Windover housing project still moving forward, partners say

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The principal partner in the Windover at Hillsboro housing development said last week that his company’s project continues to move forward.

Word was circulating earlier this month that a personal tax issue involving that partner had effectively scuttled the project.

That is not true, according Robert Voth, founder of Hometown Development Co. of Lawrence, the company that wants to develop the Windover project at Hillsboro.

“Personally, I have a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service,” Voth said in a phone interview last week. “They think I owe them more money than my accountant and I think we do. So, until that is settled, they have filed a lien on property that I own in Marion County.”

A public record of the lien in the Marion County Register of Deeds office shows that the IRS is claiming that Voth owes just over $184,000 in back taxes and penalties that accumulated over a period from 1993 through 2002.

Voth said the lien should not affect property purchased by Hometown Development Co., specifically the 30 acres of ground the company purchased with cash just north of Third Street for the development of up to 135 factory-built homes.

“Murphy’s Law is in effect here-if anything can go wrong it will, and at the worst possible time,” Voth said.

After appearing to be on the fast track when the Windover project was first proposed in September 2003, progress has been slowed as Hillsboro city officials have asked the company to rework elements of the original proposal.

“We had waited a year, trying to get that settled,” Voth said. “When it was ready to go, a title policy showed this IRS lien.”

Voth said his position is that the lien should not apply to properties purchased by the company, even though he is a partner in it.

“I asked the IRS to remove the lien, and they said they could not remove it because they had not filed a lien (against the company),” Voth said. “But the title company still was not willing to grant title insurance.”

To clear the matter, Voth said he has filed a certificate of non-attachment, which would formally separate his personal and business interests.

“When that’s granted, then any question goes away,” he said. “It’s a technical issue, and once that is done, our intention is to go forward with the community as planned. At least we’re planning to do so.”

In addition to the major development planned for north of Third Street, the company is in the process of developing houses on two individual lots in town, one on Cedar Street and one on Date Street.

“As we speak, the other house on Date Street is finishing up the final round in the factory and should be delivered (soon),” Voth said. “We have one other house (on Cedar) where we have some builder issues.

“We consider these scattered-site houses experiments to make sure we have it right when we get to the real community, which we are convinced now we can do at very low prices.”

A second Windover project is already in the construction phase at Hesston. Voth and partner Craig White said that project is unaffected by the issue involving the IRS lien because the lien applies only to property located in Marion County.

“It’s progressing and there’s construction,” White said. “Within probably 45 days, construction on the first phase will be done.

“Everything’s really in place over there. There’s just not any issues there.”

Voth said the bottom line for the Hillsboro project is that everything is moving forward.

“It’s just taking a little longer and there are a couple of little humps that need to be smoothed,” he said.

“If the IRS thing is cleared up, it will be up to the city council to approve a special-benefit district,” Voth said. “As far as we’re concerned, the paperwork for all of that is ready.

“As I understand it, the bond council to the city has said that when the IRS issue is resolved-or, in lieu of that, when the title company is ready to ignore it-they would advise the city to move forward. At that point, the engineers would be put to work, probably for 45 days. Then the bids would be let.

“From the date of removal, dirt could be flying within 50 to 90 days, I suspect,” Voth said.

Given the opportunity to comment on Voth’s projections, Mayor Delores Dalke issued the following statement: “With the conflicting information that we have received, we are not in a position to make a statement regarding the future of the project.”

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