Bank fi­nal­izes For­est Lakes Gar­den Homes fore­clo­sures

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SHOW­ERS

The bank own­ing the debt backed by fore­closed prop­er­ties in the For­est Lakes Gar­den Homes neigh­bor­hood has clear ti­tle to them af­ter last week’s ju­di­cial fore­clo­sure auc­tion at the Gar­land County Court House.

Sim­mons Bank ini­ti­ated the fore­clo­sure against Arkansas Land & Equip­ment LLC and its owner, Robert Malt, in April 2015 af­ter Malt de­faulted on two prom­is­sory notes. Division 4 Cir­cuit Judge Mar­cia Hearns­berger en­tered a more than $1.8 mil­lion judg­ment against Malt in June, which in­cludes more than $50,000 in at­tor­ney fees.

Sim­mons’ open­ing bid of more than $1.3 mil­lion was the only one of­fered at the auc­tion. The prop­er­ties are now the bank’s to sell as cred­its against the judg­ment.

Paul Bai­ley’s home is in the cul-de­sac where 13 of the fore­closed prop­er­ties are lo­cated. He said he hopes the bank will find a proper dis­po­si­tion for the three un­oc­cu­pied homes Malt owned on ei­ther side of Bai­ley’s prop­erty.

“Sim­mons came through over a year ago and boarded up the houses,” said Bai­ley, who, along with sev­eral of his neigh­bors, at­tended last week’s auc­tion. “We’ve been in a Catch-22. They said they didn’t own them, and Malt said he didn’t own them. They didn’t get any­thing done for two years, and it’s been a mess. It’s de­val­ued ev­ery house in the neigh­bor­hood. They’ve shown a lack of care in rec­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem.”

A bank spokes­woman said Sim­mons plans to sell the prop­er­ties, which in­clude four model homes on Ap­ple Blos­som Way.

“This prop­erty has been the sub­ject of ex­tended lit­i­ga­tion, which re­sulted in (last week’s) fore­clo­sure auc­tion” Caro­line Makris said in an email. “Sim­mons Bank was the suc­cess­ful bid­der and will place the prop­erty in its in­ven­tory of fore­closed real es­tate once it re­ceives all of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion. The bank plans to then mar­ket the prop­erty in ac­cor­dance with its nor­mal pro­ce­dures.”

A group of For­est Lakes res­i­dents pur­chased the neigh­bor­hood club­house, more than 2 acres along Twin Points Road and more than 12 acres of com­mon area in the neigh­bor­hood from Bank of the Ozarks last year. Malt deeded the three tax-delin­quent parcels to the bank, which, ac­cord­ing to a re­demp­tion deed filed in Septem­ber, paid $33,624 in un­paid taxes, in­ter­est and penal­ties to the com­mis­sioner of state lands.

The Cen­tre at For­est Lakes No. 1 LLC pur­chased the land from the bank in Oc­to­ber for $500,000, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records. Norm Dun­can, a mem­ber of the Cen­tre’s ex­ec­u­tive board, said 10 house­holds in the more than 100-house­hold neigh­bor­hood jointly own the club­house and other parcels. He said about 60 house­holds have mem­ber­ships at the club­house, or Cen­tre.

The fa­cil­ity com­prises a spa and sa­lon, event space and the neigh­bor­hood pool.

“Mr. Malt was un­able to take care of the prop­erty,” Dun­can said. “To re­tain that kind of ca­pa­bil­ity for our res­i­dents, a group in the neigh­bor­hood was able to buy it for a rea­son­able price. They’ve been suc­cess­ful at keep­ing the Cen­tre open for For­est Lakes res­i­dents and for rentals.

“The com­mu­nity is re­gain­ing sta­tus and get­ting its mem­ber­ships back up. We ex­pect to grow the mem­ber­ship again this year.”

Bank of the Ozarks ac­quired the acreage be­tween Twin Points and Hig­don Ferry Road last year af­ter Malt de­faulted on a $2 mil­lion re­volv­ing line of credit he took out in March 2007, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records. He pur­chased the land for $4.5 mil­lion in 2005.

The Arkansas Con­trac­tors Li­cens­ing Board re­voked Robert Malt Con­struc­tion Inc.’s li­cense in Septem­ber 2015, levy­ing $322,000 in civil penal­ties against Malt for mis­con­duct and op­er­at­ing Arkansas Land & Equip­ment with­out a li­cense for 730 days.

The mis­con­duct charges in­cluded find­ings that Malt con­vinced prop­erty own­ers to deed him lots they had pur­chased for prospec­tive homes his com­pa­nies were con­tracted to build. In some in­stances, Malt never trans­ferred the prop­er­ties back to the orig­i­nal own­ers, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to get a clear ti­tle.

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