Strawberry Park Auction Leaves Lot Owners in limbo
At Strawberry Park in Preston, Conn., there were no fun and games inside the campground’s arcade room Saturday (Feb. 26), but instead a serious bidder — TD Bank — offering $8 million for the foreclosed property.
One of just two bidders, Alice Paxon, a representative of TD Bank, won with her initial and only bid of $8 million for the property, theday.com reported.
She declined to comment on what the bank has in store for the 160-acre resort campground.
Paxon outbid Seymour Adelman, of Odetah Camping Resort in Bozrah, who began the afternoon’s foreclosure auction with the first bid of $10,000.
Campground operator Hyman Biber wouldn’t comment Saturday, but in the past he has said he has built “one of the most beautiful parks in the country from nothing.”
The campground flourished when it began summer music festivals in the later 1970s and quickly became a camping destination for many. The property includes 360 co-op lots.
Before the scheduled noon auction, owners of co-op campground lots, local residents and other interested parties gathered in front of the building.
Many conversations included one question; how and why did it come to this?
As lot owners for 11 years, Joe and Samantha Kain still have questions.
“What got him into this predicament?” Joe Kain asked. “He’s been taking our money for maintenance fees and not doing the right thing with it.
“We never thought it would come to this. It’s a substantial amount of money missing with no explanation.”
Samantha Kain said lot owners were kept in the dark by Biber as to what the financial situation of the campground was.
“This began in 2009, and a year later, we’re finding out the true seriousness of it all. Where is the money?” she said. “To see him here as often as he was, he wasn’t on vacation, doesn’t have a lavish lifestyle or car, he’s just the typical average person. So what did he do with it?”
For more than 30 years, Biber has run the resort campground the Kains say is the “place to get away from it all,” but the resort’s finances had frayed when Biber filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 21, 2010.
Two years ago, Kevin MacLeod, of Bayshore, N.Y., put down a deposit of $38,500 on a lot.
He still has yet to close the sale for the property and, like many others with down payments in the park, has questions about TD Bank’s motives.
“Once someone is named the owner, I’ll start the process of closing, but I’m wary about the bank because what if they don’t honor what I’ve paid already,” he said. “There are just a lot of questions I have.”
Janette Dufresne of Danielson said she and her husband, Alfred, own mobile home parks in Thompson and Danielson. They came to the auction to see Strawberry Park for the first time.
Dufresne found the sale disheartening.
“It’s very sad. It must be heartbreaking for him (Biber). It takes quite a bit to run a place this big. There’s a lot of overhead,” she said.
The foreclosure sale was scheduled in September by New London Superior Court Judge James J. Devine after TD Bank sued the campground owner and operator, alleging a $7 million mortgage was in default.
The Portland, Maine-based bank was awarded a judgment of more than $8 million.
At a hearing in federal bankruptcy court in Hartford in January, an agreement was reached for withdrawal of three bankruptcy petitions. TD Bank was the sole party that took exception.
After months of requesting delays in the federal bankruptcy court proceedings, Biber made one last effort Friday in state superior court to keep the property. In an emergency motion,
Biber presented Judge Devine with a “term sheet” for a mortgage loan of $15 million.
Devine said the term sheet that Biber’s attorney presented “appears to be not a commitment.”
He also said that the court-appointed receiver, Elite Resorts Management, will remain in charge until he rules otherwise.