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Prominent developer blasts Norwich's efforts to foreclose on her properties

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published September 01. 2011 4:00AM
Developer owes back taxes; she contends city is singling her out

Norwich - City officials will start tax foreclosure proceedings on more than two dozen properties owned by prominent downtown developer Janny Lam, who owes more than $342,000 in back taxes under several ownership company names.

Lam late Wednesday lashed out at Mayor Peter Nystrom and city officials, saying they are singling her out when hundreds of city property owners owe back taxes. She said no one else has done as much to renovate downtown buildings and bring new businesses, including restaurants and retail shops, to Main Street.

Lam owns and has renovated numerous historic downtown landmarks, including the former Chelsea Landing restaurant building - the oldest downtown building - the former Heritage Discovery Center on Main Street, the former Elks Club mansion house and the Lerou Building next door to Otis Library.

More modern buildings are part of her holdings as well, including the Thames Plaza office complex that houses U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's office and numerous apartment houses in downtown and on Jail Hill.

Many of her buildings are occupied with restaurants, small businesses and residential units, but Lam fell behind on property taxes with the recession. She made payment plan arrangements with city Tax Collector Kathy Daley.

But Lam again fell behind on payments and failed to keep to the payment plan to a point where Nystrom said the city couldn't wait any longer to start foreclosure action.

Nystrom said city officials have instructed Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll to start title searches on the 26 buildings owned by Lam's companies as the precursor to foreclosure. The lis pendens to start the foreclosure has not yet been filed, but Nystrom said that would come after the title searches.

Alderman H. Tucker Braddock said he met with Lam Wednesday to discuss the problem. Braddock supports Lam and hopes to find a solution to the problem.

Lam owed $7,300 monthly in the payment plan, and she said she made a $5,000 payment in July.

"She's a business lady who came to Norwich, and she's working very hard in Norwich," Braddock said, "and she's bought some properties in our community that no one had done anything with for years. I think she has done a remarkable job turning them around."

Lam said the economy hit her hard. While all of her apartment units are occupied, many tenants have lost their jobs and have fallen behind on rent. She estimated that only 20 percent of her tenants are paying in full.

A Japanese restaurant that opened in the former Elks Club building has closed, owing her back rent as well.

"I collect very little money up front so they can open a business in Norwich," Lam said of the several businesses that now occupy her buildings.

"(Nystrom) is going to ruin everything. I am trying to bring in job opportunities to the city."

Lam said if you divide the total she owes in back taxes by the 26 buildings, the figures would be similar to many other property owners who have fallen behind.

"Why does the mayor need to put my name in the papers?" she said. "It's not fair."

"I'd like to work with her and keep her in the community and find some amicable solution to solve the problem that she's in," said Braddock, a retired Greeneville business owner. "She has some beautiful properties, but nothing is moving in our city right now."

c.bessette@theday.com

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