in court Wednesday to answer to the condition of his construction site, with the next appearance to be 9 a.m. Aug. 12 at Middlesex District Court in Medford.
In addition to the city’s lien, Perroncello’s contractors have complained of not being paid for their work, North Cambridge attorney and watchdog Richard Clarey noted Monday.
“He wasn’t paying the contractors for a long time,” said Clarey, explaining that he has seen the legal documents filed by the contractors.
The developer has said he has money troubles, and a foreclosure document for the Cambridge property has been filed against him in Boston Land Court. According to the Boston Herald, he also owes $210,773 in back property taxes in Boston, where he has a $5 million home.
Running into trouble
Records show Perroncello paid taxes in Cambridge in 2005, 2006 and 2008 on the two parcels making up his land, but that final year was a partial payment only — $422 on one parcel when he owed $51,206 on the other.
With the $34,251 he paid in 2005 and the $76,240 the next year, he had given the city $110,913 in property taxes on land and structures now valued at $5.8 million by the assessor’s office. He bought the parcels in May 2004 for $5.3 million.
But Perroncello must have run into trouble when facing the 2007 tax bill. He paid nothing on that bill, which was for $31,637, and defaulted on the more expensive parcel the next year. On the tax bills due last year and this year — totaling $49,192 and $55,121, respectively — he has paid nothing, according to records posted online by assessors.
The next bill arrives in October or November, Borden said.
The amount owed by Perroncello includes interest on unpaid balances and fees, such as water and sewer fees, a worker in the assessor’s office pointed out.
Perroncello’s telephone number is not publicly available, and he could not be reached Monday for comment. James Rafferty, a Cambridge lawyer who has represented Perroncello against the city, was left a message Wednesday. It is unclear if he still represents the developer.
“Everybody’s going to get their money eventually”
If his property were to be foreclosed and sold, the city would be ahead of the contractors in line to be paid, Clarey said. But the city wouldn’t want responsibility for owning and selling the property — especially if Perroncello’s bank, Webster Bank, also intends to foreclose and do the work instead.
Considering the value of the property on Yerxa and Rindge, “everybody’s going to get their money eventually,” Clarey said.
“They seem to be very relaxed about enforcing their liens,” he said of the city. “Sometimes they’ll let decades go by.”
Before Clarey spoke, Borden was asked whether years of unpaid property taxes would prompt action by the city or whether bills were allowed to pile up until such a situation resolved itself.
“No, it doesn’t go on forever,” Borden said. “It’s up to the Law Department. But it’s not near foreclosure.”
A message seeking comment was left Monday evening with Arthur J. Goldberg, of the city solicitor’s office.