Deja vu all over again on Berkshire Mall tax debts?

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LANESBOROUGH — Though he is routinely late paying taxes, the Berkshire Mall's owner will be treated like anyone in arrears, town officials say.

And so on Monday, a "courtesy notice" was being prepared for Michael Kohan and his Berkshire Mall Realty Holdings.

In return, Lanesborough would sure appreciate the courtesy of payments to clear an accumulated tax debt of $921,824.25 owned to both Lanesborough and the Baker Hill Road District for this year alone. No additional time is being extended by the district, though.

Last year, Kohan waited until June to pay any of the fiscal year 2018 taxes owed on the seven parcels his company has owned in Lanesborough since September 2016.

This year is shaping up as a possible replay of a last-minute payment by Kohan that halted the town's move to take control of the property.

"He came up with every penny for the road district and town," said Jodi Hollingsworth, who handles collections for both entities.

But not yet. "I have received nothing," she said Monday.

A representative at Kohan's company in Great Neck, N.Y., said he is traveling and could not be reached for comment unless he called in for messages. A cellphone number previously used to reach Kohan produced a message Monday saying calls to the line had been "restricted."

In an interview with The Eagle late last year, Kohan acknowledged the Berkshire Mall is "struggling." It is down to under a half-dozen remaining stores, according to a tally by The Eagle.

"We're trying to do our best," Kohan said in December, when asked about unpaid taxes. "I'm not trying to make a hard time for anybody."

The fine print

Kohan's Berkshire County struggle is spelled out in 14 separate tax documents. The 30-year-old mall is subject to taxation both by the town and by the road district, created by an act of the state Legislature. The district has the power to levy the mall properties at a rate of $31.17 per $1,000 of assessed value.

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Twelve of those outstanding tax bills are for just hundreds or several thousand dollars.

But two of them, both for Parcel 248-15, are whoppers.

As of Monday, Kohan's company owed the town $387,107.34 for that 655 Cheshire Road parcel, including interest and a demand fee. Separately, the firm owed the road district $522,070.75 for the same lot, with interest alone accounting for $21,085.86 of the full amount due.

The parcel is by far the largest in size, measuring 3,755,394 square feet, according to tax records, or roughly 86 acres. It is valued at $16,071,700.

Kohan paid $3.5 million for the mall, adding it to dozens of distressed retail outlets, most of them in Midwestern states, that make up his Kohan Retail Investment Group.

Only Parcel 248-9, identified by an unnumbered address on Cheshire Road, also contains a structure, and is responsible for the second-highest tax bill facing Kohan. That's $2,945.90 owed to the district and $2,202.24 due to the town. The parcel's assessed value is $90,800.

As she did last year, Hollingsworth mailed demand notices in early May for this year's unpaid taxes, listing May 16 — last Thursday — as the due date. Town Hall is closed Fridays.

When she discovered Monday that no payments had been made, Hollingsworth discussed the situation with Kelli Robbins, Lanesborough's town manager, who recommended sending the courtesy notice. Hollingsworth also conferred with the legal counsel for the Baker Hill Road District, who requested she skip the courtesy notice and submit the legal advertisement spelling out a planned tax-taking on behalf of that entity.

"The road district is pushing me to get moving," she said.

That would be followed by a similar notice regarding taxes owed to the town. Both steps are part of the long process of taking ownership of properties with unpaid taxes. The "notice of tax-taking" would require payment 14 days after the publication date, meaning a due date in early June.

Last year, it was just before that same deadline that Kohan came through with a payment of $942,000 to clear all taxes, fees and interest that had accumulated from July 1, 2017, through the following 12 months.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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