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Painful delays prolonging Dreamy Hollow’s last days

A small Dreamy Hollow resident sits, blissfully unaware of the maelstrom surrounding the property.

A small Dreamy Hollow resident sits, blissfully unaware of the maelstrom surrounding the property.

NORWALK, Conn. – The pain at a dying Norwalk housing cooperative is being prolonged by “a slow, slow run of bureaucracy,” as a real estate company struggles to close sales in a first-of-its-kind deal in the country, according to Frank Farricker.

“We were supposed to get our checks and get this show on the road by the end of June after being provided with 10 days written notice,” Dreamy Hollow resident Ann Romanello said in a Monday email. “June came and went, then July came and went…now we are almost in mid-August and to date, we have not received any notice about ‘closing’ on our shares.  We did receive a letter from Brandon LaCoff earlier in the summer which said ‘we should close by end of summer’. Doesn’t look promising as they continue to speak in vague terms. So we are in a mess. People counted on them to deliver the checks and have gone to contract to purchase other homes.”

“To say that the paperwork at Dreamy Hollow over the last 30 to 40 years has been poor would be an understatement to bad lawyers,” Farricker said. “… I know, it’s Dreamy Hollow, a lot of people sort of want to interpret other things going on, but they’re not. It’s just a slow, slow run of bureaucracy.”

Farricker is president of Exit Partners Reality, who brokered the deal for Norpost Properties. He is also chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, the redeveloper of the Globe Theater in Norwalk and chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Commission’s Board of Directors. Lacoff is one of four Belpointe Capital principals who collected more than $100 million in Connecticut lottery winnings in 2011 and is associated with Norpost. Belpointe is the developer of the Waypointe apartment complex on West Avenue.

Dreamy Hollow shareholders “find themselves in a pickle because of the false promises and ongoing practices of these two entities,” Romanello said in her email. “Lacoff and Farricker used to blame the lack of closing on 1) The board (which is now in their control), 2) The admissions committee (which is now in their control) and 3) The ‘hold outs’, which they have essentially captured (all but about 10). They have now resorted to ‘paperwork’ being the culprit of why none of us have closed.”

“We have to do title reports for 164 units,” Farricker said Monday. “… Something like 50 percent of all the transactions we get to we have things like mortgages from two owners ago that weren’t released, garages that they don’t own, that the record says that they own. There are five title searchers working on a daily basis that because of where it is… They’re in Hartford, they’re in Norwalk. In some cases, the older units, they have to go down to Stamford because Stamford used to handle these matters before the ’70s. It’s an amazing amount of work.”

Farricker asked that the information be embargoed until after a Tuesday Dreamy Hollow board meeting.

“Another issue that this is the first time in the history of the United States that a cooperative has been purchased in this fashion,” Farricker said. “So it took about two months to find a title company that would write title. We are all frustrated by the delays, we are all frustrated by the slog. I was on a conference call this morning – there are seven lawyers working full time on closing matters for Dreamy Hollow.”

For about a 10-year period, roughly 1985-1995, transactions at Dreamy Hollow weren’t recorded, Farricker said. Closings weren’t done.

“We have two people who on paper don’t own their units, even though there have been transfers since then,” Farricker said. “In 1985, somebody bought that unit, it was never logged that they bought that unit at all. No transaction was ever put on record with anybody.”

There are situations where a couple got divorced but the unit remained in both names, he said. So the ex-spouse has to be tracked down and asked to sign a contract.

“We have people who died and their heirs never set up estates to manage the property, so technically their dead relative owns the property,” Farricker said. “So we are helping them form estates so they can sell the properties.”

Another problem is that all 164 transactions have to close at the same time because the complex is shifting to a rental property, not a cooperative, he said.

“We are truly at that point right now where we are moving toward the closings. A new attorney has been hired just for the purpose of doing closings,” he said.

The attorney said the closings won’t be difficult, but the title searches are, he said. “I know, everyone thinks a title search: You go down to Norwalk and you do the title search and it’s over in a couple of minutes, but in this particular case, unfortunately, it’s not.”

There are still 13 holdouts who have not agreed to sell, he said. There’s been no resolution on how that will work out because “nobody’s talking to each other about the deal.”

“People are discouraged, frustrated, unclear as to how to move forward,” Romanello wrote. “It’s sad to watch… it really is. People are really in pain and don’t know what their futures will hold.”

But another resident, familiar with the intricacies of the situation, blames Romanello and the fight against the sale, which she helped lead.

“I’m disappointed, I wanted this done months and months ago. Ann is one of the reasons why it wasn’t done months ago,” the resident said. “The only thing understandable about the delay is that the buyers need to make sure everything is done right and all the titles check out and are cleared. The thing is, if it wasn’t for Ann wasting our (Dreamy Hollow) time and money, this would’ve been done already.”

“This is just affecting me in the fact that I don’t want to live there anymore,” the resident said.

The resident laid more blame on the resistance to the sale, alluding to the tension on the property:

“Many of the ‘holdouts’ are claiming that because they are older they are getting ‘screwed’ more than anyone else… That is not the case. I would argue that no one is getting ‘screwed,’ while not everyone is happy with the offer it doesn’t mean they are getting screwed.

