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Hampton Island puts dent in tax debt
Hampton Island Aerial
Hampton Island sits on hammocks on the North Newport River southeast of Riceboro - photo by Courier file photo
Hampton Island Preserve recently put a huge dent — some $401,600 — in the $660,000 the development owes in delinquent property taxes, interest and late fees.
“And we will be paying the rest of it no later than the first of August to be totally current,” said Ronald Leventhal, manager of Hampton Island.
“They asked to be able to pay that in the next 60 days,” said county tax commissioner Virgil Jones of the development’s May 11 payment.
“It means a lot because we do want to have a great relationship with all our taxpayers,” Jones said. “For a development like that, who has struggled so…it shows me that they are coming out that financial it brings in a large amount of taxes in the county.”
Chemtall/SNF was the county’s largest tax base last year.
“I hope they can stay current for the years coming,” added county commissioner Connie Thrift. “There’s no doubt, I believe it’ll help the county’s overall revenue base.”
Thrift said the ability to pay taxes is one of the concerns the commission considers when approving large developments like Hampton Island.
Leventhal said a lawsuit with the former developer kept the estimated 4,000-acre development south of Riceboro struggling to keep up with property taxes.
“We have been in very horrible, detracting litigation with him,” Leventhal said. “The biggest of companies can be hurt by litigation. That really sidetracked us in a lot of ways.” 
They came to an agreement with the former owner on May 8.
Leventhal said the real estate market along the coast is difficult now, even “folks that are far bigger than we are.”
“But our business, actually in light of the economy, is fairly descent,” he said.
“I’m sure there’s some justification in not paying on time,” Thrift said, mentioning it is important for everyone to pay their taxes in full and on time.
“I’m sure they didn’t know the economy was going to turn the way it did either.”
Hampton Island is still working on getting fully healthy, which includes going through a refinancing debt that was started in May.
“The idea of bankruptcy would be a repugnant, last option,” Leventhal said. “It would be very distasteful… We are not contemplating that.”
Leventhal assured the company paid all its late fees after asking for about three or four extensions when the development got behind in early 2008.
“I think that everybody goes through that [financial hardships]. Our government is going through that,” Leventhal said. “The difference is we can’t print new money.”
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