“If you bought Enron stock in the late ’90s before it tanked and then were able to sell late in the game, did you get screwed??  NO, you lost money on an investment. These people who claim their offers are unfair have no idea what they are talking about. All the information was given to them months and months ago and THEY chose not to believe it. They followed the leaders of the ‘holdout’ crew like sheep and listened to their every word and chose NOT to believe the FACTS and now they aren’t happy when the reality of it has sunk in. Ann is only getting 3 months free and the buyer wouldn’t negotiate with her. I don’t blame her. Are you inviting someone who sued you to your kids bday party??  She had an opportunity to have a lot more above the initial offer but chose not to. She chose to fight and should’ve known what the consequences could have been.

“If these ‘holdouts’ weren’t spreading the lies about the financial situation a year ago, then I’m sure many people would’ve signed earlier and gotten more than they did now, and the buyer would’ve probably ended up paying over market. If anyone is to blame about the delays or the ‘low’ offers it’s those who fought this with lies from the beginning.”

10 comments

Ann Romanello August 13, 2015 at 9:57 am

People resisted the sale because they wanted to save their homes. Nothing more. It’s very safe to make accusations under the cloak of anonymity.

Betsy Wrenn August 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

Blaming fellow residents for the developer’s gross failure to deliver as promised is just sickening.

Kathleen Montgomery August 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I have no pony in this race, but couldn’t the amount of work to close been anticipated by Farricker? It matters not that this is the first time it has been done in the country, due diligence is expected. Oh, and blaming the folks who lived there is in very bad form.

Casey Smith August 13, 2015 at 12:55 pm

As someone who sold a piece of property a few years ago and also been peripherally involved in the sale of two other parcels, I can say that property transfers can become extremely complicated very quickly. Just for the record, none of them took place in Norwalk. In one case the easement for a water line was misfiled in the Town Clerks, but fortunately we had a copy of the document. In another, the boundary marker had been obscured by poison ivy, so there was a question of whether there was encroachment. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to get 164 titles cleared without issues.

I also had to re-open an estate account and unless you know what you are doing or have access to an excellent estate attorney, you can just end up spinning your wheels without any progress. It is incredibly frustrating. Our primary sale went “smoothly” according to our realtor, but there were still times when I was banging my head against the wall in frustration and considered taking up kick boxing.

What I learned was that blame placing ends up being pointless. “If only…”, “should’ve”, “would’ve” and “could’ve” just don’t cut it. I tortured myself for far too long mentally running over the difficulties that I did not cause and could do nothing to change. The only thing that did work was having the patience of Job as the Gordian knot got untangled, loop by loop. Knowing that someone did or didn’t file this or that document was helpful in correcting the problem, but blaming them didn’t change the facts that omissions and mistakes were made. The mistakes needed to be corrected and omissions righted. And the purchaser was just as frustrated as we were with the various obstacles.

In the end, the sale was closed and we walked away with what we wanted, as did the buyer. That’s really the goal. For what it’s worth, I hope that everyone in Dreamy Hollow reaches their goal line, too.

Miss Represented August 13, 2015 at 1:31 pm

This article is very slanted. Fair or negotiable offers were not made months ago, but rather to the select few who were in on the deal. Fair market value is not giving a 2-bedroom unit $140K, and a 3-bedroom unit gets $80K. Those that got those deals are just mad because they have gone and purchased other homes with their windfall, but have to continue to pay for their unit at Dreamy Hollow. To that I say, poetic justice. Peace!

Just A August 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm

It’s taking forever because Dreamy Hollow has been a mess for years. It’s a damn disaster. The way finances were *ahem* “handled” over the years leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind that the paperwork or lack thereof is atrocious. Why are people still trying to blame Farricker when the co-op was already well on its way to bankruptcy before he ever entered the picture?

Dismas August 17, 2015 at 6:47 pm

It was not heading to bankruptcy; the attorney claimed she couldn’t collect but the replacement had no problem after he filed with the court. When all the board members were removed, the coop was operating in the black. If the developers don’t believe that, list some units for sale. Even without investing a dime they will make a profit. Since they are paying 50-80 thousand to the owners, a $15k profit on each would yield over 2 million in profit. They could rent units in the mean time to their laborers working on West Ave and at the Globe Theatre. Instead, we have to worry about our property values dropping and the water table rising for our homes next property over. After they are granted changes through the zoning and building dept. the stream and trees have no chance; more residents means more parking spaces needed; in my backyard along my property line? No thank you, we will see you in court.

Just A August 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm

An insolvent checking account and borrowing from a sad little savings account month to month to pay basic bills is barely in the black. There was a moratorium on all but the most urgent repairs. And taking people to court and winning a judgement is very different from having funds actually coming in in a timely manner. If the person decided not to pay, they have to use the court system again to force a garnishment on wages. Assuming the people have jobs. Even then, there is a limit on how much can be taken every paycheck. It’s not like suing people was an instant windfall.
Furthermore, no one is/was offering mortgages for units in the complex, so who should we have sold to?
Good luck in court when you try to prohibit them from making improvements to their property.

Canary August 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

The developer wants it both ways, being in charge by using share
they have not bought, (owners have not received one cent),but able
to control the board, and will not take responsibility for those
now who feel since they have been bought out need not pay there
common charges??. What kind of laws do we have?. no money transfer
but we control you an have NO responsibility??. Is this really
legal?. Our law firm made a very poor case in court, we need some
one new.

Mark Pepper August 30, 2015 at 10:27 pm

I was hoping for an end of summer closing. But it looks like the title situation is a mess. Hopefully it will be sorted out soon. We are South Carolina-bound. If the closings go to October, we should be settling in right after hurricane season ends, and before the holidays. A winter without snow…Heaven at last!

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